Multifaceted could be one word used to describe Wes Felton. Emcee, singer, actor, poet and father are just a few of the titles he holds under his belt, and with his natural talent and drive, he is capable of all most anything. Musically, his sound reflects the diverse nature of his character, offering a distinct yet synonymous blend of hip-hop, soul and jazz. Felton captures life and love in his songs with honesty that’s missed in today’s music. A true pioneer, Felton takes us back to the basics of good music while adding his unique sound to perfectly compliment.
Q: You have a wonderfully distinguished name. How was it growing up with a name like that?
Well, honestly, I have never said this in public but, I hated the name W. Ellington until I got to high school. Early levels in school I always hated when folks would tease me because my name was long. During roll call the kids would bust out laughing when the teacher would say my name. In the most humble way I say, some folks don’t realize that D.C. and Oakland California are the main source of a lot of colonial “Slang” and “Swagger.” When a slang word is created it stays FOREVER. While other terms are being created without picking up outside slang. With that said, a lot of terms that seem cool in other places are considered negative in D.C.. There is a term we say here “WELLIN” or “WELLINGTON PARK” it means you lying or full of bullshit. So, basically it was tough. I told my mother when I started 5th grade at a new school to sign me up as Wes Felton.
Q: You were studying theater at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh when you first started recording music. Would you say that you are equally passionate about both theater and music?
Music started as an outlet for me while I was at Carnegie. I don’t glorify or degrade it but, I’m from an area in D.C. that was and may be still considered Vietnam. Just like the presidents of this country don’t care about war. the folks at CMU didn’t care about me as it applied to where I was from and why I was there. Like the army for a soldier, theater was my escape from a small world and outlet to a big world. Theater is my passion but, CMU turned music into my outlet.
Q: How would you describe your sound?
I would describe it as the soundtrack to honest reality or urban art.
Q: You don’t fall into one category, you sing and rap. What has been the response from music critics and listeners? Do they love the variety or are they frustrated that they can’t fit you into one box?
Rather than being embraced for it, folks used to tell me that I should decide what I wanna be. I would say, “I wanna be like Sammy Davis Jr., Paul Roberson or Gregory Hines.” They would look at me crazy because I wasn’t answering them according to current entertainment. I would just walk away with my false appearance of strength. It would kill me on the inside. I have never been a follower, and I believe after the 80’s pop culture, hip hop, r & b, and jazz music began to cater to the followers in the black community, so for true individuals it’s hard to acquire, push and create art. Quite honestly, I don’t think I really believed in my method or dreams until my father died in February. It took death for me to really start living as ME. I just thank God it wasn’t my own death.
Q: Life is a constant inspiration to artists. How has your life inspired your music?
Every part of my life inspires me. My Son, my lady, Hate, love, hurt, joy, pain, wisdom, self awareness, and passion.
Q: Your father is jazz pianist Hilton C. Felton, how has he influenced you as an artist?
He influenced me as an individual. To hold on to my integrity, creative process and publishing even if it means wearing a small amount of mask. He also taught me hold EVERYONE under the same professional scrutiny and expectations. When they drop the ball without at least diving for it out of bounds, cut them from the roster.
Q: What artists are you currently listening to now?
I listen to a lot of instrumentals and tracks folks send me. There is dope producer named LFDAZE that Raheem DeVaughn and I are currently feeling for our new Crossrhodes record. I listen to Me’shell, Van Hunt, Raheem Devaughn, Bilal Oliver, Joni Mitchell and a few others who choose the road of pioneers rather than conformist. I listen to them or watch them perform and it makes me wanna create something or change my life. I am only interested in consuming GOOD things at this point in my life.
Q: You’re last released album was Outrospective: Me Then, Me Now. Tell us, what inspired this album?
The company who put this record out LIED to me about them having a marketing plan and budget. Every video shot and recording is funded by the same money that is suppose to feed me and my family. They do nothing to help my process or survival, so I don’t wanna talk about it. I will say to folks reading this, to continue buying that record, so the company can continue to not pay me and LIE about how many records are being sold.
Q: I read in another interview that you prefer to be an independent artist, why is that?
America is full of Con-Artist and Unqualified Key Holders. I don’t come from a lot of money, so I know what real respect and hard work looks like. The majority of the Major and Indie labels have the wrong people doing the wrong jobs.
Q: What’s the hardest lesson you’ve had to learn working in the music business?
I experienced the (above answer) on numerous occasions.
Q: You’ve also published two books of poetry. What attracts you to spoken word?
I like the individual voices of spoken word because I have heard a lot of the same stuff in different forms over the past 17 years. I started doing this when I was 13.
Q: Let’s talk about image. How would you describe your fashion style?
Well, I was voted one of the 10 Best Dressed Males of 2006 by the Washingtonian Magazine. **poppin my collar** LOL
Q: What are some of your favorite brands/ boutiques that you like to shop?
I like HOFE EX, Paper Denim Cloth., Grand High Custom Sneakers, Puma and vintage couture. I approach fashion like buying a piece of art or records. You can find some great pieces in a lot a places. You just gotta be willing to search, find and dig sometimes.
Q: What helps to keep you grounded?
Victory, defeat and my Mother.
Q: Lastly, what can we expect in the near future for Wes Felton?
I will be releasing a few projects on Tastefullicks Records in 2008. I did a film with Thievery Corporation called, Babylon Central. It was submitted for Sundance and a few other festivals, so keep your fingers crossed. I’m working on few collaborations projects with Eric Hilton, Jason Orr of Funk Jazz Kafe, Lone Catylist and Usef Deniro aka Joe Money.
Lately, I have been directing and producing videos and short films for Raheem DeVaughn, Bilal Salaam, Tabi Bonney and other artist from D.C. If there is anyone reading this with employment opportunities… HOLLA!! ha ha. Peace