New York Native, Infamous Billa, Speaks On New Project, Artistic Growth And Advocacy For Equality.

Sophie Beeching

By Sophie Beeching

Sophie Beeching

9 Jun 2023

Hailing from the heart of Hip-Hop, New York City, Infamous Billa has been quick to make waves in the music industry, catching the attention of many legends in the rap game. More than just a talented artist, Billa is also a vocal advocate for fighting classism and inequality, utilising his music as a platform to address social issues and promote unity. Drawing from his experiences growing up on the Upper East Side, just steps away from Harlem, Billa sheds light on the importance of using his platform to give back and inspire change.

As we explore the evolving sound of New York City and the resurgence of its unique identity in the music scene, Billa discusses the impact of the Grizelda sound, the drill movement, and the contributions of artists like Dave East and Roc Marciano in reclaiming the essence of New York’s rap culture. Fresh off the release of his latest project, ‘Grimey Wealth’, Billa opens up about the creative process behind it, the challenges faced beyond the artistic realm, and his aspirations for the future. From upcoming collaborations with renowned artists like Benny the Butcher and 38 Spesh, to his plans for live performances and the release of exclusive merchandise, Infamous Billa’s passion and determination are evident.

I know you’ve got an interesting backstory. Can you talk about that and how you got started in music?

Most definitely. It’s actually a funny story. When I was a kid, back when we had Walkmans, my mom bought me a bunch of CDs. One of them was ‘Ready to Die’ but Notorious B.I.G… I fell in love with the culture and just hearing how artists connect with people, transcending class, you know, transcending race. The way that artists could just connect with the pain and connect the basic human emotions, happiness and anger really resonated with me. Especially being a kid growing up in our 21st century, where we’re all exposed to a lot. We’re all imprinted by various things in our life which shape us and that’s what I feel like Hip-Hop did for me.

How would you say growing up in New York influenced your sound?

I’m blessed to come from New York. They say that’s the Mecca of Hip-Hop because we started the culture. I definitely related a lot to Wu-Tang Clan and artists like B.I.G. and NAS growing up because, not only did they have the lyrical and storytelling capabilities, but they also show what

 New York City is like in their music. From walking through the city to taking the subway, that music painted a picture in my head of New York.

Are there any artists right now in New York that you particularly want to work with?

I love my city right now. I’m a big fan of Roc Marciano. I’m a big fan of the drill movement too, Fivio and them. If we’re talking about New York State, I’m obviously a fan of Griselda. They changed the entire game and then put their own twist on what it was to bring that Hip-Hop sound back. I’m definitely grateful to have worked with Benny (The Butcher) and I look forward to working with a lot of other New York artists.

Speaking of Benny, congratulations on the new project. You have some dope features on there from Benny the Butcher to Killa Moe. What was the creative process behind the project?

I’ve always been a big fan of Benny the Butcher and the Grizelda movement. My manager right now works with them so that was a great connection we had. I always wanted to feature with Benny so we got in the lab and I had the ‘Shabbat Shalom’ hook. He was rocking with the hook so we definitely took that and ran with it. It was very organic, you know what I’m saying?

That’s key, for sure. What are your main aspirations with the project? What are you hoping to achieve?

With this project, I feel like I have guidance, as an artist, and I know what I’m going for with my sound. I’ve spent a lot of time being fans of different things in the past and experimented with different genres. You could tell me about any city in the United States and I will know a rapper from that city. All of them have shaped me and now, being a fan of Boom Bap music, being from New York City, and loving and being a student of Hip-Hop, I feel like that’s definitely what I want to do.

Your name. Can you explain the backstory behind choosing Infamous Billa?

Oh yeah. The name Billa was actually given to me by my brother. I used to be addicted to saving money when I was younger. I never wanted to spend it and I’d always have a lot of bills on me. So he called me Billa when I was around twelve or thirteen.

You’re an advocate for fighting classism and inequality. Can you talk about how you portray that in your music?

 Most definitely. Coming from the world in which I came from, I was blessed to be exposed to a lot of things. I grew up on the Upper East Side, which is right next to Harlem. I was in between both worlds growing up. I had friends in both places and I have friends everywhere. I feel like having the blessing of being exposed to certain things, it’s my duty to give back and to give the same information that was given to me because that’s how we grow artistically and that’s how we grow in humanity.

How have you seen the city change over the years in terms of its sound?

There was a period of time in New York City when we weren’t putting our own artists out. The South had a monopoly on rap music. Shout out to the South though, because they do a great thing. I feel like the whole Grizelda sound and the drill movement, as well as a lot of fire artists coming out, like Dave East and Roc Marciano, those artists really took that New York sound and brought it back after a period where we were fighting.

With the way music is going, what’s your opinion on the whole AI wave that’s happening right now?

I’ve always said that AI should not be used to create art, it should be used to make it easier for artists, you know, to get their other tasks going. There’s nothing like emotion connected to creativity. We have all this technology and all these advancements. You can enter something into chat GBT and it’ll come up with a whole song, but it won’t have the same emotional connection to the people as somebody who’s lived and breathed the same experiences.

100%. You’ve just dropped the project, will you be going on tour with it? What’s the plan when it comes to performances?

So right now, I’m on my press run. We’re definitely gonna start getting some shows during the summertime and I’m dropping some merch next month. We’re just getting the whole wave started now that I have a direction artistically in terms of what I want to do, who I want to work with and who I am as an artist. It takes trials and tribulations, you know, to get to the place I am today, so we got a bunch of stuff coming.

What was the biggest challenge when creating the project?

For me, the biggest challenge to create the project was not the artistic side. It’s everything else that comes along with putting a project together. People don’t realise that, from the outside looking in, this is a business. Creating comes naturally to me but it’s all the other stuff that you have to learn to do which is challenging, but you can’t get far without it.

What would be the best piece of advice you could give a younger artist growing up in New York? What would you say to them?

Speak your truth no matter how crazy it could be. You might think that somebody else’s life, style or brand sounds more cool or attractive to you, but nobody could be a better version of you than yourself. Be the best version of yourself that you could possibly be because no one could be a better version of you than you.

What’s next for Infamous Billa?

I got a track coming with 38 Spesh, shout out to my guy 38 Spesh. We’re going to drop the next project but I got a bunch of videos before that. I’m also gonna be working with a lot of local artists out here in Harlem, where I currently live. I got a bunch of fire local acts that are in the works, so stay tuned.

Maybe a performance in London.

Most definitely. Backstage passes, I got you.