Billie Essco interview


RD:  What can you share about the hip hop music scene coming out of Buffalo? Who are some of your favorite artist to come out of your area?

Essco: Buffalo has a deep rooted music scene, that is as historical and segregated as the city itself. You have legends like Rick James, Brian McKnight, Kool N’ The Gang, and then there’s a break from that to present day. During that break there was a lot of underground music going on like Benny(of Griselda), Conway and Buff City Records, Thugzman, Pif City and Infra Red Squad . These were the underground barrier breakers. Then you have a 2010-2014 run. You have a bunch of groups submerging like Well Fed, Loyalty Ent, Koolie High and F1rst Class. Now today you’re getting these super solo artists like myself or YoLeek, or an Auragino, so the music scene has been growing. Right now I think it’s in a place where I don’t think a lot of cities are in, because it’s an untapped resource of talent. I think that because nobody is checking of Buffalo, and there isn’t a massive culture overhaul in here. It allows everyone to be an individual and grow into their own entity. Instead of following the trend of the city. Once everyone comes together there will be a massive shift in music.

I appreciate every artist busting moves and doing something. There’s some younger talent that I really look at, that excites me. We just lost an amazing talent, by the name of GuRazor. He was killed this year and it’s so sad because he was up and coming and had his own movement brewing.

RD: What was it like touring with Westside Gunn & Conway for the “Key to Life” tour?

Essco: It was amazing because it allowed me to travel with my friends, because outside of music, those are really my friends and I can honestly say that. So it was dope to be able to perform with them, run to backstage and help with the crew and load in/load out. The in’s and out’s of the road I got to see first hand. Of course the fan reaction and interaction. You get to meet a lot of people on the road and it’s dope when they know who you are and what you do.

RD: You’re featured on Westside Gunn’s ‘FLYGOD’ album what can you share about the process of working with your fellow Buffalo native?

Essco: Me and Westside have a special connection, because we understand each other on a lot of levels, even though he’s older than me, he’s like a big brother. We look at each other as peers, so it’s dope when I get to see him execute some of these moves that he plan to do and brought in fruition’. As far as the song, me and him have a good musical chemistry but it’s even outside of laying down verses. So initially we were going to do the “Vivian at the Art Basel”, and then he had a new vision. He called me one day and said “Man I got an idea, I’m gonna need you to come to the studio.” and I pulled up, the rest is history.

RD: Your clothing line CZEN has been well received. What is the inspiration behind making the fashion line?

Essco: In a sense it’s crazy that it’s well received because even though I know that what I’m doing has a substance and it has something real and unique. At the same time it’s dope to see how many people understand it, come to like it and want to buy it, and share it with their friends, and talk about it. So it’s a good process to see something go from your brain to your computer, to a shirt, to seeing your friend wearing it and they’re in the middle of Mexico. With clothes I have an opinion on it and I’m trying to speak a language through it. So that’s really why I make clothes, to share my opinion through clothing and to speak a language more so through design. I believe that logos and designs are art and art period is a visual representation of what is going on in the world. As well as being very appreciative to someone’s growth because it allows you to see more things. So when making clothing, I’m trying to articulate a language that can speak to different people from different walks of life, and can connect them, which would further the conversation.

RD: What was the creative process like for making your album ‘Avant Garde’?

Essco: Life had to happen for that album to be what it was. I went through a series of events that were just life changing and it was a matter of realization in the moment. So I was seeing the signs and reacting to them simultaneously, so it spawned the thought of Avant Garde. Once I found the title things started happening that shaped the story that I was writing as just the film, and then started becoming life. So the more I was just living my life, the more this story of Avant Garde was being written. It took a lot and it took me through a very up time and a very down time to create that, but I believe that it articulated through the music.

RD: What can you share with fans about your new album release ‘CAFE’?

Essco: That it’s me, that it’s understanding yourself and articulating these findings to your peer group. To have a conversation with the world about different topics that I’ll think about on a daily, and people engage in my clothing, music and pictures and they like me. So this is me showing them what it all took to make what you like, and more so what you like, but what I am because what you like just happens to be, but what I am.


Follow Billie Essco
Twitter: @ChaseDinero
Instagram: uptownchase

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