“The Import”

Story by Wyatt Tremblay


Photos by Kristy Reimer

Football coach, fitness trainer and rap artist Willy SnYpeS (real name Willie Williams) is not your average Airdrian.

Born in Queens, NY, but raised in Lauderdale Lakes, Fla., SnYpeS has lived in Airdrie since 2011.

“Around here, I’m known as The Import,” he laughs, but he prefers to be called SnYpeS, an alias that started in high school football.

He was one of the smaller defensive players, but he was fast, “sniping” opposing players.

“You didn’t see me coming, but you always felt it.”

When he began recording music and working on his character as an artist, he kept the alias.

“My name has history.”

The 34-year-old is an assistant football coach at Airdrie’s George McDougall High School, works for Coca-Cola, and is a fitness trainer, but his life is about the music.

SnYpeS has his own DJ business and indie label, CornerBoy Music Entertainment, named for his childhood home on a street corner where he began rapping.

Like many street artists, SnYpeS traces his musical lineage back to his childhood.

He was raised by a single mother who kept Snypes and his two brothers out of trouble by keeping them busy.

“To be honest, (Fort Lauderdale) was a place (where) if you weren’t into either sports or the books, you were into the street doing something you weren’t supposed to.”

He played high school and college football, earning several scholarships, but music was never far away.

“I DJed, but I didn’t always see myself as an artist.”

SnYpeS became serious about his art after a visit to Calgary in 2005.

He was visiting a college friend, a Canadian DJ, who invited him to a recording studio where a rap artist was “laying down” a track.

Inspired, SnYpeS began penning lyrics, following the beat the rapper was using.

“I found that with all the experience of things I’d been through growing up, I was able to just put it to music.”

The rapper liked what SnYpeS had written; he said, “The track is yours,” and included the piece on the album.

He has since built a reputation as an artist whose music is authentic.

SnYpeS has one album of his own, Baggage Claim, several singles and videos through his indie label, several projects on the go, and numerous performance credits with the likes of Young Jeezy, Choclair and Beanie Man.

“People say you need to be in the studio pumping stuff out if you want to stay relevant as an artist,” says SnYpeS. “For me, it’s not about the fame; it’s about sharing my story, right?”

“If people want to know more about me, I say listen to my music.”

His music often contains explicit lyrics, touching on the rough edges of his experiences, but songs like Around the Globe, written for breast cancer awareness, and Mustangs Like (George Mac be like boom!), a fist-pumping anthem for the George McDougall Mustangs football team, speak to the many nuances of real life.

And real life includes family, one of the reasons SnYpeS is living in Canada.

He married the cousin of his Canadian DJ friend, and the couple now has a five-year old daughter and an infant son.

“I traded the palm trees for the snow, you know, because my wife lived here.”

His label encourages local artists, offering support from writing to marketing, and promotes what he calls his Feed the Block initiative, where he and friends deliver food to people in need at Christmas.

“At the end of the day, it’s not about football coaching, or fitness training, or even the music; it’s about giving back to the community.”