Magazines and websites are so predictable these days. Those cookie cutters ought to be shot. We can see their feature stories from a mile away. Like with this guy Spree Wilson. They’re gonna say he’s a nerd. They’ll take one short gaze at his derby, plaid-button up, and acoustic guitar and say he’s one of those geek hipsters who lives in the chic part of Brooklyn and performs at speakeasies. They’re not totally wrong, but they’re not totally right either. Yes, these things describe the 27 year old singer-songwriter and yes he wears Vans and rhymes with an endearing high pitch squeal, but no, Spree Wilson is not a nerd.
Now, although this young budding ATLien who recently released a dynamic mixtape, and is gearing to release a full length, The Beauty of Chaos, sometime this fall is very intelligent (peep the verbal linguistics on his teaser single “Word”), some proper investigation reveals that, indeed, there are some not-so-dorky things about Spree Wilson. So in the interest of presenting the findings in the most user-friendly way from a chat on a Fort Greene bench with the Atlantan musician, here are five reasons why Spree Wilson is not a nerd.
1. He Has Tattoos
And not just any tattoos, a tattoo of a robot angel and the Tasmanian Devil. The one of the Tasmanian Devil he got when he was 14 from a dude named “Tattoo Wayne” who was tatting up underage high-schoolers in a local hotel room. “He couldn’t be seen in the shop tattooing kids,” Spree recalls. “So he would have a suitcase of the things he put on people’s arms to dissolve the tatoo, to trace it.” If that wasn’t an unnerdly act of rambunctiousness, while other kids were hiding their tats from their parents, Spree came right out and showed his strict Seventh Adventist mother his new arm art. “I was so proud of my tattoo,” he says both playfully and defiantly. “I came in the house with my sleeve rolled up. She couldn’t do anything.”
2. He’s Good at Sports
Like every hood kid in Atlanta, Spree didn’t just played basketball and football in his formative years, he excelled at them. His best friend was the number one player in the state of Georgia. Even as a skinny 145-pounder, Spree played wide receiver for two years in high school until he got rammed at one game his mother was watching. He didn’t get up for like ten minutes, after which his mother put an overprotective end to NFL dreams. Spree can sum up the story even faster, “My mom was not having that.” After that fiasco, Spree got older and focused more on music and started getting cut from teams, which is kinda dorky, but at least he was good and not just some poindexter non-participant. “There’s not a guitar team you try out for,” Spree explains. “For basketball, that’s it. If somebody doesn’t get picked for a team, you’re going back to your neighborhood to play basketball. But music was always there. You couldn’t take it away from me.” Awww. You can still catch Spree at Prospect Park catching thirty yard touchdown passes in a rousing game of touch football.
3. He Got Bad Grades in School
It had nothing to do with intelligence. No, really, Spree did stellar his first year at Clark Atlanta University. It’s just really hard to concentrate when you live with the weed man. “You can’t live with somebody whose laying on the couch smoking and watching Good Morning America,” says Spree. “How are you going to start your day off with cereal and a blunt?” With all the partying and the music, he admits that college was a blur. In between massive toke sessions, Spree was all over the place yanking his guitar to open mics, talent shows, and campus events with white stripes and banners. He was that super artsy cool cat who listened to Jimi Hendrix and Fleetwood Mac, yet hung out with the regular guys with the white tees and fitteds. “Have you seen Crooklyn?” Spree offers rhetorically. “Remember Isaiah Washington? His character is the chill ass dude. That was me.”
4. He Gets Girls
Again, being the one alternative dude amongst a sea of white tees and fitteds has its benefits. While most of the Clark boys were listening to Pastor Troy (who Spree is also a fan of) and tripping over their oversized shirts, Spree was catching eyes with his airy ballads and songwriting talent. Remember, chicks dig guitars and Spree is no fool. He charmed his way through open doors even in the academic sector.
“One thing that got me as far as I got in school was I had a good personality to teachers,” Spree reflects. “I learned from my mom that I could charm most females. It’s not that I charm them to want to have sex with me, it’s a charm like ‘wow, you look beautiful today’”. It would be grossly negligent to omit that Spree, with his baby face and understated sense of style, is unconventionally handsome, but even so, it’s the Atlantan musician’s unassuming honesty towards women that melts hearts. He doesn’t woo chicks with witty one-liners. He tells it how it is, confronting a girl’s prettiness head on, whatever the result may be. Like this one time when he first moved to Brooklyn from Atlanta where everybody is either "White, Black, or maybe Mexican," he was at a party and saw a fine ambiguously ethnic girl surrounded by several big bulky dudes. “I was like, man, Imma go talk to her,” says Spree candidly. “I remember walking up to her and I was like, ‘excuse me, I don’t wanna make this seem like a line or anything, but I feel like you are absolutely gorgeous and where I’m from in Atlanta, we don’t have anybody as remotely beautiful as you are.” She gave him the warmest smile, told him it was the sweetest thing she had ever heard, and gave him the fullest hug you ever did see.
According to the nerd stereotype log, nerds are supposed to strikeout with the females. That was the type of story that would make the four eyes club not invite him to sit next to them at lunchtime or better yet, the type that would make them ceaselessly fan him in worship.
5. He Hustles
Extra hard. Not in the ancient Jay-Z “cough up a lung where I’m from” way, but in the, “I know what I want out of life and I’m working hard to get it.” The hustle certainly helped him when he needed an extension or two to keep from failing, but it also helped him bring his brand of Hip-Hop Soul to a wider audience. Think about it. How did Spree really go from campus balladeer to major recording artist? The answer lies in the clothing racks of Dallas Austin’s The Rowdy Store in Little Five Points, Atlanta where Spree worked tirelessly in addition to being the famed music producer’s intern for a year and a half. “Was the first person there and the last to leave,” Spree recalls like an old soldier verifying mettle. “Nobody there knew I did music. The most Dallas knew was that I was a black kid who played guitar and was into Rock music.” So Spree put in his work and bided his time for the right opportunity to hand Dallas his demo CD and the rest was history.
Well, not exactly, the Grammy-winning soundman lost his demo three times, but when he did finally listen to it, he was so moved that he allowed Spree to use his studio where he met No ID, Motown rapper/singer Novel, and a slew of other folks. He even got to do a song with Talib Kweli. “I just tried to find clever ways to be in the presence of the people who were making moves and who could eventually put me in the position where I could make my own moves,” says Spree. Gee wilikers, that’s grindin’.
And there you have it, five reasons.
As Spree’s solo debut is on the eve of dropping, more and more people will identify him as a nerd, even Spree himself might self-proclaim it. Don’t believe these people, at least not entirely. Nerds are cool people, too, just in idiosyncratic ways. So, in a way, yes, Spree Wilson is a nerd. But beware of typecasts. There is a big difference between Saved By the Bell Schreech-type nerds and real life nerds. In real life, don’t be surprised if nerds get tattoos and have sex.
- Sidik Fofana