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KILLY doesn’t want you to think too hard about his new single. All you need to know is that it’s called “Sailor Moon” and it fucking slaps.
“Sailor Moon was my first crush as a kid,” the Toronto rapper tells me over the phone, quarantined in his Los Angeles home. “She’s a bad bitch.”
When I ask him to explain what he sees in the anime superheroine, though, he admits he isn’t really an avid fan of the show. Essentially, he just thinks she looks hot and liked the way her name sounded in the song’s hook. “‘My bad bitch lean on me like Sailor Moon,’ bruh,” he says, reciting the lyric. “Look at Sailor Moon, she’s a bad bitch. It’s not that deep, you know?”
Don’t let him fool you. While he may feign a lack of complexity, KILLY didn’t become one of Canada’s most fanatically streamed rappers by blending in with the rest of the lean-sipping SoundCloud set. Since materializing out of thin air in 2017 with his spellbinding breakthrough hit “Killamanjaro,” the 21-year-old has been widely tipped to be Toronto’s next big hip-hop export, thanks largely to his idiosyncrasies. Not only does the dude look different—being of Bajan and Filipino descent—he boasts a singular perspective and energy, lacing his tracks with otherworldly melodies and out-of-pocket flows. He manages to update the 6ix’s oft-replicated brooding sound with original layers of space-tripping swagger.
Aptly, the video for “Sailor Moon,” directed by KILLY himself, sees him literally breaking the ground, leaving a CGI-addled trail of destruction in his wake while flossing out in a luxury mall. The track itself, a flammable slice of glitchy trap produced by longtime collaborator FREAKEY!, has been eagerly anticipated by fans since the rapper teased it on Instagram a year ago. The single comes off the heels of last month's "VV's," his collab with fellow Torontonian Houdini from 6ixBuzz's upcoming compilation album. He says he's got several new projects on the way, including a solo LP and a collaboration with a yet-to-be-revealed legendary producer.
In the meantime, he's been bunkered down in L.A., writing, gaming, plotting, and yes, even thinking. Sure, he spends lots of time rhyming about women and jewelry, but talk to KILLY long enough and he reveals him to be deeper than he lets on, with bold, sometimes controversial ideas about life, multiculturalism, and the state of the world. During our wide-ranging chat, we touched on everything from his ideal legacy to Filipino food to conspiracy theories about the potential of 5G technology amid a global pandemic. The interview, edited for clarity, is below.
How's that quarantine life going?
Well, the thing is, for me, now I don't feel bad about not going outside. There's no pressure. Before I had to force myself to go outside. You know, that's an effect L.A. has—you feel like you're wasting time if you're not out there. But now that everyone's quarantined, I'm perfectly fine just being in my crib and recording songs.
Your new one's called "Sailor Moon." Are you a big fan of the show?
Not really a fan, I guess. But when I was a kid it used to come on TV and I'd see it and shit. I'm not like a super Sailor Moon fan, it's just like a small part of my childhood, you know? And a lot of people's childhoods as well.
You seem to reference anime a lot in your music.
Yeah, I rate anime. I mean, now I haven't been watching it, but when I was a kid I used to go crazy. The most recent one I watched was Mob Psycho 100. My favourite's probably Death Note. It's a world, it's a deep world. I guess with quarantine I have the time but I just haven't really been watching anime since I was younger. It was more just a big part of my childhood, so that's why I have a lot of anime references and apparel and shit, because it influenced me in those times.
I saw you rocking some anime-themed diamond pendants recently—one of Ryuk from Death Note and one of Gengar from Pokémon.
Those are my chains, yeah. I had them custom-made. They're both by Avianne & Co. Jewelers in New York [who are featured in the "VV's" video]. They deserve a chain Grammy, both of them. They're fire. I also have another, the first-ever bust down Arc'teryx chain. It's a VVS diamond chain made [for me]. The people really need to know that.
Was it commissioned by the brand?
Yeah, the fucking CEO and founder gave it to me himself.
What! That's huge.
I'm joking. I just custom-made it. [Laughs.]
Well, you've been rocking Arc'teryx for a while. I saw you wearing it before—
Before anybody, dawg. The only people that were wearing it were the people hiking up mountains.
I saw that you've been crowdsourcing your next chain on Twitter.
Honestly, I'm waiting for a sick suggestion. I want something that's completely innovative. I did the first Pokémon one, the Gengar one, and it got so popular to the point where people are selling [knockoffs of] it for like $20, $30 on the internet. People see the real diamond version and then just know it from the throwaway jewelry, like Instagram ads and shit. And they didn't give me no bag or nothing. They should've given me my money, bro. If you go on Instagram now, all the fake jewelry pages, that's the top-selling chain. So I have to move onto the next one now.
Tell me about the projects you've got coming up.
So I'm working on a couple of different projects. I'm working on a collaboration album, my own album, and then another project, a mixtape type of project. But right now I'm working on a collaboration project with a legendary producer. I haven't told anyone who it is yet, though. They've been showing love from the start, so it was just a matter of time. That's my next one.
"I don't really care about how big I am. I just want to have impact and influence."
How would you say you've been evolving artistically? What direction is your new music going in?
Right now I'm focused on balance. I feel like life's about balance and if you apply that to the music as well, then I'm finding the balance in my music. For example, if my first project sounded like this and my second project sounded like that, then I'm finding a good balance that represents me, that kind of has all sides of me presented well, you know? And I feel like that's what everyone tries to do, but the people that do it well are the people that translate it the best and have a pure message.
Critics have been calling you "the next big thing to come out of Toronto" for a while now. How big do you want to get?
I don't really care about how big I am. I just want to have impact and influence. I really want to be able to have those two things, impact and influence. I want to be the pioneer rather than the person that comes who might take what the pioneer did and like, do it bigger. I'd rather be the pioneer that did it better and first. That's the way I see it. That's how I would want to be remembered and seen as.
You've got a really unique sense of melody. What musical influences, growing up, would you say informed that?
For my sense of melody? I don't even know. A big influence I had that I don't think I've ever talked about before in an interview is Speaker Knockerz. So with Auto-Tune shit, for sure Speaker Knockerz inspired that. But as far as melody goes, that would be like my childhood. People my parents would be playing and stuff. They listened to a lot of reggae, a lot of jazz. Soul music.
I know you're part Filipino. So am I.
Oh, that's fire. There's not a lot of us in the spotlight, you know? We gotta represent well.
Pressa's part Filipino too.
Yeah, exactly. That's my dawg.
Do you guys ever connect on your background like that?
Actually no, not really. I know he's Filipino and he knows I'm Filipino, but the way I know him, it's not even on those things, you know? We just fuck with each other.
Well, it's cool to see more Filipino artists coming up now.
Exactly. I already see them. I already see all the kids and everyone. It's definitely growing. I see the emerging creatives. I keep my eye close to it. I see a lot in Toronto. I see everything.
Did you grow up singing karaoke with your family too?
[Laughs.] I never really grew up on the Filipino side, so I never did the karaoke. But I definitely know about that stuff, like talking to my cousins and my extended family. I grew up on my dad's side and he's from Barbados, so I wasn't really exposed to a lot of that culture [as much as] I wanted because of that. I wasn't really around any Filipinos growing up until a couple of years ago, so it's definitely a different perspective. But right now I'm trying to kind of backtrack. I've never been there. You know, I want to learn and experience that side of me.
Out of what you've tried, do you have a favourite Filipino food?
Um, like... I mean, a lot of it's pork! Like, I don't really eat meat like that, bro. Someone has to put me on super to, like, a sickaz, because everything so far, to be honest, I haven't been a super fan of. I like adobo chicken but that's basic shit.
It's true! Filipinos love pork. [Laughs.] Like full-on suckling pigs.
Exactly, that's what I'm saying! I don't really eat pork. I'm trying to show my grandparents, because they're the ones from the Philippines. My mom was born in Canada and she's on the same wave as I am, so I'm trying to tell my grandparents, you know, like it's 2020. No pork.
I guess the fact you have an interesting mix of cultures, that's a very Toronto thing. Did growing up with a mixed background inform your art at all? Does it seep into your music?
Yeah, for sure. I think every experience in life you take something from. You learn from it or you grow from it, even the smallest of things. So just being, I guess, in [such] diverse environments and being someone of mixed background, you're able to just connect with lots of different types of people. And I feel like that's why I'm more of a universal person, I guess, to a certain extent. You can understand different types of people because you've walked the same path as them. So I feel like that goes into the music as well. When you go through that experience and then make the music you make, you can hear it. Like, there's certain artists, even in Toronto, that are cool just in their area. But the way my music grew was globally first, and then the people here started catching on.
I've got to ask. How does it feel to have predicted the coronavirus with your song "Swag Flu"?
Oh "Swag Flu," right? And in "Simulation" I was talking about the 5G. I dunno if you've seen it. But I'm not there to give you any opinions. I'm just there to present the information, you know? It's up to the people to decide what they think about it. I'm just the messenger. Don't shoot the messenger.
Who are your sources, man? Where are you getting all this info?
What do you mean, where am I getting the info? It's accessible to everyone! Fam, we're in the most powerful generation we've ever been in, in our entire existence. It's all out there. You, right now, can go on your tablet and know the things that were once held a secret and held top priority.
What's the deal with 5G then? Is it bad for us?
I don't know. There's a lot of things that are out there that point to it and support that. And there's a lot of people that are against that. I think personally, I haven't decided yet. It's a very transitional time we're in right now. I don't think people understand what age we're in; I don't think anyone really knows. Like, the pandemic we're going through right now, no one's ever lived through something like this. The oldest people on this earth have never gone through something like this, on this scale. So everything is really up in the air.
Wait, are we talking about the theory that 5G started the coronavirus?
No, no, no, no. That's not what I'm saying. I'll tell you, that's not what I'm talking about. I don't think 5G started coronavirus. I think there's a coronavirus pandemic, and in the midst of all of this, even before all of this, there's been talks about a 5G agenda. And simultaneously, the information that's been out there is now becoming a reality during this pandemic that we've never faced before. So it's just like, how are you supposed to feel? How are you supposed to think about that? It's up to you. There's people that think it's just mere coincidence and there's people that think there's a higher agenda.
And what's the agenda?
In my opinion, for 5G, the way that I feel about it is just security purposes. Like listen, the internet is so new that it hasn't been monitored yet like everything else in life. So with this transitional period, how are they going to be monitoring this from now on, going forward? There's no rules. There's no regulations. So I'm not saying it's dangerous, I'm just saying be wary because we're in a place we've never been before. So while we go forward, how are we going to handle that?
True. I mean, there's already talk of coronavirus tracking apps. How much privacy are we willing to give up?
I mean, it's crazy. There's people that are saying, you know, with 5G, they can send out certain frequencies to just fucking fry you from the inside out. But at the same time, they'll be able to have cars that can drive with no driver, just strictly off satellites. You know, it's progressive, but it also could be detrimental. It's in an in-between stage. No one really knows anything. But there's information out there that supports both sides. So I'm just trying to bring that to the light and let the people decide what they think.
I haven't really looked into this stuff, but it's interesting!
Like, brother, there's no excuse now to not just be at least thinking. Like, fuck how you feel about it, but at least think about it. Don't be ignorant. It's one thing if you accept ignorance; like, if you're claiming ignorance and claiming you have no will to further yourself. But if you've gone through all this and then make an informed decision, then that's fine with me. You're good in my books. I don't give a fuck what you think. But at least think.
At least think. I like that.
I don't know. I'm just big high. I'm smoking this blunt. I'm big high.