Cracked desert plains. Dune buggies propelling from the sky. Giant femme fatale aliens in pursuit of our protagonist. It’s not often that a music video has all the sweeping sci-fi cinematics and storyline of a blockbuster film, but hey, it’s just how Toronto-hailed rap maverick KILLY rolls.
The visuals in question are “OH NO”, the brand new track from the rapper, produced by Y2K – and the directorial debut of Ryder Ripps (whose impressive credits include Kanye West, Travis Scott, Pop Smoke).
Since exploding upon the scene, KILLY has been making waves with his boundary-pushing brand of hip-hop: all otherworldly melodies, hypnotic hooks and pulsating bass.
We caught with the artist on his creative process and his collaboration record on the way…
Your new song “OH NO” is a collaboration with producer Y2K, how did that relationship start? What are you most excited about with this song?
That’s my boy from time. Our chemistry is unmatched. We made “No Sad No Bad” and “Doomsday” for my first project, which are some of my biggest songs. Whenever we link it’s a hit for sure. The music video is going to be insane. I’m excited to share that with everybody.
Ryder Ripps, the creative director known for his work with Travis Scott and Kanye West is making your next video with you – what made you choose giving over creative to him after working independently for so long?
I wanted to work with a creative director that could absorb my ideas and make them real without compromising anything. Ryder helps do that, we discuss references, ideas and then he brings the vision to life.
You started working on music independently while in high school, and eventually released your debut project “Surrender Your Soul” which has multiple platinum and gold singles, tell us about this experience and how did you get recognition for your music at such a young age without a label?
I wanted to make music, perform and tour the world since I was young… I had my whole life to make “Surrender Your Soul”. It’s the perfect intro to KILLY the artist, it tells my origin story. It’s a project that my fans and listeners really connect to because of how honest and raw the songs are.
Once your first music was out you took to the road for a world tour, what was that like? What did you love about it and learn most?
I don’t think there are words that can describe the feeling of flying to the other side of the world and being met by crazy fans showing so much love. Especially the first time. I felt blessed being able to think about something for so long, throughout my life and seeing it manifest and come to fruition. Very surreal. I brought all my peoples with me and we have seen places we never dreamed of ever seeing. Stage high is the best high.
We’re told you’re quite shy, do you agree? How does this work in your favour in making music? What kind of preparations do you need to get in front of an audience?
Yea I’m definitely an introvert. I guess there are times where it would benefit me a lot to be out there being social but at the same time I enjoy my company and alone time a lot. That doesn’t affect me on stage at all. You’d probably think the opposite of me if you just seen me on stage and not IRL.
Being born in Toronto and living in different parts of Canada, to Bajan and Filipino parents must have influenced you deeply, tell us about that? Have you experienced the sense of being an outsider due to your culture at home? How have you navigated through that?
It definitely has helped me become who I am. There’s always ups and downs but without the lows you can never know the highs… With all the challenges my family faced being dark-skinned and me being lighter, I feel like it built a unique perspective that not a lot of people get to experience, seeing how all your loved ones get treated vs. how you get treated. My family has been a victim of police brutality my whole life, on the east and west coast. So going through the court system and those experiences so young definitely contributed and influenced from early in to who I am today.
When did you first realise your love for music? What did you begin with to learn to create your own?
I grew up with parents who were ingrained in the culture, from the Caribbean side of things, to the rap end of it. When I was young I listened to a wide range of music and artists. But the first time I was really inspired to make music, was when I heard “Jesus Walks” by Kanye West. From there I found ways to record myself at home and eventually locking in a basement studio at one of the building in my ends.
Fashion seems to be another passion of yours, who are you favourite unknown and known designers? What made you so aware of style and who inspired this? Who would you most like to collaborate with?
I just wear whatever I think looks cool. Definitely stems from feeling different from a young age and wanting to show that through the way I dressed. One day I would like to explore the design world more seriously but right now my focus is music. The internet inspires my style and fashion, but personally I’m always leaning towards being different, not really on purpose it just happens I guess…
Tell us about your second project “Light Path 8”…
This was my sophomore project, I had so many songs on the hard drive since finishing “Surrender Your Soul”, and I kept recording while I was on tour between 2018-19. By Summer of 2019 I had just gotten word that I’d be going on tour with NAV and I had partnered with Epic Records too. That’s when I tethered all these tracks together and made a cohesive project. I was reading about numerology at the time – life path numbers and all that. I flipped it to a Light Path, mine was #8 so that’s how it came about.
How did “Killamonjaro” come to life? Were you surprised when it became so popular? When did you know it was a hit?
It was the first song that I felt comfortable releasing 100%. Yea I did know, I knew it was a hit the moment I said the melody over the beat. It took me half a year to get it ready for release but I knew once it did drop it would make an impact.
Who is KILLY really? What do you want people to know?
KILLY is change. KILLY is growth. KILLY is the underdog that overcame. I want people to know that KILLY is a lot more similar to you than you think, and if someone like KILLY can accomplish everything that has been done so far, so can you.
How has the pandemic impacted your creative process? Anything positive to come of it?
I was kinda cheesed when everything started to shut down, like studios and video productions. It slowed a lot of my 2020 plans up. But being quarantined for so long definitely gives you time to contemplate and enjoy things you would normally take for granted. Also finding new ways to connect with fans like streaming was cool.
What is next for you? Short term? Long term?
Right now I have a collaboration album with a legendary producer on the way, at the same time have my personal project too. This year been buying properties and getting to the bag to eventually get the financial stability to feel like I can change, help , influence on a massive global scale.