Superbly skilled Brooklyn emcee ILL BILL should require no introduction. Non Phixion, La Coka Nostra, Heavy Metal Kings— not to mention his other worldly solo output— all of which epitomizes grimy New York; Uzi sub to the head hip hop.
Bill has been fortunate enough to experience the adventure of worldwide travel throughout his illustrious career. While some rappers achieve various levels of success, yet rarely take two steps in any direction away from the block that reared them, ILL BILL has roamed practically every inch of the big blue marble. Most recently, Bill took what pretty much amounted to being a day trip to the presently tumultuous Russian Federation. While he has performed there on a handful of previous occasions, this was the first time the BK rapper ventured to the Eurasian country, as unrest intensifies daily between it and its Ukrainian neighbor. Thankfully, Bill made it back to U.S. soil unscathed, albeit a little vodka-fueled, so we thought we’d ask him a few questions about his journey to a locale few wouldn’t dare venture to right about now.
MA: This wasn’t your first trip to Russia. What’s it like for an American indie rapper over there?
ILL BILL: They don’t play American hip hop on the radio or on TV in Russia. Seems like they get their music from the Internet— especially YouTube. That makes the playing field more level for indie music. They’re more into the heavy and underground rap in Russia. They dig the hardcore shit over there instead of the watered down shit that’s popping in the States.
MA: How are the local artists? Are they sort of behind-the-times of U.S. emcees, or do they have their own thing going on, beyond the language?
IB: They have their own thing going on over there. Aside from the language, a lot of the Russian rap music sounds like they’re emulating the mainstream U.S. radio rappers. That’s probably why the hardcore American rap shit is getting even more popular out there.
MA: Did you have any reservations about this trip in particular considering the friction between Russia and the Ukraine?
IB: Nah, ’cause this was a festival show in Moscow, which is pretty far from all the drama going on in Ukraine. I don’t think I’d have gone out THERE though.
MA: Any fears for your safety?
IB: The first time I went it felt kinda sketchy based off of our past relationship with the USSR. I’ve been there four more times since though, so nah. It’s chill out there. Especially this last time. We had a blast.
MA: Do you have thoughts on the current political situation there?
IB: It’s tense as fuck over there right now. Especially for Ukrainians living here in the States who have family over there. The stories I’ve been hearing are crazy.
MA: Were you treated any differently by immigration, or security, or event staff this time because of what’s happening with the government there now?
IB: Yeah, there was a bunch of extra security and red tape this time around for sure. They’re edgy in Russia right now about letting people in and giving out work visas.
MA: Do you think the fans in Russia even care about that shit, or did they just seem intent on seeing the show?
IB: The kids there seemed to be way into the music more than anything else. It was a huge crowd (30,000 deep) and they were there to have fun.
MA: Are kids basically the same everywhere in the world as far as your shows go?
IB: Yea, the kids that come to our shows are a special breed that transcends ethnicity and nationality.
MA: What’s next for ILL BILL?
IB: I literally just moved back to Brooklyn this past weekend so I’m wiped out. I’m going to bed.
Aside from new La Coka Nostra and Heavy Metal Kings music coming our way shortly, ILL BILL will be playing at Santos Party House in NYC on Friday May 16 as part of the 5th annual Diablo Fest, along with Danny Diablo, and many others. Peep the complete 411 here.