Rapper William Dalton on his local roots and lyrical influences.
It’s not often that Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco takes young musicians under his well-versed wing, but in the case of William Dalton, he saw something special. Like Lupe, Dalton — the 27-year-old hip-hop star better known as The Boy Illinois — keeps Chicago center stage: Since touring with his mentor last fall, he’s worked with other local artists, including fast-rapping Twista, and pays homage to his hometown through his work — a recent project was dubbed “Jean Baptiste” in reference to Jean-Baptiste Pointe du Sable, who Dalton calls “the grandfather of Chicago.” Later this fall, Dalton will release his latest album, “Pointe (New Age Colonialism).”
“I started rapping around the age of 13. I made a group, Family Affair, with two of my friends, [but] after high school I thought of my solo career. I was at the University of Illinois for 2 ½ years and dropped out to pursue music. My dad was in a band — he [stopped] to take care of my older sister — so he understood when I dropped out of school. He said, ‘If you’re going to do music, do it 100 percent.’ “
“Michael Jackson without a doubt, because I danced a lot when I was a kid. Earth Wind & Fire, Al Jarreau, Jay-Z, Kanye [West] and Lupe.”
“I’ve known Lupe for 2 ½ years, but I had to earn my stripes. It took time for him to give me that nod [of approval]. That was my first national tour [with Lupe last fall]. He had a tour bus with all his people — but me, I had a van. We beat them to every city because they had so much stuff to haul with them; they would check out early and [my friends and I] would take over their rooms. … We were in Arizona and [Lupe] pulled out a book and started reading. I mean, nobody brings books on a rap tour — that’s the last thing you’d expect — but this guy is [real].”
“I try to make [music] for everyday people. A line in a song might refer to getting out of a car and dropping your phone off your lap — something everybody does. There are millionaires out there you can rap about, but the majority of the population is middle-class people, that’s who I [rap for].”
“Sometimes the words might not come to me, but the melody [does]. I skat a little bit then fill in what I want to say later. It’s like writing a paper — the introduction, then the important paragraph, then the [conclusion].”