It’s not everyday you hear rappers bragging about shitting in clubs or receiving oral sex from prostitutes, but then Bristol-based Billness isn’t your everyday rapper. “I guess you could say I’m a little different”, he told me, and it’s an understatement to say the least.
There was only one request when I interviewed Billness earlier this month and that was to “bring a few cold ones”, which says a lot about the character in question. It’s fair to say Billness is a chilled-out guy. He meets me fresh off the back of a morning skate (his other main passion) and immediately cracks into the Stella’s I’ve brought him. “You wanna hear the new track?” he asks me, before playing his latest offering ‘Rut’.
Billness has been slowly making a name for himself in the Bristol hip-hop scene with a series of crude raps, the content of which ranges from “busting in the face of every One Direction fan” to “God fucked me ’round when I shoved my dick through The Bible”. His style is reminiscent of a young Professor Green and whilst his explicit lyrics are not to everyone’s taste, he is indisputably different.
His new single ‘Rut’, which was released this week, is slightly different to the format that has got him this far. Produced by fellow Bristolian 1Illish, ‘Rut’ is not just another comedic outing from the talented MC. That’s not to say there’s a complete lack of gags, there’s just a deeper meaning behind them this time.
“And lately I been thinking too much and doubting myself”, he raps in the opening verse, and it’s clear that ‘Rut’ is the sound of a frustrated rapper, an artist fed up of the same old rut he seems to find himself in. There is a definite double meaning here, the song is not so much a reflection of Billness’ own personal life but that of the music industry, whereby many of the frustrations voiced in this track lie.
“I’m pissed off”, he tells me in a refreshingly honest interview. “I’m pissed off at the industry, but mostly I’m pissed off at shit music ya’know?” These feelings are evident in the track itself and Billness said he made a conscious effort to make the song sound a little darker than his previous work.
“These chauvinistic rich kids rocking they North Face/They’d suck a dick to be legit and come from a poor place”, he raps in the second verse, and he has a point. If you browse any urban music channel on the web you are drowned in a pool of wannabe gangsters that have as much common with the ghetto as Billness does radio-friendly material. “I just don’t get the lack of creativity”, he tells me.
It is this very creativity that is arguably the most interesting thing about Billness, but it is also the very same creativity that leads to his frustrations with an industry that seems to grow increasingly manufactured by the day. Music aside, he tells me that he thinks long and hard about the content of his videos, because he doesn’t want to “just stand in front of a car and rap”.
He writes and directs his own videos and unsurprisingly cites Odd Future amongst those he admires. His videos thus far have ranged from humorous to downright hilarious and his last outing ‘Stuntin’ even featured himself shitting in a club. He laughs before revealing, “My mate works at a bar so I came up with the idea that I could actually be doing a shit in the club in the video”. It’s not exactly Michael Jackson’s Thriller, but it is something different.
This is his biggest difficulty. The content of his songs means he is unlikely to make the radio any time soon, and even though he has been a guest on Bristol’s community station Ujima Radio and speaks positively of their work (“they’re cool guys”), there’s no escaping Ofcom regulations. Even within his own Bristol scene, he sometimes feels he doesn’t fit in. Bristol’s never had the biggest rap scene, thriving instead in other areas such as house and electronic dance music. That’s not to say there is no scene at all though, artists such as Buggsy have shown that you can make it work and Billness is amongst his fans. “Yeah he’s real sick man”, he tells me “I had his shit on blast for months”.
Hi passion for skateboarding is evident, his battered and torn Vans telling their own story. “I wanna rap, skate and fuck it’s no epiphany/But that’s my holy trinity”, he spat on a freestyle for Bristol’s Sim City YouTube channel earlier this year. His involvement in Skateboard Café makes him accessible to a certain audience but some may deem his rap “not real enough” to share the stage with other rappers, an idea he struggles to get his head around. “I do find the hostility strange” he tells me. “It’s like as soon as anyone’s slightly different, they’re looked upon as a fucking outcast”.
His inspiration can be drawn from the most random scenarios and drunken nights out have produced some of his best punchlines. “When I’m drunk I’ll whack funny lines into my phone and then I’ll wake up the next day and be like hey that’s pretty funny” he tells me amongst laughter. “Half of the time I don’t even remember writing them!”
As for what comes next, a mixtape may come further down the line but for now he seems content to just keep putting out tracks. He toasts SBTV and recognises it as the best platform for new artists.
“I just wanna make music that other people like myself enjoy and if that happens then great”, he tells me in the final stages of the interview. “I love rapping, and I can’t see that changing any time soon”.
Billness may not be to everyone’s taste and originality does not necessarily equate to quality, but in an era of predictability maybe it’s the industry, rather than Billness, that’s stuck in a rut.
Check out the video for ‘Rut’ below.