Photos and Videography: By Madison Richeson/DC Spotlight Newspaper
“To have purpose in the life. Seek out your reason for being here…Sometimes we go through life and forget what we’re trying to go after and why we’re here. And to have someone say ‘Hey, what are you here to do?’ …Challenge yourself every day. What am I going to do today? What am I here to do a month from now?”
— The best advice Wordsmith gives to his sons (2016)
If you should ever get the opportunity to meet Baltimore-based rapper Wordsmith, you might understand why he has earned his reputation as the man who takes rap to another art form. He has been compared to rapper Common, but his style of rap has a feel and vibe of its own. He describes his latest album as the perfect sound for hopping into the car and cruising through the night air down the streets of Baltimore. The album is original and the smooth sounds are perfection. (Check out Wordsmith’s latest album)
He began his career with the mindset of a student learning the “business” of rap. He started his own music label, NU Revolution Entertainment, making a name for himself as an independent artist and learning meticulously how to run the business, while creating hip-hop and rap beats that have a new sound and feel, like music of the future. His extensive list of licensed music earned him the ASCAPLUS Award from his PRO Society four years in a row. With his Conscious-Commercial Hip-Hop music, Wordsmith has honed his craft as a master rapper, while creating an uplifting message about his love for the city of Baltimore and more. Yet, the love he has for his community extends beyond his music.
During his down time between tours and working, he spends his free time working with Baltimore’s homeless shelter organization, Project Plase, giving anti-bullying lectures at middle schools, and headlining the annual Red Day festival for the past four years. Wordsmith recently sat down with D.C. Spotlight’s Wendy Thompson, touching on the music, why he is often compared to Prince, his family, his role as a full-time single dad, and how living in the city of Baltimore inspires him.
Q & A
Wendy Thompson: So this is the window that you talk about in your music.
Wordsmith: One of them.
Wendy Thompson: One of the windows that overlooks the city.
Wordsmith: Yeah, correct.
Wendy Thompson: So it’s inspirational…what does it mean to you?
Wordsmith: It helped me capture — I feel like — the sound of the city. I think when you’re an artist, you’re a little weird, a little out there. When I write music, it’s color-based as well. You know you see certain colors in regards to songs and so forth. So when I did my last album, “Apt. 507,” I wanted to have a mix of some jazz flavors in there, and of course hip hop, a little R&B, a little soul in there, because I feel like that embodies the city. The nightlife in Baltimore is beautiful, and I wanted to capture that through the album to where you can pop it in and ride through the city and say, ‘Man, that’s the sound,’ you know. Several times I would just look out the window and just look at people out there, the things they do. Or buses rolling up, people getting off. Or, you know, just everyday things that just get my thoughts together, the songs I wanted to put together… I just wanted to tell the story of all of Baltimore, my window, what I see, you know, and so forth.
Wendy Thompson: Yeah, this is a nice view. A really, really nice view. So, Wordsmith. Where did you come up with Wordsmith?
Wordsmith: Just I thought of the word blacksmith. I used it in a verse one time. I just thought about the way I put a song together the same way a blacksmith puts iron and crafts things, that’s what I do with a song, a verse, a
hook and a bridge. I stuck the “word” in there and came up with “Wordsmith.”
Wendy Thompson: What’s your real name?
Wordsmith: Real name’s Anthony Parker.
Wendy Thompson: Parker. So what’s your middle name?
Wendy Thompson: Is it, I think that’s your dad’s name, right?
Wordsmith: It is.
Wendy Thompson: Oh you’re a junior… So we’re looking at — oh my god — look at the sun. This is so beautiful. So we’re looking out over Baltimore City. What does Baltimore mean to you?
Wordsmith: When I think of Baltimore, just very blue collar, you know, people that work hard for everything that they’re trying to get in life. I think Baltimore City’s a steady grind. A lot of other cities are, but I don’t know, Baltimore, there’s something special about it. I love living out here, being a part of the community, and just helping the community grow and being one of those bright spots in the community.
Wendy Thompson: So why did you move here? Because you’re not originally from here. Where are you from?
Wordsmith: All over. I was born in Germany. My dad was in the Army 27 years, and I ended up here because I got a football scholarship at Morgan State and that’s what initially put me in the area. I, of course, had kids and everything and just been out here ever since.
Wendy Thompson: Tell me about childhood. What were you like as a child?
Wordsmith: I would say angry at times. Because we moved a lot and, you know, when you make friends when you’re young you think you’re going to have them forever. And then a year later you’re moving and you’re like, ‘Ok, I’ll see you again, I’ll talk to you again,’ and you never see those people again in your life. But being older, I appreciate all that culture, all that movement, all the places I got to see growing up.
Wendy Thompson: What kind of boy were you?
Wordsmith: Quiet early on, and then very outgoing, very opinionated, wild at times, and I would say adventurous.
Wendy Thompson: So were you always into rap music?
Wordsmith: I would say yeah. You know, growing up, I still have a tape collection to this day. So I was really into the culture.
Wendy Thompson: Who did you listen to?
Wordsmith: Public Enemy, EP&D, you know, some of those guys are my favorites. Growing up, A Tribe Called Quest, as well. I just really love the way they presented themselves.
Wendy Thompson: What are some of the dreams you had, you know, for yourself back then? I mean like when you were a child, let’s say around nine or ten, what were you’re dreams? What did you want to be?
Wordsmith: I would say an athlete. I wanted to play football; that was my main thing. I was a jock. That’s what I thought I was going to do. But, you know, as you move on in life, and have experiences, you realize, ok maybe this might not be my path, or what I’m supposed to do. I feel like music is, because it fulfills my purpose in life more than playing sports did.
Wendy Thompson: So when did you know you wanted to be a rapper? What was that day like, when you were just like, ‘You know what, I’m going to do this thing. I’m going make it happen?’
Wordsmith: It was actually after I had a big audition at Penn State, because I had got into acting when I transferred to Salisbury University and changed my major and everything. So when I got out of there, I went to a private school to try and get into their program, and I said hey if I don’t get it in, I’m going to go hard at music, after that day. I didn’t get in. I was blessed to have the opportunity, but right after that I just switched the flip in my mind and I just said it’s time to go 100 percent at music.
Wendy Thompson: So what was the first thing you did to start as a rapper? When you said, ‘Okay I’m going to do this music, I’m not going to sing, I’m going to be a rapper.’ What was the first thing that you did? Were you just rapping around the house? Did you write a song and then start? How did it formulate?
Wordsmith: I took a smart approach. I took a year, just researched the industry, learned how you can make money in it, learned how to copyright my music. You know, learned what a PRO society was, opened up a publishing company, opened up a business. Where’s the best place to open a business so you don’t get hit with property taxes, and different things like that. So I really took the business mind, and took the approach of be a student to study [it]. Don’t just take the test because you’ll fail it if you don’t study. And that was my mind frame. So I took a year, learned the business, so when I started putting out my music, the climb wasn’t as hard. I was able to insert myself and know how to kind of do this a little bit. Of course I had my mistakes and my pitfalls, but I just took a very — I want to say — mature business approach to my music where I’ve realized, it’s not always a bad thing. But a lot of musicians just dive right in and be like ‘Well, here’s my music.’ Because that’s what they love, that’s what they’re passionate about, but they forget it’s a business.
Wendy Thompson: So what you’re doing, I suppose, is this called the Prince way of doing it? Well Prince, he stopped at some point, he stopped having a management company and he started managing himself. Were you doing that? You’re starting that way, right?
Wordsmith: Prince, you know he was with Warner Brothers for a long time. And, you know, he had a lot of issues with them owning his music and him not being paid fairly. That’s kind of what happens when you get with a major label, because they’re almost like investors. They’re investing in your career to help you become what you want, and then also it costs a lot of money. They’re putting out millions of dollars, they’ve got to make that money back. Whereas when you’re independent, which Prince ended up becoming, it’s all about you and your creative process and your passion. But you’re also frontin’ the bill for everything. So you have to make your own money. But you also don’t have that middle man, or that third or fourth or fifth person with their hand out like, ‘Hey, I helped you do this…’
Wendy Thompson: Saying, ‘I must be paid.’
Wordsmith: Yeah, exactly.
Wendy Thompson: So you took that approach, so how is that going for you? What are some of the positives, or the pros, and what are the cons? What have you learned in this process?
Wordsmith: I was just ready to make my own decisions. You know, when you work with a major label you get a team and they always think they know your best interests. Sometimes they might, sometimes they won’t. Because you’re yourself, you know. You know what you like; you know the things that you’re interested in and they might want you to go down this path and it’s not the path that’s for you… Whereas I kind of create my own future, my own path, do the type of music I want to do without sacrificing or selling out or any of the nature. So the thing I’ve learned is I’m able to stay myself, and I’m able to give out opportunities to other people through my work, which they can take and then expand on their careers.
Wendy Thompson: What are you working on now? Tell me some of the songs that you’ve been working on right now.
Wordsmith: Well the new project that I’ve been working on is called “Prospective Jukebox.” And I called it that. I started with the jukebox side, and I wanted to do up-tempo, fun music. And if you’re chillin’ in a bar or restaurant, a song could come on and you could have fun with it. But the prospective side is everything that every record has meaning behind, or it’s a relatable message, or it’s a blue-collar message. And I kind of wanted to combine the two and make conscious, commercial music that’s for everybody, but it’s not throwaway music. Whereas, you know, on the radio sometimes you hear a record and you’re like they’re not talking about nothing. How is this on the radio? But all music has its place, you know. If you’re in a club, having a good time, you don’t want to listen to something that’s making you think too hard. So I wanted to kind of conquer both worlds. So I have records on there, like I have a record called, “Be You,” that’s a typical radio record.
Wendy Thompson: Is that the best one?
Wordsmith: I don’t know what the best one is.
Wendy Thompson: You don’t have a baby, that’s like, you know, like the best one?
Wordsmith: My favorite, so far, is a record called, “The Statement,” on there. Just because it’s a statement in a record, and it’s talks about real life, real things going on around in society today, but it still has commercial elements in it. And so if you’re not a person that sits there and breaks down every part of the lyric, you still enjoy the song. It’s catchy. Just trying to bring both audiences together. For the one’s that just like music, but don’t really get in-depth to it and [for]those that are really in-depth to the music and like to go deep within it, and rewind and say, ‘What did he say there?’
Wendy Thompson: You have another part of your life, other than the music. You have your son. What does your son bring to your life and your music?
Wordsmith: Well, I have two.
Wendy Thompson: You have two sons?
Wordsmith: I have two. I have a 12-year-old. His name is Ezequiel, and he’s not my biological son. I pretty much adopted him from a prior relationship. I don’t have any legal custody of him, but he lives here with me. I take care of him, from school down to clothes, to turning him into a great man and a successful gentleman in his life. And then I have my four-year-old, who’s my blood. Same with him, just being blessed. Raising two children is very hard — don’t get me wrong — but I feel like God chose me as the man for the job to do it. My situation is very unique. You’re all into every day, you know. Wake up every day, have a goal in mind.
Wendy Thompson: What’s the best lesson you’ve taught your son? What’s the thing that you’re like, if he doesn’t forget anything else, he’ll remember this from me?
Wordsmith: To have purpose in his life, you know, seek out your reason for being here. I don’t just tell that to my kids, but adults as well. And you’re surprised at how many eyes get big, like, ‘Whoa, hold up, you just pulled my card.’ But, you know, it’s not me pulling your card, it’s just me reminding you that sometimes we go through life and forget what we’re trying to go after, or why we’re here. You just need to have someone to say, ‘Hey, what are you here to do?’ Hmm, I ain’t thought about that question in a while.
Wendy Thompson: I know, that’s hitting home here for me too.
Wordsmith: See what I’m saying? So, you know, challenge yourself every day. Why am I here today. What am I here to do a month from now, a year from now?
Wendy Thompson: If I had to say you were on the peak of a mountain in your career, what does that mean for you in your career? Where would you be?
Wordsmith: On the verge of just being able to support my family strictly through my music. That’s superstardom to me. You know, everybody can’t be a superstar all over the TV and the radio. It’s great. I would love to have that. But if that’s not my path, so be it. To me, you’ve made it when you can support yourself off your dream. So when I can 100 percent, you know, not have to go to my government job, and do that part too, and it’s strictly all my income is from the music, I’ve made it. You know, I’m doing what I love.
Wendy Thompson: Let’s talk about spiritually, what is your center? What keeps you going? Are you a religious person? Are you a spiritual person, as opposed to religious?
Wordsmith: I would say spiritual.
Wendy Thompson: You’re spiritual.
Wordsmith: I grew up having to go to church, not to make it sound bad. Because my parents did it right, to introduce me to church. But it was a constant. Whereas when I went to college, I stopped going for a little while when I realized, hey it’s my choice to go or not. And then I got heavy back into church again, and then I said, you know what, I love God. Everything I do in life is because of him, but I don’t feel like I’m the type that needs to be in church and worship with everybody. I still pray every day. Like I said, everything I do is through him, but I don’t feel like I have to have that church base to have faith. I don’t feel like anyone should put me down because I’m not in church every Sunday. So I would say I’m a spiritual person in my music. You’ll hear that I love the Lord at times, even though I’m not a Christian artist, but I’m not afraid to talk about it. So again, he is my basis for everything that I’m doing, from my music, to being a father, to what I do in the community. It’s driven by him. So I want to do great things in my lifetime. I’m not here to do evil in this world, or tear people down. I’m here strictly on the positive tip.
Wendy Thompson: Ok, so, finally, you’re at the Grammy’s. You’ve just won. Who do you thank? Nobody ever thinks about this, until they’re there, and they forgot to thank this person; they forgot to thank that person. Now you get a chance to think about it. Who do you thank when you’re at the Grammy’s and you’ve just won?
Wordsmith: If I ever got to that level and got the opportunity, who would I thank? I’ve actually thought about this, because I’ve said I don’t like writing things down on paper. But I think that would be the one time I would, because there are definitely certain people I want to thank. Of course, the people close to me.
Wendy Thompson: Who?
Wordsmith: My parents, you know –
Wendy Thompson: No, you’re at the Grammy’s right now, who do you thank?
Wordsmith: Oh, I’m there right now? Hold up, you’re making me do the speech right now?
Wendy Thompson: Yes, I’m making you do the speech right now.
Wordsmith: Oh, I would definitely thank my parents, you know, for preaching be an individual, you know. Have your own path. Have your own goals. Definitely want to thank my brother, Darian, because this guy learned how to produce just so I could have a career early on…ultimate sacrifice, one of my biggest fans. Definitely would thank my buddy Dan, because he’s been around for so long. He’s believed in me for so long. Definitely thank my band [that]rocks with me live. Pep, Kareem, RaMon that take care of me during my live shows. And I would say that I definitely would like to thank my kids last, as my motivation, as my heart. A big reason why I stay steadfast in that music thing because I want them to be great men so that one day I can be sitting in the audience somewhere, or sit somewhere and they’re being praised for their great work… And then to close it, I want to thank everybody that basically just taught me the good and bad in life. Because some of the people that may not be in my life anymore, I can find a positive in it that they was in my life for a reason. And even if it was for a year, ten years, five year, you helped me learn things about myself. I learned things about where I needed to go in life or if I needed to change direction or the path I was going. So I just want to thank the people that aren’t even in my life anymore. Know that I still have love for you, and there’s no hard feelings, and thank you.
Wendy Thompson: Yeah, that’s a good speech.
Inspired by his family, his spirituality, and his beloved city of Baltimore, Wordsmith wants his audience to strive to find their purpose in life. As he continues to build his career as a rapper, he is looking forward to sharing that message with his audience. He says he creates music so that anyone who listens to it can enjoy it, whether it’s for the in-depth lyrics, or the up-tempo beats. His upcoming album features music that combines commercial elements with conscious lyrics and a meaning behind every song. That is to be expected from a guy named “Wordsmith”.
Learn more about Wordsmith at https://www.reverbnation.com/wordsmith