Asheville emcee Sk, the Novelist calls for social change in new single “Ugly Jazz”

BEATING THE SYSTEM: Genre preferences, political views and subject-verb agreement aside, local hip hop artist John Wilson (also known as Sk, the Novelist) has an inspiring belief in the power of music to affect social change. "Bars is limitless, songs is infinite," he raps in recent single "Ugly Jazz." Still frame from "Ugly Jazz" music video, filmed by Double A Productions

Rather than dwelling on unjust social and political systems, local rapper John Wilson follows his frank observations of corruption up with pure optimism.

“In the song, I use the verses to bring out all the anger that people might be having over various situations, and then I use the hook to provide a simple solution,” says the artist aka Sk, the Novelist. “Ugly Jazz” — his recent follow up to “Let the Trumpet Tell the Story” — does exactly that, prescribing positivity as the appropriate response to others’ transgressions.

“Love your brother, love your friend,” the musician instructs on repeat. “Even if he hates you, love on him.”

Dripping with frustration elsewhere, Wilson’s lyrics broach topics of racism, income disparity, hypocrisy in the media and the value of music beyond commercial gains. His only mention of flashy assets — “Oh, I’m telling you, Jack / I just gotta have my Cadillac.” — is a Janis Joplin-style critique of consumerism’s darker side. He sings:

See you scat at me about “you love your ice”
I’m rapping to you like “I love my life”
But in comes the tragedy, literally
You will die from a dollar
So income’s the tragedy

Wilson says his music has always been a vessel for meaning rather than simply having sonic appeal. Only recently has his art form ventured toward social and political issues. The value of processing these matters using music, he says, comes into play when songs’ creation and consumption both spur positive effects.

“I do use it therapeutically,” he says, “but I also want to see change in those who listen to it — even if it’s on the most basic levels, such as making someone think twice before blindly believing one single opinion.”

The rapper, part of a musical collective called Legion of Doom, aspires to “join in the big push” to put Asheville’s hard-working hip-hop community on the national radar. Accordingly, the 20-year-old has enrolled in NC State University’s entrepreneurship program with an eye toward the music industry.

In the meantime, he’ll keep churning out artistic projects like the below music video for “Ugly Jazz,” parts of which were shot in the River Arts District by prolific local filmmaker Andrew Anderson of Double A Productions. The song’s instrumental was produced by Sampson.

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About Kat McReynolds
Kat studied entrepreneurship and music business at the University of Miami and earned her MBA at Appalachian State University. Follow me @katmAVL

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