With music that is inspired by “that video of a weightlifting baby,” it’s easy to see why Sydney-based rapper Bilby is creating tracks that transcend genre.
His original sound subverts the quintessential Aussie hip-hop status quo; with influences drawn from Phil Elverum, Pile, Drake and US midwestern emo band American Football, the rapper is single-handedly redefining what it means to make rap music down-under.
With his nuanced breed of eco-emo hip-hop, Sydney artist Bilby is signalling a new wave of Australian rap music.
“I started writing songs in 2012 but it took me a while before I felt confident enough to show them to friends,” Bilby explains.
“2013 – the first year of Biby – I released a bunch of EPs and split EPs that I cooked up in my bedroom in my spare time, (of which I had heaps back then). 2012 and 13 were very formative years for me musically and I kind of hit the ground running with this twangy, emo, bedroom folk. It took me a few years to break out of the super lo-fi style of my first releases and once I figured out how to put the beat in, 2 High and Botanicals came soon after.”
Botanicals, Bilby’s first album, was released back in 2016. Shade is his most recent, and it is evident that in the two years since Botanicals, Bilby has both actively worked to refine his sound and allowed the natural progression of the project to take heed.
“I think structurally there has been the most improvement,” said Bilby “‘Concrete Hell’ is 8 minutes long! When I go back and look at that first release where all the songs are like two minutes it Gs me up.”
Nature seems to be a recurrent nuance in Bilby’s work, perhaps something to do with the rapper’s upbringing in the bushes of North Sydney.
“Growing up in Allambie Heights was really cool. The entire suburb is surrounded by national park but you’d never realise driving through it. There’s a waterfall like ten minutes from the Westfield which seems crazy and Manly Dam is where I smoked like 70% of the weed I ever smoked. You put a kid in those burbs and put a Mount Eerie record on and that kid’s a nature child for life.”
Bilby’s last EP Walkin 2 the Lake outsourced production from prolific American producer Meltycanon, but the rapper decided to return to self-production for Shade.
“The Walkin 2 the Lake EP was a lot of fun and it was great to work my style into someone else’s beats though I’m definitely more comfortable making songs from scratch; it just sounds more Bilby. I LOVE Meltycanon though, so when I saw that you could lease beats straight from his website I fuckin just had to. I haven’t found another producer with beats that I want to immerse myself in quite like Melty.”
Bilby is also playing at Happy’s Needle in the Hay finalist’s party on September 27. Definitely a show to check out.