GRAND RAPIDS -- Rapper Willie the Kid has hovered on hip-hop's horizon for several years.
Now, after being signed to major recording imprint Aphilliates Music Group/Asylum Records (a division of Warner Music Group), the 22-year-old Grand Rapids native released his national solo debut, "Absolute Greatness," last week. It's the first time a West Michigan rapper has been signed to a major label.
"I've been doing music, pursuing music, making a name for myself and putting things together since I was a kid," he said. "I'm excited (about the new release) because of the quality of music on there. What's been put together, I'm real proud of."
Willie the Kid, born Willie Buckley, graduated from Ottawa Hills High School in 2004 and received a degree in mass communications and integrated communications from Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, the city where he met platinum-selling producer DJ Don Cannon.
"I heard him rap, and that was all it took," Cannon said. "Will has been my guy ever since."
Willie the Kid, who now lives in Atlanta, said his album is the first official Aphilliates Music Group release, "so it further makes my debut an exciting project."
His older brother, underground hip-hop artist Lason Jackson -- La the Darkman -- is president of Aphilliates Music Group and greatly influenced Willie the Kid.
Jackson's debut album, 1998's "Heist of The Century," brought national attention to the Grand Rapids' hip-hop scene.
"I didn't want to be a fireman or basketball player. I wanted to be an MC," Willie the Kid said. "My brother got ... to learn from (Wu-Tang Clan's) RZA. That made me want to make it even more."
Willie the Kid's first recording appearance came in 2006, alongside rap heavyweights Lil' Wayne, Freeway and T.I. on the critically acclaimed underground song "Cannon (Remix)."
In 2007, the song "Taking Pictures" featured Willie and platinum-selling Young Jeezy, Jim Jones, Young Buck, Rick Ross and T.I.
His first single, "Love For Money," is an all-star collaboration with his brother, Trey Songz, Gucci Mane, Yung Joc, Flo Rida and Bun B. And this is just the beginning, he insisted.
"I'm always hungry for more," he said. "I never really feel like I've done enough. No matter what happens, I know there's more I could be doing."