Last time I chopped it up with veteran emcee Ill Bill, we were at the listening party for Kill Devil Hills, the album he collaborated on with DJ Muggs a year ago. Since then, he’s kept busy: This past spring, Bill dropped the well-received Heavy Metal Kings LP with Vinnie Paz of Jedi Mind Tricks. In October, Ill Bill released a mixtape full of recent features, rare gems and brand new material titled Howie Made Me Do It 2.
Highly-anticipated projects are on deck as well. La Coka Nostra (the popular supergroup featuring Ill Bill, Everlast, Danny Boy, Slaine and DJ Lethal), are due to release their sophomore album, Master of the Dark Arts, in Spring 2012. On top of all his many creative partnerships, Bill is also slated to put out a solo album next year.
As if he doesn’t have enough to do, Ill Bill fit an exclusive interview with The Spizzy into his schedule. But as usual he was down-to-Earth, gracious with his time and thorough with his answers. In the Q&A session posted below, Bill discussed the inspiration behind Howie Made Me Do It 2, the progress of the new La Coka Nostra joint and other informative tidbits.
Black Pacino: What inspired the cover art for Howie Made Me Do It 2? It’s really dope.
Ill Bill: When I actually got the artist to work on it, it’s kinda crazy because my uncle was really sick; he was still with us. He passed a little over a year ago. What happened was he was dying of cancer and the artwork itself is like a metaphor for the different demons that my uncle was fighting while he was alive. I know you’re familiar with my music and I know you’re familiar with my uncle so… he had an addiction so he had those demons and the cancer was kinda like an unexpected thing. Even he always said he thought if anything was gonna get it him, it was gonna be drugs. It’s possible that the years of drug use and the heavy duty hard drugs he was doing could’ve triggered the cancer. We don’t really know but indirectly, it wasn’t something that could be directly blamed on the drug use.
So I wanted something to kinda metaphorically reflect what he was going through. It’s kinda crazy because the artist that was working on it, it took him a minute to get the artwork done and I got the artwork the day after my uncle passed. I forgot about it to be honest because I had other shit on my mind, y’know what I’m sayin? He passed and the last thing I was thinking about was the artwork some dude was working on. So it was kinda bugged out. The day after he passed, I got an email with the artwork. And it was just an idea that I had. A majority of what you see from me as far as any artwork, I don’t actually do it myself but 99% of what you see concept-wise, I pretty much feed the artists I work with. It’s always dope to see an idea I had in my mind come to life. In this case, the whole thing was symbolic.
I didn’t even know at the time I was going to use that artwork for the Howie Made Me Do It mixtape. What happened was, it was so crazy when I got the artwork at the time… what had just happened… I just kinda put it on the back burner and left it alone for a while. For over a year. It’s been about a year and a half since he passed. When it came time to rock the mixtape, it just made sense. I called the mixtape Howie Made Me Do It 2, based on the fact that I used that artwork. The actual concept of the demons came from a Slayer album cover; an album called Hell Awaits. If you check out that album cover, there’s these demons on the cover. In reference to their cover, there’s a bunch of stuff going on but if you look at the actual demons, I used that as a reference. I gave that to the artist as a reference and told him to make the demons look like the demons on the Slayer cover and he did it. He killed it, he did a really good job.
Pacino: He damn sure did. A lot of people now put a lot of thought into album covers… they’re more like an afterthought. But that cover right there is really good. It stands alone as a piece of art.
Bill: Thanks, man. Glad you like it. I love it. Yeah, I’m into album artwork. I’m a record collector so I’m not really too excited about the demise of vinyl, because you can’t showcase the artwork the way vinyl does, or a CD cover or whatever. So I’ve always been a fan of that and y’know it’s like, it’s more of a Hip-Hop thing to use just photographs and stuff for covers. I’ve done that on a couple of mixtapes but for the most part, especially with albums, I like to do artwork. It has more of a flavor to it. I’m a comic book fan too.
Pacino: You got a joint on Howie 2 with Just-Ice, the original Hip-Hop gangster. How’d you hook up with him?
Bill: That’s the homie. We met through DJ Eclipse, he introduced us. I’m a big Just-Ice fan so we just clicked when we met. We’ve got similar interests and similar sense of humor and we just kicked it. Whenever I do a show in New York, he always comes through and we just yap it up and what not. That song was actually for his album. It came out like two years ago. Our styles are a little bit different so we share different fans. So I wasn’t sure how many of my fans had actually picked up on his records, so I put it on my joint. I have a lot of different features; a majority of my mixtapes are like that. What does a mixtape even mean at this point, na’mean? To me, it’s more or less my favorite collabos that I’ve done in the last year… within the year since I dropped my last mixtape. I always holla at everybody and just get their blessing before I put it on the mixtape. Every time I reached out it’s love. I look at it as if the shoe is on the other foot. It’s just more exposure, more of a chance of more people hearing it. That’s what happened, not just with that joint but a lot of joints that came out on other people’s albums. Some people hear it for the first time, it’s a beautiful thing. So the younger kids who might not be up on Just-Ice, it’s a good look because they’ll be able to check him out.
Pacino: Lyrically, you ain’t fell off over the years. You drop a lot of material, plus you run a record label, handle merchandising and stuff. With so much happening, how do you stay so sharp?
Bill: I just love writing. I enjoy it. Everybody has one talent, one thing that they focus on. I’ve always been a writer. When I was in 2nd grade, 3rd grade, I used to write book reports. I used to be assigned to do a book report and just blow it off and not even read the book. And the day before the assignment was due I would write the whole book report and make up the whole book in my head. Make up the writer’s name… I would combine a comic book artist’s and a comic book writer’s first name and last name and make the writer’s name up. I would just make up a story. And they’re like, “Yo, we wanna see the book” and I’m like, “Oh, I forgot it.” Blow them off and get an A+. I just always was a writer, it’s just natural.
Pacino: What’s poppin with La Coka Nostra’s next album, Master of the Dark Arts? How’s that coming along?
Bill: That’s the next record coming out that I’m involved with and it’s coming along crazy, man. Lethal just hit us with a folder of beats. We haven’t heard beats from him in a while. He’s one my favorite producers… he slept-on, he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves but I think he’s a great producer. We’ve sitting on a bunch of beats. I’ve done some production for the record. C-Lance has done some production for the record so far. Jack of All Trades, who did some joints on the Heavy Metal Kings record, he’s done one so far that we’ve rocked. Got a couple more in the chamber.
We’ve waited a while to get into recording this record because everybody’s so busy individually. It presented itself opportunity-wise to be able to work on this record and put it out in the time frame. We have to make moves based off of different schedules, being that we’re all real busy. Slaine might have become the busiest dude in the group in the past couple of years… especially him with the movie work he’s doing. So we had to jump on it. So basically me and Slaine have pretty much been in the studio kind of spearheading everything. We’ve been putting in the work so far, going in. I’m excited because I already got two beats on the record, which is like, a beat and a half more than the last album.
Yeah, man… we’re like 7 songs deep at this point. We’re just working fast, we’re inspired. It’s gonna be done soon. It’ll be done in the next 3 months. Pretty much, I have about 3 months to get it done for Spring; how we say and how we’ve been planning. We want to bring it on in May and there’s a chance it might come out in June. I don’t see it going past June. If it takes us til March then we won’t be able to… there’s a 3 month turnaround. We have a blueprint for records. I don’t want to get too much in to the concept of the record because it’s too early right now to really talk about it. Danny Boy is like the RZA of La Coka Nosta. He laid out where he wanted to go with this record before we even recorded the first song. So there’s a concept to the record; even more of a concept to this record than the last one. So I think that’s making us flow a little better as far as us getting it done within a quicker timeframe.
I’m used to spending 3 years on a record, na’mean? Up until recent times (I’d spend) 3 to 4 years on a record. And that’s cool to a point but at the same time we’re in a different era of making music and doing this right. You take 3 years to put out a record, you’ll be forgotten. It’s different now. Cats used to take 4 years to put out a record and I respect the quality of it and I understand because I used to do the same thing but it just can’t operate like that nowadays. It just doesn’t work. My next solo record, I’ve been working on it for the last 6 & ½ to 7 months. It’s also a concept record and I’m shocked at how quickly it’s coming together.
Pacino: You’re a big rock fan. Any theories as to why rock artists are allowed to have longer careers than rappers? Some people make a big deal about age in rap.
Bill: Ultimately it’s up to the fans. The fans put you where you’re at and they decide; it’s the people’s choice. I think that the Hip-Hop audience is increasing a young audience. Not as much as when it first started because the President is a Hip-Hop head and there’s still older heads that still get on the train. Everybody… you’ve got doctors (who are) Hip-Hop heads. But for the most part, it’s a young fan base. It’s also cutting edge music; for lack of a better word it’s the coolest, the hippest music there is. And I think that’s a double-edged sword. It works against a veteran artist, where a veteran artist is considered played out. Like, “That’s old.”
It’s not like that with rock music, the way people put music on the internet with the mixtapes and the whole culture. It’s crazy because it kind of started in a way, because it’s a combination of the internet, I think… and also when DMX was coming out with 2 albums a year. And Jay-Z, they kinda set it off. Especially DMX; he was putting out 2 albums a year, selling like 8 million. He did that for like three years straight and Jay-Z was consistent every year. That inspired me. Even if I didn’t put out what could be considered an album, I put out a mixtape. Since 2002, going on about to be 10 years later, every year I dropped at least one CD. I think that’s part of why you’re even interested in interviewing me right now and why I can actually compete in a world of way younger artists than me. I’m the same age as Eminem… a year or two younger than Jay-Z. I’m more from that era. But then you’ve got A$AP Rocky and them dudes is like 20 years old.
For me, I don’t dwell on it, it is what it is. I don’t really got time for that. Dudes like the Rolling Stones are in their 60’s, man. But are they gonna let a 60-year old rapper live? I don’t know, man (laughs). Could be a positive or a negative. On some Frank Sinatra shit, na’mean? I don’t know, let’s see. That’s what crazy about it; Hip-Hop is still like the youngest (musical genre). Then again, not really… now you other newer things, like the Dubstep movement is coming up and all that. That’s new. It’s like a cousin of Hip-Hop. But for me, what I grew up on, Hip-Hop is the youngest musical genre. It’s kinda like a gift and a curse in Hip-Hop, because Hip-Hop is so fast and ahead of the curve. It’s that cool factor. Like, “That muthafucka’s old, check out this new shit.” That’s part of Hip-Hop, that’s a Hip-Hop attitude. It’s not really like that as much in rock. Hipster muthafuckas, they be on that type of shit but to me, they bit that off of Hip-Hop. So it’s whatever.
Peep the brand new video clip for “Malverde Market” by La Coka Nostra, produced by Ill Bill. The other joint, “We Not Playing” featuring UG, is taken from ‘Howie Made Me Do It 2.’
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