On The Record: Repo
BY KALANI WILHELM / Special to the Star-Advertiser
As far as Will “Repo” Woods is concerned, awards, top 10 singles and multi-city national tours are far-fetched goals for the average rapper repping the Aloha State.
Regarded as one of the most outspoken and underrated MCs in Hawaii, lessons of perseverance and being brutally honest with himself and the world around him has brought success in life and music, but he still wants more.
“I feel like I make dope local music,” he said. “Why couldn’t I open up for The Green at Kaka’ako Waterfront Park in front of that huge crowd putting on for my state?”
Over a 10-year career that includes two solo albums (“God Flow,” “Repoman”) and numerous collaborations and appearances on mixtapes, he has more than paid his dues. Authentic and as raw as his lyrics, one thing Woods has never lacked is confidence.
“My grind comes from the fact that I know my music is dope,” he said. “You can say what you want about me but you can’t say nothin’ about my music.
“Rap is what I do. Rap isn’t who I am. Music is something I just do cause it feels natural. I don’t care about making millions and being famous. My city, my state that I so dearly love is all I care about. My heart is genuinely Hawaii hip-hop.”
Woods, part of the Hi-Lites crew, recently opened up for successful New Orleans rap artist Currency at The Republik and is quick to call out any MC, DJ, promoter or producer who claims the scene is unified. Woods believes a multitude of divides built on favoritism, animosity and healthy competition have always been part of the fabric of locally branded hip-hop.
His biggest issue is with the sugarcoating that goes on. He will call out anyone who fails to acknowledge these political hurdles exist.
“I have no hate for any artist nor am I worried about being out-rapped,” said Woods. “I just bring it up while the rest will sit quiet on the side and entertain that fake love, Hawaii hip-hop unity, aloha BS. Wack is the new dope. The wack outnumber the dope and support each other’s wackness.
“Ask yourself why real hip-hop is gone (nationally). Because there are more wack rappers flooding the industry making wack dope and the dope are out-numbered. Same thing happening here.”
Growing up in Leeward Oahu as “the poorest kids in the neighborhood,” Woods and his sisters were products of “a mama on welfare and daddy on dope.” The electricity and water being turned off because the rent didn’t get paid was all too common. Hard luck situations helped develop Woods’ real life outlook; enduring the tough times taught him about the true value of a dollar and provided him with a surplus of motivation.
“I dropped out in ninth grade and have been hustling ever since,” he said. “We always had hard times but we had each other and we got out of them together. The (bad) part of my childhood was also the best part of my childhood. Salute to the struggle. You can’t win if you don’t lose.”
For Woods there is no bigger satisfaction when you are supposed to lose but find a way to win. While his drive in music derives from his love for the game, he has always been a realist when it comes to his odds of becoming a big-time rap star. His job as a foreman for a local construction company helped him buy his first home when he was 22, a residence he sold two years later. Today he is a proud father and soon to be husband living in a “big house in Mililani Mauka.”
“I came from nothing and used it to propel myself,” he said. “I’m good with or without rap. No glorification of the struggle as it’s nothing to brag about, but what I will brag about is that my entire family made it and we all doing better then we ever thought we would have.”
He will continue to rep hard and let the chips and results fall where they may, unfazed, unafraid and ready for whatever challenges and triumphs that lie ahead.
Kalani Wilhelm covers nightlife and music for the Pulse. Contact him via email or follow him on Twitter.