Mai Spann-Wilson, a student working towards his masters in social work, recently released an album as a means to take control of his life and channel his talents.
“I chose to go into social work because I feel like my greatest gift from God is to go and counsel people,” Spann-Wilson said. “I just have a passion to work with people.”
This passion is apparent throughout his work. He uses Philadelphia as a landscape to help shape and frame his originally written music.
“I’ve been surrounded by singers and piano players my whole life,” he said. “I’ve been writing poetry for as long as I could remember.”
As a poet, Spann-Wilson realized that what set his poetry apart from others was that he was “always rhyming.” This led to an easy transition from poet to rapper.
But Spann-Wilson has more than just conscious punch lines and rhymes–his neo-soul, R&B singing broadens his reach compared to other artists.
Spann-Wilson explained his title of his album, “Freedom Papers,” to have a personal connection. When freed slaves travelled, they were asked to present their freedom papers–he is using his newly released album to take control over his life’s goals and most importantly, his talents.
“This album is kind of like me taking control of my own talent–I’m not deciding if I’m just a singer or just a rapper. I’m just making music,” he said.
Spann-Wilson, who studied at the University of Maryland, College Park before making his journey to Temple, performed in various venues around that immediate area and has extended his music to University of Pennsylvania.
He hopes that with the release of his album–at no cost to the listener–it will help broaden his fan base and get his name out there.
While in a band, he performed frequently but being new to Temple’s social scene, his performing has been put on pause.
“The point as a new artist is to first get out there. Developing my fan base will be that leg up to hopefully break me into the industry,” he said.
Bringing it back to the community, he hopes his music will make people think as well as make their heads bob.
His recorded album features an array of topics for any avid music listener to relate to. Noting his top three, he considered them his favorites for different reasons.
“There isn’t one song on my album that I don’t like,” he said. “‘Cold World,’ I think is going to be the least popular song on the album until my fans get to know me better just because it’s kind of deep. Or ‘Let’s Go’ because it’s a head banger or ‘Never Knew a Love,’ a smooth love song that I sing the chorus.”
Students can download Spann-Wilson’s album, “Freedom Papers,” for free at maispann.bandcamp.com.
Alexandra Olivier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.