Welcome to Inć University
I remember my first week of freshman year in college like it was yesterday. I bought every book, made sure I had all the necessary supplies, planned out the freshest shoe and t-shirt combination my Midwestern ass could muster. In a way, that first week of undergrad was the pinnacle of all those first days of school growing up. Fast forward to my senior year, and my list of needs shrunk to about one notebook and a pen — a striking resemblance to the cover art for Inć University: Back to Cool, the newest project from Willie Mac Jr. The image perfectly displays the patina and unique strength acquired when attending the school of life: no need for a bunch of supplies and extra books. In life, either you know it or you don’t.
On Back to Cool, Willie gives us lessons on perseverance with tracks like “All Night,” an allegory for love on “The Day I Met Your Mother,” and demonstrations on how to increase our overall sauce on songs like “No Underbossin’.” He tutors listeners in the art of maintaining individual thought on the way to achieving life’s complex goals, skillfully satisfying the desire we all have to remain unique while showing the benefits of leadership and collaboration. Luckily, class isn’t quite full yet, so grab a seat and learn something.
The production throughout Back to Cool is of very high quality — “grade A,” if you will. Willie surfs the reverberating horns of “I Know You See Me” like a pro, using the spikes and valleys to punctuate his punchlines and show listeners how good it feels to be the center of attention when you’re so well-prepared. The production also stands out on “Attitude,” Willie rapping over an extra loose synth and a biting drum-snare loop. “I got this attitude from them avenues / I put the revenue on a pedestal.” It’s a uniquely Detroit beat, confirming Inć University’s location within the city proper, the westside of Detroit to be exact. I know about this side of town from personal experience; it’s a grueling learning environment in which attitude can be learned, but authenticity is required for true respect.
Willie shows his more sensitive side on this album, as well. “You Ain’t My Girl” is a throwback-style jam that shows Willie isn’t naïve to the game of love, and he’s not the one to be played either. He expresses an assessment on the different aims of women while dating: some would rather drain a man of his energy and be his lone source of happiness whereas others would rather uplift and encourage their partner while maintaining her own ambitions. Willie uses our eternal First Lady Michelle Obama as a shining example — “I need a Michelle Obama to get me through my drama” — a vision of strength, intelligence, and beauty. And she knows it. Any man would be lucky; even the President of the United States should consider himself blessed. Willie emphasizes his focus on finding someone like her, a companion who can bring his life happiness instead of turmoil. The sample is even a nod to a song of a similar tone (JAY-Z’s “Girls, Girls, Girls"), and it’s fitting considering Hov seemed to have romantic ambitions not unlike Willie’s, aiming to one day find a smart, powerful woman with whom he could grow. Jay certainly accomplished that goal, and I can’t help but think he’d be proud of this track.
“The Day I Met Your Mother” is a special track, in my humble opinion. With a proper poetry slam intro from Ms. Leah Hill, this track very accurately expresses the experiences of a man meeting the mother of the love of his life for the first time. Damn near every bar is quotable off the honesty alone:
“…Nah, I don’t have no degree, but it only takes common sense to see
That you’re something special, on another level
I can’t even tell you how I feel
And the day I met your mother is the day I finally knew
Whatever I felt was real…”
Meeting the one who made the example of what you see as beauty and grace incarnate can be both enlightening and overwhelming, exciting and terrifying all at the same time. Some women grow in different directions from their mothers, and you end up learning you’ve fallen for someone trying not to be someone else. Then again, some women wind up becoming so close to their mothers that the two become nearly indistinguishable, and suddenly you learn you’ve fallen for a modern version of a woman you didn’t even know existed. And your reaction to either one can also teach you a whole hell of a lot about yourself. Even if you don’t listen to much rap, “The Day I Met Your Mother” alone gives you a reason to check out Willie’s project. He’s clearly been studying up, and his tact has never been better.
Inć University: Back to Cool manages to deliver a truly enjoyable and invigorating experience. It even houses a classic skit in “Campus Blues” with what I call the ‘hood crooner’ auditioning to be on Willie’s album during a meet-up on the University’s yard. This sense of joy and happiness permeates the album, akin to the feeling a graduating senior gets once he or she realizes they’re nearly finished, the excitement one gets knowing that bigger things are in store. Listening to Willie’s latest effort, I’d say he certainly has much to be proud of and the right to be excited about whatever’s next. Success can be intimidating to some, but with the right foundation, anyone can flourish and enjoy the splendor that accompanies that success. Inć University certainly serves as that foundation.