Ill Bill Gets "Grimey" on New Solo Album
After five years former Non-Phixion member Ill Bill has finally released his latest solo album, The Grimey Awards. The record looks to continue his gritty New York boom-bap vision that help defined the city's alternative rap underground in the late '90s. We spoke to Bill about the people in his life who shaped the album, the difference recording solo makes, and even Zubaz.
Where does the title The Grimey Awards come from?
The title is, obviously, a play on the Grammys. It's kind of like my own Grammys, but it's more than just music. The album itself has a concept, it's a collection of songs that are like a tribute to the most important influences and experiences of my life up to now. Each song has a different meaning that connects to that concept, [it's] like my own personal award show through song.
Recently you dropped the Pete Rock-produced "Truth," where you flip a style you haven't really used since the mid 2000s. Was that a deliberate choice?
Not really, it wasn't a conscious thing, but the beat itself gave me a Non-Phixion vibe. It reminded me of the joint we did with him for The Future is Now album. I choose my beats based on what inspires me to sit and write, and that one jumped out at me. It also, to me, has that classic Pete Rock sound. I felt I could identify it as a Pete Rock beat without knowing that Pete necessarily did it. It just screamed Pete Rock.
Speaking of producers, the record also features productions from Large Professor, DJ Premier, El-P, all with a very definitively New York sound. With you now residing in North Carolina, do you feel that's altered your approach to writing to that sort of production?
Not really. I'm born in Queens, raised in Brooklyn. I'm a New York MC. Sonically, it's a real boom-bap New York-sounding album. Nowadays, a lot of newer artists coming out of New York aren't as New York-centric as some of the older cats like me. I stuck with the sound I came up on, some hard beats, grimey samples. I don't think it's any different from what I do. Even the West Coast producers I rock with, like DJ Lethal, got that kind of New York sound anyway.
What's the story behind the album's cover?
It's actually me, when I was a month old, with my grandmother and my uncle, who I have a song about on the record called "When I Die." That's the oldest picture I have of me and them. That's actually the only picture I have of me and both of them together. It just felt right for this album. I just wanted to see that picture on a 12 inch album cover.
You mentioned about a year ago that your favorite verse you've ever written is on this new album. Which verse is that?
"When I Die" is probably what I was talking about.