Ill Bill Talks "Kill Devil Hills," Rejecting "Hip Hop Alex Jones" Title
Exclusive: The former Non Phixion frontman, and current La Coka Nostra member, discusses his joint LP with DJ Muggs, and explains why he's not a conspiracy nut.
Ill Bill, the author of one of the most controversial songs in all of music over the last decade, 2008’s “White Nigger,” has followed up the album that highly talked about track was featured on, The Hour Of Reprisal, by joining forces with one of his Reprisal collaborators, legendary Cypress Hill deejay and beatmaker DJ Muggs, for a collaborative full-length project, the third installment in Muggs’ “Vs” series, Kill Devil Hills.
On Monday (September 13th) Ill Bill spoke to HipHopDX about the recently-released Kill Devil Hills. In a rather deep discussion the owner of Uncle Howie Records (so named for Bill’s longtime drug-dependent uncle/manager who recently passed away) explained why Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina is “Mars,” shared his thoughts on being thought of by some as an overzealous conspiracy theorist a.k.a. the “Hip Hop Alex Jones,” and maybe most importantly, Bill broke down why he believes Sarah Palin is a Wu-Tang Clan fan.
HipHopDX: First, since the album is being released by Fat Beats, I wanted to get any thoughts you have on the closings of their last physical stores?
Ill Bill: I worked in the stores for many years, man, so for me it was really wack when [they announced the closings]. It really hit me hard.
DX: You worked at the New York store?
Ill Bill: Yeah. I worked there from like…when they first moved into the store on 6th Avenue till probably like 2001… So I used to be there everyday. I used to spend more time in Fat Beats than at home. I used to be at Fat Beats working the whole day, go home, go to bed, wake up, go back to Fat Beats. [Laughs]
DX: [Laughs] That’s a Hip Hop life. [Laughs] Any unique Fat Beats stories, any like ciphers with any famous emcees breakout, or any battles or anything that you witnessed during your tenure there?
Ill Bill: To even pinpoint one in particular [to discuss is unfair]. Everybody you could imagine [came to the store]. You would really think it would just be a New York thing, but you would have everybody from…Funkmaster Flex would come through [and] buy a bunch of records, Q-Tip would stop in an hour later, and then like a hour after him Beats By The Pound and Master P would come through and buy out the store. Like, buy out every [piece of vinyl]. You’d be surprised at how much vinyl was being sold at that time. It was astronomical.
DX: Wow… Man, I don’t wanna stay on a note of loss, but I gotta ask you about “Narco Corridos.” I understand that was the last convo you had with Uncle Howie [before he passed in March]?
Ill Bill: Nah. Actually, that audio – If you’re familiar with the Non Phixion album [The Future Is Now], and pay attention to [both of] my solo albums, [there are] clips of a certain interview that me and my uncle sat down and had a convo [for]. I interviewed him. So that clip came from the same interview… I was talking to somebody recently and I mentioned that in a lot of ways it’s my last real conversation [that] I got to have with my uncle…like, coherent conversation… So for me it’s kinda deep on a personal level.
He didn’t pass from drug use directly. I mean, I think it affected his health. Obviously it affected his health over the many years of doing drugs. I think it contributed to him getting cancer… Just the lifestyle, [due to that] he wasn’t able to really catch the cancer early. And just [with] the lifestyle and the way he lived he really didn’t take care of himself… He was the kinda dude that was always more worried about everybody else; he wasn’t really a selfish-type dude. The only time he was really selfish is when he really went hard and went in to a drug mission. And then we wouldn’t hear from him [but] it’s not like…my uncle wasn’t like the type of dude that would steal our TV set to go get high. He would steal somebody else’s TV set… Everybody thought we were gonna get the phone call, like [informing us that] he had died of a drug overdose. The irony of it is that he died pretty much – at least as far as crack or heroine or street drugs go – he was clean. I mean, he was on a lot of different drugs that the doctors prescribed to him. It was just a combination of things. I think the years and years of doing heroine and crack, I don’t see that as being conducive to not getting cancer. So, I’d imagine it was all connected.
DX: Let’s switch gears to a less somber subject… So if I understand you correctly from “Giants Stadium” Sarah Palin is a Wu-Tang Clan fan? [Laughs]
Ill Bill: [Laughs] Hey man, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was. [But] that was just me kinda buggin’ out. It’s just me poking fun at the media really, and just how…it’s funny how someone like Sarah Palin is one second away from being a Wu-Tang [Clan] fan. It’s so ridiculous the way pop culture – You watch CNN nowadays, as opposed to like 10, 15 years ago, everything looks like the E! channel, man. Everything has been so crossed into each other, and the mainstream political scene is crossed into like the National Enquirer point of view… [The line between news and entertainment has] gotten real blurry. It’s kinda crazy. It’s kinda cool in a way, but it’s kind of warped.
DX: Now, we’ve been hearing a lot about Kill Devil Hills recently in the news due to Hurricane Earl, but why’d you guys choose to title your album after that town many months ago?
Ill Bill: My wife is originally from North Carolina, and we live down here now. And when we first moved down to North Carolina we were living in Kill Devil Hills. It was funny because [before] all that went down, as far as the hurricane, people thought it was a fictional place, or it was just a fictional concept [for the album]… So where [the idea to call the album Kill Devil Hills] started for me was the name itself was just really crazy to me, it stuck out to me… The funny thing about Kill Devil Hills is it’s like a sleepy resort area in a sense. During the summertime a lot of tourists come down [and it’s] kinda family oriented. [But] during the winter time it’s kind of sleepy and tired.
I built on different album titles, me and Muggs [did]. And, we liked just the way the title sounded. That was initially part of it. But also for me, it’s kinda like…a lot of the topics I’m touching on on the album relate to war. And…the reason why “Kill Devil Hills” is the second-to-last song on the record is ‘cause it culminates where I’m at where it’s like, no matter how much of a warrior you might be you do need to recharge your battery, and you do need to have a safe haven for your family. And I connected it in a lot of ways to that old science fiction story of how we’re gonna eventually destroy the planet, deplete our resources and eventually colonize Mars. And that would be a safe haven for the rich, for those that were able to actually vacate Earth and survive behind the space age. And um…I’m into a lot of that crazy kinda shit. I mean, if you’re gonna be interviewing me, I hope you’re following what I’m saying, because if not you probably think I’m out of my mind. [Laughs]
DX: Well, I caught on the chorus that you mentioned “pyramids on Mars.” Yeah, I’m sure some people think that’s kinda far-fetched, but, you know, I’m sure there are plenty of people who get what you’re saying.
Ill Bill: I mean, for me it’s just a metaphor. To me it’s sorta similar to the way N.O.R.E. would call Lefrak "Iraq", or Queensbridge is Kuwait, and Staten Island is Shaolin. To me, Kill Devil Hills is Mars. That’s where I go to recharge my battery and lick my wounds… Overall it’s just, it’s a metaphor for being in the music business and just being a creative person, being an artistic person, and trying to be away from the rat race. I don’t wanna be a rat. I don’t wanna contribute to that. For me, it isn’t about that.
So overall, [the origins of the album title are] complicated; I got a lot of reasons why we called it Kill Devil Hills. It started out real simple, but as we started thinking about what we really wanted to call it the mythology kind of went in a bunch of different directions. And that to me is the most interesting type of an album title: something that makes you think and has multiple meanings to it.
DX: Speaking of multiple meanings, who or what is “The Owl”?
Ill Bill: That, once again, could [have] multiple meanings. The owl represents a lot of different things to many different cultures. The owl’s just a beautiful creature in itself. If the album cover hadn’t come out as ill as it did it might not have been the album cover. But, just the owl itself represents being able to see in the darkness. And…it has a lot of esoteric and occult meanings. [It’s] symbolic of a lot of things, and that interested me, and Muggs. And that’s why we settled on it. To me it’s like…the same way the American eagle is such an iconic symbol, the owl is as well, but it’s kind of more shrouded. With the Bavarian illuminati, [they] used the owl as their symbol. And, if you’re familiar with Bohemian Grove, there’s a Sumerian god called Molech that takes the form of an owl and…man, you could go into anything [in] culture [like] where the owl represents the theme of every kung-fu movie, which is basically the owl represents seeking revenge for the death of a loved one. The owl’s also commonly considered a sorcerer’s bird… If you go into African Zulu mysticism, the owl’s considered like the sidekick of the witchdoctors… The owl, it’s an ill animal and an ill symbol. It’s very interesting.
DX: And specifically to that track on the album, who is that guy talking on there that’s talking about he did armed robberies, terrorism…
Ill Bill: That guy’s actually a college professor that during his late teens, early twenties was a member of a group called the Weather Underground. And if you do the knowledge on them, they were a bunch of interesting…they were an interesting collective.
DX: They were teamed up with Tupac’s stepfather Mutulu…
Ill Bill: They were involved with the Black Panthers. I’m not sure if [they were involved with] him in particular, but they were definitely in the mix of a lot, a lot of over-the-top shit…and ended up getting away with a lot of it too. They had their shit tight.
If we’re talking about that particular [audio] sample [used for “The Owl”]…I feel kinda funny even talking about it, ‘cause I don’t wanna get sued. But I mean just in the spirit of being honest, that’s who it is, it’s one of the dudes from the Weather Underground. They were considered terrorists.
DX: Let me just go ahead and ask you – I’ll ask this question on behalf of people unfamiliar with your music, “The Hip Hop Alex Jones,” do you take that title as praise or as like an insult?
Ill Bill: Nah, I don’t consider myself the Hip Hop Alex Jones. Nah, not at all. I mean, just because I’m just me, man. I don’t have a radio show [like Alex Jones]. I’m not on the radio every week trying to like convince you of a bunch of different bullshit. That’s how I kinda feel about that dude. I’m not really a fan of his, to be honest with you. I peep some of what he’s talking about, [but] for me, this might sound like I’m a kook, this might make me sound even crazier, but I don’t even really feel like what I’m talking about on my records should be [labeled] conspiracy rap or any of that. For me it’s like, yo, I’m just asking questions. I’m just keeping it one hundred… It’s just a little more interesting to me [to write about these topics]. I just…I dunno. I like to entertain myself [while] being creative and making music. I don’t feel like I talk about aliens on every record, or go into Alex Jones territory on every joint, but I have my phases. For me it’s just a matter of keeping myself from being bored… But I don’t embrace that [comparison to Alex Jones]. I don’t hate on him, don’t get me wrong, but…I don’t really wanna be compared to Alex Jones like that. I don’t want people to think I’m the Hip Hop Alex Jones. I mean, I definitely went in on this album in particular, ‘cause me and Muggs are both those type of heads. We’re into the occult. We’re into the illuminati and Sumerian mythology… The Hour Of Reprisal album I didn’t go in that direction as much, and it’s funny because the people that wanna hear that type of shit complained. They were pissed off. They didn’t wanna hear all my personal laundry being aired out. For me, that was like my most personal record, The Hour Of Reprisal. It was therapeutic for me to do that record.This record was just more on some…just building.
DX: I wasn’t trying to suggest you’re crazy or anything, but the video for “Ill Bill TV,” that’s fuckin’ crazy. [Laughs]
Ill Bill: [Laughs] …It was my concept. Big-ups to [the director] Tom, he pulled it off. I actually had been kickin’ around that idea for the last like year, year-and-a-half. [I] spoke to a couple of different directors about it and nobody was nearly as ambitious as Tom. And he did it; he killed it.
DX: And, just for clarification, will you mow down everyone that burns bootleg copies of this album? [Laughs]
Ill Bill: You know what? I don’t wanna necessarily even say – It’s funny because some people [view that] as being a possible reason for why everybody’s getting killed [in the video], being that he’s carrying a bootleg album. That’s cool. I don’t know if that’s really what the point of the video is though. I don’t really wanna say what it is because I like it being open to interpretation.