Will Kalson has played a pivotal role in the success of Pittsburgh hip hop. He has been the Burgh’s connection to music blogs nationwide and has helped spread the word. Read on to learn more about his part in Mac Miller’s rise, tour life and advice for up and comers.
K-Mo: You go back a few years with Pittsburgh hip hop. Can you explain how and where you got started?
Will Kalson: I started being apart of the scene around late 2007/early 2008 as the manager of The Ill Spoken, which was comprised of Beedie and Mac Miller. I was basically on my net grind for them, trying to get songs out to different websites, DJ’s, and people of importance.
The three of us had an idea to start a click of some of the best MC’s in the city that you probably hadn’t heard of yet. We came up with the name East End Empire because we’re all from the East End of PGH. Basically I recruited who I felt were some of the best MC’s around. This included Franchise, Vinny Radio, The Scholars (Ghosty and Primavera Vills), Palermo Stone, along with Mac and Beedie . We all banded together, doing tracks, dropping mixtapes, throwing shows. It wasn’t a group, more of a collective.
It actually ended up working and I feel it built up the scene a lot. It showed that there was a new generation of Hip-Hop in Pittsburgh and people respected it. We we’re all young and trying to make something happen for ourselves. Even though it doesn’t really exist anymore we’re all still cool with each other and I still work with almost everyone in some form or another.
K-Mo: Personally, I started to notice all this great talent at the formation of East End Empire. Any time they were performing, I had to get to a show which is how you and I met. So how did you get the opportunity to tour with Mac Miller?
Will: Mac has just been my boy for almost 5 years now. That’s my brother. We always had this musical connection. I just love Hip-Hop and Mac loves to make it. I would be down at the studio with him for hours just watching him make magic, still am. I’ve always had his back and he’s always had mine.
When he really started to take off I had one extra semester of college left but he hit me up asking me to come on tour and work. The decision wasn’t hard for me at all. I’ve always known that he was going to be something great and I wanted to be apart of that greatness. So I dropped out of school and we started hitting the road in my ’94 Volvo station wagon 5 deep to shows all across the East Coast, Mid-West and South. Soon
things got bigger, we moved on up from a station wagon to a Suburban, to a Mercedes Sprinter Van. I was driving and selling merch, basically helping out in anyway I could. We basically grinded it out, we were road warriors.
I would say after our first tour is when things really started to explode and it was clear that he was a star. Now we have big tour buses and big shows. Its incredible to see how far everything has come and it feels good to be a part of it. I’ve been there since the beginning so this all means a lot to me. I wouldn’t have things any other way.
K-Mo: What’s your favorite part about touring?
Will: Being able to be involved in something that I love so much. I live and breathe Hip-Hop so making a living off it isn’t too shabby. Being with my MostDope family everyday. We really are a family. Those are my brothers. And really getting to see the World. I’ve been places I thought I would never go because of Mac and Hip-Hop. It’s amazing.
K-Mo: Getting to do what you love day in and day out would be the best for me also! What music are you listening to now?
Will: That’s a hard question. I listen to everything from straight Hip-Hop to Trap shit. Right now my favorite artists outside of Pittsburgh are Future, ASAP Rocky, Kendrick Lamar, Waka Flocka, Main Attrakionz, Starlito, Juicy J, French Montana, Rick Ross even some Indie type music like The Internet. The list goes on and on. Basically anyone who is making something creative and exciting, I’m with it.
In the Burgh, of course Mac, The Come Up (Franchise and Vinny Radio, who I manage), Tolly (who I manage as well), B. White, Boaz, Primavera Vills, Ghosty, Beedie, Shad Black, Owey and Moola Gang. If you’re making noise in PGH I fuck with you.
K-Mo: Do you find yourself listening to independent more than mainstream hip hop?
Will: I probably do listen to more independent Hip-Hop than anything else because all of my homies that rap are independent so that makes up a large percentage of what I listen to a day to day basis. And outside of them a lot of the artists I bump are independent as well.
K-Mo: I can relate. Do you see yourself in the same role 5 years from now? If not, what is your goal?
Will: I don’t really know what the future holds for me but my goal is keep working in this industry. I’m working with The Come Up very closely right now, those are two of my best friends and we’re making moves. I have a great job working with Mac so I don’t see things changing anytime soon.
K-Mo: It seems like Mac still has to hit a plateau so you’ll be busy for a while. In your travels I’m sure you’ve meet a lot of people, who was the most inspiring or left the biggest impression and why?
Will: Juicy J is by far the coolest person I’ve met in the music industry. I’m a huge Three 6 Mafia fan, I came up on them, so when I got the opportunity to meet him I was shocked but he’s so down to earth.
On our first trip to Cali to do shows he kicked it with us for 5 days straight, just chilling like one of the homies and now he is one of the homies. I can’t say enough good things about that dude.
Also 9th Wonder is family. That dude is super down to earth and very wise. I’ve learned a lot of things from him and spent a good amount of time with him. Expect some 9th Wonder beats on the next project from The Come Up.
K-Mo: Definitely looking forward to The Come Up‘s next project. What advice do you have for independent artists?
Will: Just stay on your grind. Timing is everything. You have to be patient. This shit doesn’t happen overnight. If its your time its your time. Never be jealous of the next man, just stay focused on you and your goals. I’ve watched Mac record hundreds of songs, most of them you’ll probably never hear. He stays on his grind. You gotta do the same.
K-Mo: What’s next for you?
Will: Mac’s next tour, which is called The Macadelic Tour starts March 27th at Norfolk State a long with The Cool Kids and The Come Up. The we’re basically in Europe from late May until early July. I’m very excited to get back on road and keep it pushing.
Also look out for The Come Up album coming this Spring. I’m putting a lot of time into that. It’s something that’s close to my heart, it’s gonna be special.
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