lilD: Wills makes historyWritten by lilD | | firstname.lastname@example.org
If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a city to raise an artist to a national platform.
Finally, Toledo was on national television for something other than a group of racists in white sheets, a shootout at a club or kidnapping. Toledo was on national television because a native proudly announced his hometown in front of a live studio audience on the highest-rated show on BET.
The week that led up to rapper Beverly Wills’ performance on “106 & Park’s Wild Out Wednesday” proved that this community is capable of uniting and supporting a fellow Toledoan. Facebook and Twitter profile pictures all across the 419 were changed to a flier urging others to vote for Beverly Wills. I lost count of the number of times I texted “B” to 79922.
So the day came. It’s Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010. 6 p.m. “BET’s 106 & Park” has started. Many Toledoans’ Facebook status mentions Beverly Wills, instructing everyone to watch and get ready to vote. We’re ready to see if all our support will pay off.
This edition of “Wild Out Wednesday” was all male rappers. Great; Wills might have competition. The first act was introduced, and upon first glimpse, he showed promise. Equipped with fashionably coordinated dancers and a charming southern slang, he might just be good. Then his music started. Ten seconds of his performance was enough for every Toledoan watching to know he wasn’t going to be a problem.
After a few more music videos and mindless banter from the hosts of the show, it was time for Act 2, Beverly Wills, all the way from Toledo, Ohio. Facebookers and Tweeters went frantic, making sure everyone was ready to vote.
Wills performed solo. No dancers to distract the crowd, no hypeman to overshadow him. And by himself, he had the crowd repeating his chants, and voluntarily cheering him. After he was done performing his allotted segment of his song “Everybody Wanna Be Me,” he rapped without music for a moment. Wills had a special message for everyone back home in Toledo, glued to the television, ready to vote for him: Forget the chicks and fame; I do this to make Toledo proud.
How proud were the people of Toledo? Proud enough to keep Beverly Wills in the lead through the duration of the show, and make him victorious at the show’s conclusion. Beverly Wills is the first artist from Toledo to win “Wild Out Wednesday.” And he won because his city stood behind him. Wills said that performance “felt like a job; the city did everything to get everybody watching, so I had to make sure they watched something good.”
Beverly Wills has been invited back to BET for Blaze the Stage, a competition where the best “Wild Out Wednesday” performers are showcased in front of label executives and the biggest urban radio station in the country, Hot 97 in New York. People have gotten record deals from Blaze the Stage.
Wills summed up the experience by saying “not often do you do in reality the things you picture in your brain.” Congratulations. Dreams do come true.