It’s difficult calling Buffalo, NY’s Bill $aber a ‘rapper;’ by his own admission, he likes to, ‘make people think […] make people ask questions,’ and his music, a rumbling racket of nervy bass and threatening, disquieting intonations, rarely mirrors hip-hop trends too neatly. He’s working with Ronny J, and he’s earned the respect of industry titans like Marilyn Manson, but his own brand of weird, liberated rap music doesn’t have any obvious similarities with rap, punk, or other types of music.
‘Consciously the only thing that I’m trying to do is force people to think outside the box,’ he says, and it’s hard to argue with him. On his most successful single, “Creepin’ N Lurkin’,” things start out ordinarily enough, before devolving into a nightmarish mix of croaky bars, declaring unnervingly that, ‘murder’s my purpose.’ His subversion of what a banger can be, juxtaposing devilish imagery with exhilarating, engaging rap melodies, is unlike any other rapper today, and his most recent mixtape, Kill Everything, is his purest distillation yet of his style.
I had the chance to talk to him recently, and we spoke about his music appearing in Nicolas Cage movies, performing with Marilyn Manson, collaborating with Ronny J, and his plans to tour Australia. Read it below:
You’ve become a pretty big deal in rap music in the last 12 months; however, you’re still in touch with fans over social media in a way that is genuinely admirable. Is it difficult to maintain a busy touring schedule and maintain an online presence with your fans? Or will you try to maintain such a close relationship with your fans as your profile grows?
To be honest, I don’t even think I’m close to being a big deal. I just think that I have a little bit more eyes on me than I did the year before. However, being as close to my Fanbase as possible is one of my biggest missions in life. I believe that it is essential to at least try and have direct contact to the people that support me dearly. The volume is rising! Therefore, it’s getting tough, but I signed up for this and I will just continue to do the best that I can with the circumstances given. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, “I will respond until I can’t.”
Of course, “Creepin N Lurkin” has become a big hit for you recently, and you’ve notched quite a few other notable sleeper hits, most notably in “IKNOWTHATYOUPUSSIESDONTWANTIT,” which featured in a Nicolas Cage movie. How do you feel about hearing your music in places where you have less independence over how it is used, like movies? Do you prefer to market and promote your music directly with fans, or would you look forward to bringing your music to bigger audiences? Has there been more interest from commercial interests to use your music in either movies or television?
I love hearing the music that I recorded in my room all over the place. It’s something cool that not a lot of people can say. How many people can say that they recorded a song in their room, and now it’s in a movie with Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair, and that same song caught the ears of Marilyn Manson? Not a lot. That is something to brag about when being underground, but at the end of the day, if someone tells you that they don’t want their music all over the world, then they’re a liar. Anyway, my music can make it to the next demographic, I’m all for it, I want world domination. So any movie, Netflix originals, Hulu originals, commercials, video games, all of that stuff I’m down for in the future. As long as the paper work is right. And I’m not really sure on the demand to have my music in more commercial projects I just hope that that demand is there soon.
Marilyn Manson supposedly discovered you through Mom & Dad, bringing you out to perform “Beautiful People” with him in February and expressing a desire to go on tour with you. Do you feel like Marilyn Manson’s music is analogous to what you’re doing as Bill $aber? Have you and Manson discussed the possibility of collaborating on new music? And has any other industry veteran reached out to you because of your rapport with Manson?
Well I think essentially, we are all trying to do the same thing which is be different is stir the pot a little. I do believe that I share that with Marilyn Manson, to make people think, to make people ask questions. If we did or whenever we talk about music that would just be between me and him, and I can only pray that everyone that is a consumer enjoys our creation when that day comes. No other legend has reached out! Not to my knowledge, Manson is the only one and I’m glad he is.
You’ve spoken about having three projects already recorded, perhaps most notably a tape completely recorded with Ronny J, OMG$aber. What can we expect from collaboration between the two of you? Do you feel that your sounds compliment each other? Or, do you feel like you are both combining different vibes to create something different from what you are both doing?
Honestly, every time I drop music whoever is a fan of mine should expect bangers. As far as my sound and his sound together, I feel like I have the ability to coexist in any producer’s world. Therefore, when I reach out to a producer that is ultimately the end goal. To go in their world with my world and create something fun when we clash.
You already have two tapes available, the excellent Before Y.O.T.R. and Kill Everything. On both, you’re performing a wicked and threatening type of music that borders on rap, punk, and metal music. Are you consciously trying to make music with these influences, or is it all just incidental? Do you feel like any other rappers, new or old, have a sound that is in any way similar to yours?
I will say that consciously the only thing that I’m trying to do is force people to think outside the box. I love rap, I love hip-hop, if I can coexist in this world while sounding the least hip-hop-ish that I can, I think that it will show the kids that it’s OK to try something new. As far as trying to make punk, rap, and metal mesh, that is not really my goal. If you hear me rage on the track, scream, yell or flip out it is for reason and whatever I’m saying should be listened to very carefully. The beautiful thing about the underground right now is that there are a bunch of kids that realize we don’t have to sound like how the music in the 90s sounded. We appreciate it, we study it, or I’ll speak for myself but we don’t have to sound like that because it’s time for a new wave.
Because your music is so singular, it can be difficult to place whom your influences and peers might be. Are there any rappers at the moment that you admire? Is there anybody you would want to collaborate with? Or are you content to stick to your own direction for now?
It’s hard to pinpoint an influence on my music because I like to believe that there is none. I believe that there are certain moments in time that I wish to not only re-create but also surpass what they did for rap culture and hip-hop culture. But my end goal is to sound as least similar to whatever is on the SoundCloud chart or the Billboard charts. It’s all starting to sound the same. I wish to collaborate with many people I believe in aesthetic and moments. So whoever’s aesthetic I admire, I will work with them to create a moment.
I want to ask you about your hairdo, because I think it’s absolutely wild; obviously, it’s inspired by the ram’s horns, and is historically a look associated with the demonic and the uncanny. Are you trying to intentionally scare and unnerve people with your hairstyle? Or is it all just part of the art of performance? Will you be changing up that aspect of your look in the future or are you going to stick to the horns?
Same thing that happens with my music should happen with my image. You should be asking a lot of questions when you see me walk by, when you see me in a video, when you see me on stage, ask questions. That is what I stand for. Not too many humans ask questions, a lot of humans abide by the rules and follow the norm. Start asking some motherfucking questions. But as far as my hair goes my mother told me to try something, I tried it, it worked, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Really simple when you’re trying to build a brand. If you’re scared of me because of my hair you have a lot of self-evaluation to do. There should be no human scared of somebody because of their hair, skin, height, or any of that dumb shit. We all bleed and die the same, in a box 6 feet under. I always laugh when I see a comment about how I need “Jesus” when in fact Jesus and/or God himself would accept me as is. It’s only a human that would judge and point fingers. I will rebrand myself when it’s needed. Right now it’s not needed, but I will say, having my hair braided to the front can be annoying at times.
You’re touring Russia and Eastern Europe soon, where audiences have accepted underground rappers like Lil Peep and $uicideboy$ enthusiastically. Do you feel like there’s a bigger audience for your brand of hip-hop overseas? Are there any countries that you’re either looking forward to touring, or want to tour in the near future?
I don’t feel like the audience is bigger overseas when it comes to hip-hop, I just feel like they love the culture so much more. They really appreciate it when you respond, when you tweet at them, when you notice music from their respective country. They really care about stuff like that, as where in America we’re are used to everything pop so if you’re not charting and rich, no one really cares about you. For places like Russia and Europe you don’t have to chart to be successful. For them you just have to be making a name for yourself, and be doing something different. And it’s so dope! I can’t wait to tour Russia, however, Japan has always been my dream!
This is an Australian publication, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask about any plans for you to tour the Oceania region soon?
I actually wanted to tour Australia/New Zealand first. I had this plan that I was going to release a project on my birthday, that happened, and announce an Aus/NZ tour, it just didn’t pan out that way! So, I am waiting for some type of booking agent/agency from Australia or New Zealand to want to take up this task, because I’m so ready to tour that region of the world. Preferably, if it could be at the end of 2018 or the beginning of 2019 that would be perfect. Either way, whenever I come down under you will see animals.
You defended Lil Xan recently for his comments about 2pac, and pointed out the obvious trap of “ask[ing] someone with [that] name” for their opinion on the subject. Do you feel like there’s too much of a burden on you and other rappers to pay tribute to revered artists of yesterday? Do you feel as if it impacts your ability to define your own music and style when critics are demanding that you pay attention to already established artists?
I want to correct that statement. I did not defend a lil Xan! I simply asked the question, “why do we care about somebody’s opinion when their name is lil Xan?” Then, I asked another question, which was, “So what if he thinks Tupac is boring?” I just think that the Internet has made everyone a fucking pussy, everyone’s fucking offended all the time, everyone wants to ban somebody from something and everyone needs a scapegoat, it’s fucking ridiculous. I personally, have stated before that I want world domination. Me knowing that, I should know about every artist that came before me and every artist that comes after me, so me on a personal level believe that if you want to come into the hip-hop culture you should at least do your research. But I love the play both sides, if you only came here to chart on SoundCloud and make a couple hundred thousand dollars and buy chains then you don’t have to do any research at all. And I think that doesn’t sit well with the previous generation, it’s something that they can’t stomach. Who is to tell this 17-year-old kid what he should pay respect? Most of these kids are teenagers, they are boys, me on the other hand, I am 25. So I can look at it from a different perspective. I can see why someone from the last generation would be mad, and I can see why the kids up today to say we don’t give a fuck.
You wrote on Facebook that you “created someone named Bill $aber that loves human interaction, loves the stage,” and that you are not as personally comfortable with performance otherwise. Do you feel like it is necessary to disassociate from yourself to perform to your fullest extent? Can you see yourself ever reconciling yourself, ‘James,’ with your performance alter ego, ‘Bill?’ Or is it necessary to keep Bill $aber separate for the sake of performing and character?
Very good question. I can’t say what’s best for everybody because I just don’t know, but me personally; I know that I came into this world as James. And he is the person that had the plan, the master plan. Bill $aber, right now is a steppingstone for the things that James wants for the goal. If I went on stage as James I will have stage fright, but if I go up there as $aber, I have the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. James just thinks way too much, and that’s no good for anything in life, especially when you’re supposed to let loose rapping, performing, and dancing. Life is not supposed be thought about, just go, just survive, just make it happen. That’s what being an animal is all about. I think about the future a lot and I won’t be making music for that much longer so it’s completely necessary to keep $aber and James separate, because when that day comes where I’m done with Music I would like to live my life as James.
Finally, because Pelican is published and distributed in Australia, have you got anything that you want to say directly to your Australian fans?
To everyone in Australia that claims animal, I love you guys so much and I cannot wait to see your beautiful faces. Australia was the first country that made me think, “How am I getting plays here?” It was actually the first country that played my music before the rest of these other countries and for that I can’t wait to give the greatest underground rapper tour, if I’m still underground at that point, that anyone has ever given Australia love you see you soon.