Willdabeast is one of the best-known hip-hop artists in the Coachella Valley—even though he has not released any music or done any interviews.
However, thanks to a nudge from friend and collaborator Provoked, Willdabeast (William Randal) is now working to put himself out there more—including an upcoming music release, and a chat with me.
Willdabeast’s home in Sky Valley is off a dirt road, with a large dog standing guard over the property. After greeting me, he explained that he liked the location because it was quiet and beautiful. Hesaid his love for hip hop began to develop when he was in the eighth-grade.
“I asked my mom to get me turntables for Christmas,” Willdabeast said. “… On Christmas morning, there was this big ol’ box, and I was like, ‘I got turntables!’ When I opened it up, it was a huge keyboard. I was like, ‘What?’ She opened it up with me, and there were these two buttons on it that made the turntable sounds. I was like, ‘Ugh! This isn’t it!’ But the cool thing about that keyboard is it had a multi-track recorder. I was in band in school and playing the trumpet, and I was able to record music.
“Going into high school, I started freestyling, and my friends noticed I had a knack for making beats. That was it—and I never stopped.”
I noticed a few musical instruments hanging on the wall of his living room; I’ve been told Willdabeast is a fantastic instrumentalist.
“My first instrument was the trumpet when I was in sixth-grade, and I played that for about two years,” he said. “Then I got into percussion, and by the end of high school, I was making beats and playing guitar. Out of high school, I was already doing gigs. I can read and write music, and I can transpose music, because trumpet is B-flat and all the other instruments were in C.”
He told me about This Is the Life, a 2008 documentary about the underground hip-hop movement in Los Angeles that came out of the Good Life Cafe.
“I was trippin’ out when I saw it on Netflix, because the people in it are so underground,” he said. “These guys deserve praise in every sense of the word for hip-hop. When shit started going super industry, they represented in the underground with conscious thought.”
When I talked to fellow local hip-hop artist Provoked a couple of months ago, Provoked told me about the battle-rap scene from about 20 years ago that also included J. Patron and Willdabeast. Willdabeast laughed when I brought it up.
“When we were young, it was super aggressive. If we heard you were rapping, we’d show up at your school and shit, being like, ‘Oh, so you’re rapping, huh?’ with one of those old school Pioneer boomboxes,” Willdabeast said. “We’d put the beats on and start going at it. If you didn’t respond back, you fucking lost. That’s how simple it was back then—but that was the battle scene. There was no rehearsing. You didn’t have time to write, and you had to do it freestyle where we’d talk about your girlfriend or some shit to hurt your feelings.
“I grew out of that shit real fast, though. I always wanted to make music, because I was a musician. The battle-rap scene was cool, but I didn’t want to waste my time on some negative shit. I had people showing up at my school to call me out, ‘WHO IS WILLDABEAST?’ I ran with a crew called Organics Crew that Mikey Reyes was also part of. This other crew made a diss track about us, and we reached out to them asking why they made it, and they were like, ‘Oh, it’s you guys?’ Our friends made a diss track on us without even knowing who we were!”
I asked J. Patron about the rap battles, and he confirmed the madness of those days.
“Provoked and I would battle, then we became good friends and battled the varsity football team at lunch in front of the whole school through a PA system; it was epic,” J. Patron said. “After that, kids from other schools would come over and get served. I remember Will started around that time, and he was—and still is—a fucking beast! He’s just so nice with the words.”
Willdabeast reiterated that those days are long gone, and that he now has different goals in mind for his music.
“I’m just all about making music. I want to do something that’s all about a message and not falling on deaf ears,” he said. “I’m not about telling women to shake their ass or do this type of drug, I want to make some conscious shit that will move you.”
While Willdabeast has released no music as of yet, he said that will change in the near future; one recording he plans on releasing is a collaboration he recently did with Provoked. He said he has recorded music going back to 2005, and explained why he has heretofore not released any of it yet.
“It’s all been practice to me,” he said. “Everything I make is practice. … It could just be bullshit or however I’m thinking about it. The way my brain works, when I’m doing this stuff, I’m focused on it, and I’m not thinking about anything else. It’s therapeutic. It always pushes me to keep learning.
“I’m developing a sound, and I think I kind of have it now.”
Willdabeast said he’s encouraged with the current hip-hop climate locally.
“I have to be excited with the direction of where everything is going right now,” he said. “There have been a lot of people coming together to collaborate and work together, and that’s exactly what we needed. That’s what the fuck needed to happen—and how we’ll grow this scene.”
Willdabeast will perform at Mikey Reyes’ Wordplay Wednesday/Desert Rhythm Project Album Release Campout on Saturday, March 30, at the Joshua Tree Lake RV and Campground, 2601 Sunfair Road, in Joshua Tree. Tickets are $45 at desertrhythmproject.com. For more information on Willdabeast, visit www.facebook.com/willdabeastmusic.