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171st Spotlight: Staff Sgt. Sheldon Williams

Photo of Staff Sgt. Sheldon A. Williams

Pennsylvania Air National Guardsman Staff Sgt. Sheldon A. Williams with the 171st Air Refueling Wing near Pittsburgh, poses for a photo in front of the American flag, Nov. 11, 2017. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan A. Conley)

Coraopolis, Pa. --

CORAOPOLIS, Pa. (Nov. 4, 2017) – A crew chief stationed at the 171st Air Refueling Wing is a musician and future firefighter.

            Staff Sgt. Sheldon A. Williams Jr., crew chief and aircraft mechanic with the 171st Air Refueling Wing Maintenance Group, peruses his lifelong passion for music while continuing a family legacy of public service.

            Public-servant and rapper, are not necessarily titles conventionally placed in association with each other; however this is not the case for Williams, who goes by the moniker of Frisson. Williams has worked hard to shape a positive message through his lyrics while serving in the armed forces and simultaneously striving to become a full-time firefighter.

            Williams decided to join the Air National Guard upon reaching an impasse after high school.

            “I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do after high school or what to do in college,” said Williams. “I definitely didn’t want to waste that money. I’m mechanical and I like working on cars. Maybe I can tie that into the military, figure myself out, and get some professional skills behind me? I found out about the benefits. I figured you’re pretty much earning a scholarship for being out here, so I was like, this is awesome. It’s a great deal.”

            Williams decided that becoming a crew chief best suited his mechanical inclinations.

            Crew chiefs are the ones that do all the major inspections and minor maintenance, said Williams.  If we’re not flying, we’ll do some major maintenance. We don’t get in depth too much. We diagnose problems and send it to the specialist shops like hydraulics, electronics and communications. I love working with tools and I love my job, just like I thought I would.

            Williams’s father also served in the military to varying degrees to include the 171st ARW.

            He’s served with the 171st as a Civil Engineer, said Williams. He’s been a paramedic, an Army medic, a cop, SWAT and Internal Affairs. Even though he’s retired, he’s an explosive ordinance disposal consultant with the city. He’s always tried to better himself, so I took that on. He’s a good dad and he was always there for me. He’s out there hustling and grinding, and I need to do that with my life.

            Seeing the path that his father took was instrumental in Williams’s choice to start a career as a firefighter for the city of Pittsburgh. 

            “I’m still in public service following in my dad’s footsteps,” said Williams. “It’s just as dangerous. I’m running into burning buildings, just this side of it and not the law enforcement side. Firefighters are there to protect life and property. Be prepared for any situation, save lives and help people. That’s our job.”

            His father was also a pivotal figure that influenced his musical aspirations.

            “Musically, he’s a drummer,” said Williams. “At four years old, I’d play the keyboard, he’d be playing drums. We’d be making music. It would have happened anyway. It’s always been a love of mine. I’ve been doing it since I was three, but he definitely influenced me on music.”

            Williams got his start with the keyboard and at a young age was performing in church.

             “I did a lot in church,” said Williams. “There’s a lot of Christian influence in my music too. Little hints, but it’s not overwhelming. I wouldn’t classify myself as a Christian rapper, but that’s a big portion of my life, so naturally it’s going to be in the music.”

            Music is an integral part of Williams’s family with his wife being a musician that he met while attending Pittsburgh’s Creative and Performing Arts High School.

            Music is important to me, said Williams. We live it. Me and my wife. My kids are even singing now. That’s what we do. We go home, sit there on the piano and make music.

            Williams is adamant that his lyrics are well-crafted to relay a clear message            

            “It’s centered on a message,” said Williams. “Not just putting lyrics over tracks, but real music. I’m not just a rapper, I’m a wordsmith.”

            Williams goes by the moniker of “Frisson”, which he came across on a Word-of-the-Day.

            “The definition of frisson is actually a sensation of excitement from things like the arts and music,” said Williams. “It’s a real word derived from French that popped up on my word of the day one day. I’d been looking for a name forever. I was like, ‘Frisson. Cool.’”

            Williams works from his home studio as well as with local producers.

            Van Taylor, of 310 Music Studios, is a producer that I work with a lot. I might have themes going in my head, but the producer can inspire the song. I don’t just take music and try to make a song out of it. I write out things that are hot topics for me, and he might have something that just works with what I’m already thinking. Then, it’s just a perfect mash-up.

            One track featured in his social media platforms, found by searching Frisson 412, is “Supernova”, a song about stepping out musically and turning negativity into a positive.

            “With Supernova I merged two thoughts,” said Williams. “It took me a long time to decide to do music fully. I’ve been behind the scenes for years, helping my wife write, helping other producers write for other rappers. It’s also about deciding to go all out, using your haters to push you forward rather than hold you back.”

            Another featured track on the same album is “Blood, Sweat and Tears.”

            “The album is motivation music,” said Williams. “Originally wanted to write a song for football, and in doing so found out that my lyrics were extremely corny. So, I scratched it. I started to write it from the perspective of someone putting blood, sweat and tears into whatever it is they’re doing. It turned out awesome. Whatever you’re doing, you can plug yourself into that song. Honestly, that’s the masterpiece there because there are so many elements going into the development of that song.”

            Williams was asked what it is that motivates him the most in life. 

            “In this stage of life everything is my kids,” said Williams. “That’s what motivates me. I’ve always had an issue with rap lyrics that weren’t upstanding influencing children. I want to make music that is okay to play around kids.”

            With strong motivational messages, themes on social accountability and intelligently cultivated lyrics, Williams crafts an uplifting message through his rhymes and the imagery displayed in his videos. He tackles the challenges of life while delivering musical inspiration all while upholding a legacy of military honor and a career in public service and sacrifice.