Brandon A. Williams entered the coffee shop with a brownie in one hand and a backpack slung casually over one shoulder.
Decked out in a green V-neck T-shirt and khaki cargo shorts, a glittering stud earring in his left ear beneath stylish square-framed glasses, Williams was preppy college kid meets urban cool. After sitting down, the Southern Illinois University Carbondale alumnus gave what by now must be a well-practiced pitch for his original work “The Yard: An A Cappella/Hip-Hop Musical,” which returns to Carbondale with a 6:30 p.m. Saturday show at Shryock Auditorium.
“It’s pretty much about college life,” he said, “and it keeps on topics that every college student can relate to, no matter what background you’re from.”
Those topics include financial woes, Facebook addiction, issues with alcohol, suicide and interactions between men and women.
Williams was also selling another product — Brandon A. Williams, a guy from Peoria who wants to build an entertainment empire.
With influences ranging from Kanye West and Tyler Perry to Spike Lee and August Wilson, Williams, the youngest of eight children, wants big shows and big dollars. He’s sure hustle and hard work will get it for him because it’s getting him closer every day.
The 24-year-old impresario has already been written up in The Source, a hip-hop magazine, as an unsigned artist to watch, and “The Yard” is playing Carbondale for a second time after shows at Southeast Missouri State and University of Illinois-Chicago.
Williams carried in his backpack copies for sale of the “The Mo Better Mixtape” CD that got him noticed by The Source. The brownie in his hand was part of a tradeoff with a group hosting a bake sale fundraiser in a high-foot-traffic area of SIU’s campus. He bought a treat, they put up a poster.
“Viral marketing and word of mouth is the way to go,” Williams said.
Especially when everything is coming out of Williams’ pocket, as it is with Saturday’s show. He usually gets a $5,000 to $8,000 appearance fee to play out of town. Home dates are different, and more pressure-packed.
“It’s very high risk,” Williams said, “but I’m well versed in marketing and advertising.”
While Williams said his first show at SIU in October 2009 was a success, packing McLeod Theater’s roughly 500 seats, Shryock is more than twice as large. Ticket sales, he said, were coming along.
“They’re slowly rising,” Williams said. “Payday is Friday, so that’s when I figure it’s going to reach its peak. Whether it’s two or 200, we’re still going to put on a good show.”