Ish Williams shines a light on mental health with new EP "I'll Be Okay"

After his mother had saved up enough money when rapper Ish Williams was just a child, she moved her son and herself to the suburbs of south New Jersey. Growing up in Collingswood, he first emulated his older brother Mustafa who had been making music at the time. Although writing from the age 12, it was always just a hobby to the young rapper until the age of 18. In a town just outside of Philly, in which “everyone usually gets along with each other,” Ish built a life and has been working to perfect his art ever since.

Splashing into the industry several years ago with the release of his first SoundCloud project titled God Listens, a young rapper named Ishmial Williams turned a lot of heads. Putting his voice on display, he sings and raps to create his debut EP and launch his career. Coming out with a bang and beginning to build his fan base, he showed us someone with a tremendous amount of talent – a fantastic first project but Ish would only grow from there.

With his 2016 effort titled Sonia’s Son, we truly saw a new Ish. Getting several productions assists from producers Kev Rodgers, a lifelong friend of the rapper, and Kenif Muse, who is like a mentor to him, he stunned listeners with his second release. Composed of cuts featuring a raw flow, love songs, and even a great singing voice, he covers a great variety of genres all on one tape. During our interview he told me “My mom [Sonia] is my queen. She’s my everything. I do all of this for her.” Her voice actually serves as a sort of narrator throughout the project, teaching life lessons to her son about the importance of your self-worth and protecting that, advice on girls, friends and more. Listeners can then see how those lessons manifest themselves into his life and ultimately his music.

With great cuts all throughout his second project, including Motion, 2 Weeks, and Belly, there is a certified banger called Loyalty (feat. Mir Fontane) produced in collaboration by Kev Rodgers and Kenif Muse. Rapping over a savage instrumental, the 808’s are sure to rattle trunks as the two rappers absolutely tear the booth apart. When asked about his relationship with the Camden, NJ rapper Mir Fontane, he told me that they linked back in 2012 via Facebook as they were both fans of each other, “Mir is my brother so our relationship is [going to] always be love.” He told me that since all four of their schedules are usually busy it is hard to like up together in the studio at the same time. However, “[he feels] like the Avengers when [he’s] with them, especially when Mir is there too.”

Earlier this year with the release of W.H.Y. (Who Hurt You?), he told me that he “wrote it while [he] was in a relationship with a woman and finished it when that relationship was over with her.” Telling me later in the interview that he is “in love with the idea of being in love,” he is able to make songs filled with emotions that his peers cannot. A common trend in hip-hop now is to shy away from feelings of love and affection in music, instead opting for more lustful lyrics. Ish is able to switch between a love song and hard lyrics on a dime, much like he does on the song Wyn. Filled with a slew of timeless records, “it was easy to put together,” he told me.

Now 25 years old, he has risen from his humble beginnings and has released several projects – gaining experience along the way and making better music on each new project. Fresh off his newest and most well put together EP to date titled I’ll Be Okay, he made the record for “every and anyone that is suffering from a mental illness, specifically depression. It’s for me. This project is meant to be a musical dose for anyone that is going through tough times.” As depression is a powerful theme in Ish’s musical catalogue, it makes perfect sense that he decided to dedicate an entire project to the topic.

Bearing his soul in the booth, he “was making records to help [him] get through a bad day. The outcome was I’ll Be Okay.” Taking his time creating the 25-minute, 8-track effort, Ish thoroughly plans each of his releases and this was no different. By taking more time to prepare each project, he can “roll them out the way that they should be.” Enlisting other $outh$ide musicians Mir Fontane and Shaqeyah on the songs SOS and Be Somebody respectably. Keeping his circle small, he continues to make music with the same people he always has. Playing a crucial role in putting South Jersey on the map, Ish Williams created “a soundtrack to a smile that hasn’t been seen in a while” with his latest EP.

Dealing with his bouts of depression he wanted to provide a voice for anyone who has suffered or who is currently suffering. “I want this EP to be what people need to feel better, and I feel like I did that successfully,” he told me during our interview. After listening to the album, Ish has put out his most confident project to date creating a track list of powerful songs speaking on a range of topics. Speaking on past relationships, the come up, his personal growth as an individual, and of course mental health, he connects to his audience on a deeper level than a lot of his peers.

From passing out physical copies of his early music at local town events, to releasing numerous projects and performing in front of huge crowds at concerts, Ish Williams is doing everything right to ensure a lasting career. Seeing his fans from the South Jersey-Philadelphia area chanting his lyrics back to him at a show I had the opportunity to attend, it is clear that he is something real and he isn’t going anywhere any time soon. He will be performing at the Trocadero Balcony on June 22 and you can stream the new EP I’ll Be Okay on all platforms now! Be sure to check out his website ishwilliamsmusic.com to purchase concert tickets and subscribe to the mailing list for exclusive updates, releases, merch, offers and discounts!