Ill Bill touches on The Grimy Awards and Uncle Howie [Interview]
Vancouver, BC – Fans of New Yorker Ill Bill should be ecstatic with the release of new album The Grimy Awards. The project features legendary hip hop producers Large Professor, DJ Premier, El-P and Pete Rock to name a few. Amidst the Heavy Metal Kings North of the Border Slaughter Tour and release of their album, HipHopCanada was able to sit down with the underground rapper in Vancouver to discuss the inspiration behind the album, Paul Baloff – lead singer of Exodus – and Uncle Howie. Check out the interview after the jump.
HipHopCanada: Vancouver’s one of the last stops on Heavy Metal Kings North of the Border Slaughter Tour. How has it been so far? Any memorable moments?
Ill Bill: It’s been dope. Ah, shit, y’know, it’s always good when you get the whole crowd singing along with the lyrics from songs from like 15 years ago. Every show’s kind of been like that so it’s been good. That’s a kind of ‘put me on the spot’ question. I can’t say it’s been out of the ordinary, it’s been a smooth flowing tour. So far, so good.
HipHopCanada: Your new solo-album The Grimy Awards is an obvious play on The Grammy’s. What’s the representation behind the name The Grimy Awards ?
Ill Bill: It’s just my take on things that have influenced me and motivated me in my music career and just life in general. It’s paying respects, and paying tribute to a lot of these things, except in an album. It’s kind of conceptual, where all of the songs follow that way of thinking.
HipHopCanada: The record features production from DJ Premier, Large Professor, El-P, and Pete Rock – all legendary hip-hop producers. How did you initially hook up with these guys and end up working together?
Ill Bill: These are all cats that I’m friends with that I’ve worked with in the past. Y’know, it’s just a bunch of guys that I’m a fan of outside of a collaborator. That kind of also goes alongside the idea of paying tribute and giving props to different influences and different co-collaborators. That’s why I made a real effort to get my favorite producers all on one record.
HipHopCanada: How does it feel to work alongside them?
Ill Bill: It feels great, y’know. It’s always good. Sometimes some jobs that people have you’re forced to work with people you might not want to work with. That’s one cool thing about music; I get to pick and choose who I work with. It’s great to work with people that I’m also a fan of their music of as well.
Ill Bill: It has its ups and downs, I mean, it’s like anything else. Sometimes you come up with real interesting stuff, when you’ve got the same blood line as somebody, there’s a certain element that adds a certain ingredient to the recipe. It could be cool or it could be volatile.
HipHopCanada: Are the two of you currently working on anything together?
Ill Bill: Nah.
HipHopCanada: What kind of collab’s can fans expect from The Grimy Awards ?
Ill Bill: Umm, shit. You just named a whole bunch of them. I don’t know, which ones didn’t you mention?
HipHopCanda: Other than production.
Ill Bill: Should I mention people you didn’t mention? (Smiles) I’ve got Vinnie Paz on the record that I’m on tour with right now. We also have a group together called Heavy Metal Kings. I’ve got Vinnie’s other group Jedi Mind Tricks featured on the record. I’ve got a joint with O.C and Cormega over a DJ Muggs beat, it’s pretty crazy. Conceptually it’s about the music industry and taking control of your destiny and taking charge of your career. I’ve got a really cool collabo with Meyhem Lauren and Q-Unique over an Ayatollah beat. I’ve also got another one with Shibazz the Disciple and Lil Fame of M.O.P, kind of like a Brooklyn type of anthem called “Violence”.
Ill Bill: Lyrically it’s kind of just a mind frame of Paul Baloff – a singer of a thrash band – but if he was an MC. That’s kind of what I’m talking about; it’s a tip of the hat towards what he used to do with Exodus. A little over the top violent band in terms of subject matter, kind of serious on one hand, but really not that serious.. Almost like Elmer Fudd with a double barrel shot gun shooting people in the face kind of violence. It’s kind of what I do lyrically on the record. It gets capped off by a radio conversation that I found on a tape from 25 years ago, me calling into a radio show talking to Paul at age fourteen, talking to somebody who I’m a fan of. It was probably the first time I was on the radio. I was looking for different sound-bites and different things I could find from Paul to throw on the track to represent him. I didn’t think I was going to find that, I totally forgot I had it. I was digging through different cassettes and different shoe boxes looking for stuff and I found that, it’s pretty crazy.
HipHopCanada: I read in an interview with Spin that you were in a thrash band yourself as a teenager. What can you tell HipHopCanada readers about that?
Ill Bill: It seems like it was a lifetime ago, that was in the 80’s. We split in 1990-91, literally over 20 years ago. It was cool, it was fun, we were really young, and we were teenagers having fun just experimenting making music. That was one way to make music. The hip hop thing is a whole different experience in the studio as opposed to having a band. It was me just testing the waters on what I wanted to do, I knew I wanted to be in the music business, I wanted to be creative, I just didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. You could have told me when I was in the band that I was going to do anything but be in the band. I didn’t think I was going to end up having a rap career at that time. It could have gone either way. It was kind of organic though, it was a natural progression of what we were doing at the time. One guy played the drums, one guy was messing with guitars, 3 years later half of them went to school and I was making rap demos. Now I’m here.
HipHopCanada: It’s very apparent that metal has had an influence on your life, how would you say this has affected your music career?
Ill Bill: I don’t know if it’s affected my music career, it’s affected the music. Anybody’s influences, books, movies, music, whatever kind of music it be, it’s going to influence you as an artist, as a musician. It’s in there, that influence is an ingredient, it’s a part of my DNA, it’s not everything, and it’s just a part of it. It’s in there though.
Ill Bill: He’s a character, it’s kind of something where you’d have to listen to the records, and hear his different skits and different appearances on different songs and albums to get the full picture of what it’s about. Rest in Peace Uncle Howie. He made an impact so it’s cool that even after he’s gone I could sit here in Canada and you’d want to know about him.
HipHopCanada: Could you share one of your favorite memories about Uncle Howie?
Ill Bill: He actually hosted the Non Phixion album release party for the first Non Phixion album. It’s cool, we got it on video tape, we put out a DVD called The Green DVD about 10 years ago, and that show itself is on there and that’s a real cool thing. My Uncle was at one point homeless, he had a real bad drug problem, we didn’t know if he was ever really going to come back to the real world. For him to be able to kick drugs at that time, he was doing really well, it was a cool period of time and it’s documented.
HipHopCanada: Do you have any last words for HipHopCanada?
Ill Bill: Thank you – for the support, HipHopCanada has always covered everything I do. We were here last year with La Coka Nostra and I noticed HipHopCanada reviewed the tour. I always appreciate the love. Canada in general has always showed me, my team and everybody I work with a lot of love.
Interview conducted by Tiffany Jaeger for HipHopCanada
Photography by Jamie Sands for HipHopCanada