Bright purple Phoenix Suns snapback cap? Check. White Ralph Lauren zip-up jacket? Check. Crisp pair of jeans? Check. Fresh Nike kicks? Check. Freshman Brendan “Slim” Wilkins puts the finishing touches on his outfit for his first ever live performance.
“I usually work from the hat down,” Wilkins said.
Mixing tracks and laying down beats in his 12-by-12-foot dorm room, Wilkins — nicknamed “Slim” for his skinny physique — is preparing for his premiere Sunday at The Haunt. He will open for Two Fresh with Mux Mool and Body Language.
Wilkins, an exploratory student, creates his own rhymes — only set to other artists’ backbeats. He said his idol, rapper Mac Miller, was his main motivation for contacting Dan Smalls of Dan Smalls Presents, who represents talent in the Finger Lakes region and is sponsoring Sunday’s event.
Upon hearing Slim’s music, Smalls said he liked the local performer’s work and passed it along to the main-stage artists of Two Fresh.
“It comes down to the artist approving it,” Smalls said. “They were happy with him as a support.”
Wilkins said the rhymes of other young hip-hop artists inspired him to create his own lyrics.
“I try to get a flow just like them but do my own thing,” he said.
The top hit on Wilkins’ MySpace music page is his identity song, “I Will,” about “a dude comin’ from the 860, the place where I be reppin.” His witty lines and clown-like character promise to win over the ladies at “IC, the place where I be preppin’.” Wilkins’ clever lines are laid over a catchy chorus that lyrically echoes everything this new artist promises to bring to the “real world.”
Wilkins, who records all of his own music and started rapping in high school, said he wants to see how college students react to his music, which has primarily focused on college life, going out and being with his friends — including the ladies. He said rapping is similar to keeping a diary.
“If there’s something going on personally, I like to listen to songs with similar problems,” he said. “It puts me in a better mood.”
Wilkins is considering performing his adaptation of “Coming Home,” originally made famous by Diddy and Skylar Grey, at The Haunt. The track features freshman Rachael Travers singing the original chorus while Wilkins enters echoing Diddy’s intro hook. Once the mainstream backbeats rip, he spits his own rhymes for the duration of the song.
Travers met Wilkins at summer orientation and their friendship continued to develop over their bond as members of the men’s and women’s track and field teams. Travers said she was initially anxious when recording the song because she hasn’t had much experience with music before.
“At first I was nervous because I’ve never done anything like this before, and so I messed up and made some funny noise,” she said.
After manipulating her “funny noise” on GarageBand, Travers said Wilkins’ comical distortion of her sound helped her relax. She said this trait of Wilkins’ is especially important if she plans to join him on stage.
“He has this humor that’s casual and makes me laugh,” Travers said. “So going in and having a relaxed environment just made me loose.”
Freshman Nate King, friend and dedicated fan of Wilkins, said Wilkins’ signature snapback accessory makes it easy to find his friend, no matter the size of the crowd.
“The snapback is how we always find him, at the cafeteria, on campus at parties,” King said. “He’s tall for one thing, but he’s got the brightly colored snapbacks, so we’re always like, ‘Hey, there’s Slim!’”
King has been Wilkins’ personal soundboard — bouncing back comments and criticisms about his rhymes since day one of college. He said Wilkins is currently looking for some real studio time outside his dorm room to practice.
“He needs to get a feel for the audience,” King said. “We also want to give him pointers on what to do, especially because he has some time to talk.”
Wilkins said he wants to prepare for what fans expect of him and what he wants to give them.
“I want to be movin’ around and dancing,” Wilkins said. “I don’t want people to just be listening to the iPod. I want it to be an actual show.”
Given 30 minutes of time onstage, Wilkins said he plans to sing five songs, including an exclusive premiere of his song “Good to Great,” which he recorded just this week.
King gave some insight as to what show goers can expect. He said Wilkins’ slick imitation of Chris Brown’s hat flip and other hip-hop moves that flow to his laid-back beats will keep the audience entertained.
Twirling a pencil between his finger, Wilkins confers with King, wondering whether he should pair his USA jacket with his gray Nike Blazers.
“A couple of days ago he was really worried about what he was going
to wear to the show,” King said. “We figured there were other things to worry about.”
As Wilkins still contemplates his wardrobe, Travers and King are busy selling tickets for the show to their friends on campus. Both said they hope Wilkins’ fun-loving character comes through in his performance.
“Slim is like an alter ego,” Travers said. “For him, it’s something outside of his name where he gets to fill this persona of track star or rap star. He’s got it all.”
To listen to Wilkins’ song “I Be Killin Em” visit theithacan.org.
If you Go
Two Fresh with Brendan “Slim” Wilkins
When: 8 p.m. Sunday
Where: The Haunt
How much: $13