Issue 57 (2003)
Many underground hip hop fans familiar with Non Phixion front man Ill Bill might describe the Brooklynite emcee as a mentally disturbed shock rapper while others view his in your face depictions of street life, sex and politics as the rawest truths ever put to wax, garnering him the nickname “Cult Leader” amongst his more devoted followers. Bill, however, insists that his goal isn’t to push people’s buttons but instead to get them to think and open their minds to make a difference. After flirting with several major labels, Bill has taken this mission into his own hands creating Uncle Howie Records to produce and distribute the fam’s music on his own terms. The first in the slew of planned releases is Bill’s own self-exploring epic, the appropriately titled “What’s Wrong with Bill?,” where he answers that often asked question and sends a striking message to fans and media alike.
“This album is me telling the world it’s on,” Bill emphasizes. “I think in a lot of ways I’m being slept on. Right now people don’t know what time it is and I ain’t having that. I feel like I’m better then all these dudes right now. Point blank, I’m the best rapper in the game right now. I don’t feel like anybody is fucking with my clique, underground or mainstream. Nas, Scarface, and Jay-Z are legends and I got mad respect for those dudes but I gotta get my respect now. I’m coming for my shit. I don’t feel like none of these dudes that’s on top of the game right now are as hungry as me and ain’t nobody dropping what we dropping either. We the illest motherfuckers out right now and ain’t nobody coming harder with the beats right now. To me the only dude that’s fucking with [my brother] Necro on the beats is Dre. That makes me unstoppable. Dre is the king and Necro is the heir to his throne. Anybody that hears my album and doesn’t understand that is a crackhead.”
“What’s Wrong with Bill” is a nod to how hip hop music was done back in the days when an artist touched on multiple topics and ideas showcasing their full personality on record. For Bill it was natural to explore this variety while still being creative with the subject matter. The solo project is his way of infusing some life back into a hip hop game he sees as rife with boredom, mundane topics and simple concepts. Providing variety isn’t enough though as Bill sees the key to being a good emcee lying in the ability to successfully bring the words off paper.
“Hip hop is visual,” explains the cult leader. “The words gotta be like motion pictures. That’s how it was when I was listening to Rakim. It was visual to me. The problem with a lot of shit now is that motherfuckers are talking the same shit all the time. I gotta come on some next shit or I’d get bored and have to quit. To me a lot of shit I’m hearing right now is boring but that drives me to keep doing what I’m doing. All these so called gangsta rappers making records bug me out how they can talk about the same hood, same bitches, same guns, same bling on every joint. Don’t get me wrong everyday life is definitely iller than fiction. I grew up in the projects, I watched my uncle ruin his life, sold drugs, caught cases and popped guns so it’s nothing for me to spit a rhyme about the hood. That’s what made me who I am on one end but at the same time I’m also creative. That’s not all I’m about.”
“Look at people that write screenplays,” he continues. “They’re not locked into one thing. It’s about putting an alternative across to people. To me the alternative isn’t coming with a whole album of fucking space rap. That’s corny too. You have to be able to express yourself as an artist. Kids look up to artists. We’re not responsible for raising them but we can guide them and I think it’s our responsibility to be as creative as possible and not let hip hop get stagnant.”
“What’s Wrong with Bill?” doesn’t just delve into different subjects it takes you into Bill’s head and gives you a glimpse of his mentality. You’re going to find some topics similar to a Non Phixion album such as porn, drugs and politics but also other material like school violence and personal growth. Although his Non Phixion brethren are found throughout the LP, Bill holds it down on his own by giving each selection a dose of individuality. He brings the images to life and puts listeners at the scene, whether it’s a porno scene or a crime scene depends on the track. He likens listening to the album to watching fourteen or fifteen movies all projected from his mental.
“One movie could be about my life growing up in Brooklyn stressed out, my grandmother passing away when I was too young to express how much I loved her,” reveals Bill. “One joint could be on my views on America and how the government is pulling the wool over our eyes deceiving us and one shit could be on some bugged out Sci-Fi channel alien shit because I can do that. I’m on some Spielberg shit. I’m gonna give some true to life shit, some Schindler’s List, and I can give you some Minority Report futuristic shit cuz I’m good like that. I ain’t scared to be creative.”
One of the more clever cuts on the solo is “Anatomy of a School Shooting” where Bill assumes the role of Eric Harris one of the assailants from the infamous Columbine shooting incident. “Anatomy of a School Shooting” breaks down the Columbine situation with Bill detailing the events from the shooter’s perspective. It’s an interesting look at the motivation behind the attacks and serves as a warning. It’s something that hasn’t been touched upon on a hip hop record and was something that Bill felt needed to be addressed. Although he put together the track as a way to discourage violence in schools he has a feeling critics are going to misinterpret his cynical hook and unique vantage point as an encouragement instead of a deterrent.
“Some people are gonna hear that song and not get anything good out of it,” predicts the misunderstood emcee. “They’re not going to see my point which isn’t to go tell kids to shoot up their high school, that’s far from my point. There will be people who are gonna hear that and be like that’s fucked up, what’s wrong with Bill? I’m saying be cool don’t shit on this dude for no reason.”
Another creative song is “Peace Sells.” On the surface, it appears to speak on the realization that we are fascinated by drama and violence ignoring the fact that peace is an alternative. A closer look shows that there is much more to the lyrics as they also refer to Bill’s love for rock and heavy metal. The song has a double meaning as ninety percent of it is made up of names of heavy metal bands, song titles, and album titles that you would only catch if you were a fan of the genre. It’s a testament to his roots that are deep in both hip hop and metal. As a kid growing up in Brooklyn he maintained an interest in both styles of music.
“I was always into a lot of different shit,” begins Bill. “I was always curious about different kinds of music and never really went with what everybody else was doing. I would see other white kids at school with IM80 t-shirts and the artwork on those old school heavy metal shirts were crazy. That made me want to check that out and once I peeped it I liked it. I never gave a shit that most kids I knew liked one or the other. Ever since I was young I noticed kids were kinda close minded to that shit but then I’d see Rick Rubin producing a rap group like RUN DMC and doing a metal band like Slayer in the same year and I got it. It made sense to me. When I was growing up I would be walking with a boom box and black kids would see me and I’d be blasting Metallica. I didn’t give a fuck. They’d be yelling Van Halen kill your mother, kill your father on some funny shit and the white kids at school couldn’t understand how I could listen to hip hop but I always looked for good music not what people wanted to spoon feed me.”
That same mentality has carried over into his outlook on business leading to the upstart imprint Uncle Howie Records. Instead of waiting on Geffen or Matador to do all of the dirty work, Bill chose to take it upon himself to follow his brother’s example and start his own label. It’s been a tough grind but there is no better way to get something done than by doing it yourself. While Bill’s solo will be released off of Necro’s Psycho+Logical label, the subsequent Non Phixion releases will be through Uncle Howie. It’s challenging and a constant learning experience but Bill wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Owning your own label is gangsta to me,” explains Bill. “It makes everything more appreciated. I’m learning new shit everyday. I’m open right now. I’d rather make mistakes but take responsibility for it than be in the dark and wonder if shit could have been better if I handled it myself. This is a new beginning. We’re getting an ill response from the 12”s we dropped so far and now we’re gearing up to drop the Non Phixion CD/DVD. We’re learning from the ground up to do this shit properly. I wish I would have taken the initiative a few years ago because we could have been adding onto the game in a stronger way than we will be. For a long time I was all about spitting, that was a 24-hour a day job. Now I’m running rampant because I barely sleep and I’m happy about it. I gotta maintain as an artist and keep my business mind in tact. It’s stressful and it’s a lot of work but its no better feeling than knowing that you did it yourself.”
Bill ignored all the talk that he needed 1.5 million to record a successful album and the doubters who said he couldn’t possibly put the project together or get Uncle Howie Records off the ground. He has defied the odds and hopes that listeners will give his music a chance and in the end take away an inspirational message that they too can reach the goals they have set for themselves.
“Overall I want people to get that whatever you want to accomplish can be accomplished. Look on the back of the record and see that we put it out ourselves. A lot of people are willing to accept what they’re given and what they think they are allowed to do and what their dreams are supposed to be. I never accepted that. What you see me doing is what I want to be doing.”
Expect big things from Uncle Howie and Ill Bill in the coming year as the next twelve months will see various releases from the Non Phixion family as each member will be dropping a solo album on Psycho+Logical including the Ill Bill solo. Uncle Howie Records will be releasing numerous singles and Arsonist’s Q-Unique’s solo album in addition to the next Non Phixion album, the Non Phixion Green CD with accompanying 2 hour DVD, and a specially priced reissue of the “The Future is Now” double CD with instrumentals.
Pick up “What’s Wrong With Bill” in stores May 4th.