KACY HILL TALKS EXPLORING SEXUALITY AND THE BEST ADVICE KANYE GAVE HER WITH COMPLEX
Kacy Hill on Exploring Sexuality Without Having to Be Empowering and the Best Advice Kanye Gave Her
It had been a minute since we heard from G.O.O.D. Music's Kacy Hill, but earlier this spring the ethereal young singer returned in a big way with a bold entrance. In May she announced her debut album and dropped two new, engrossing and highly impressive singles, "Like a Woman" and "Hard to Love." The accompanying visual for "Like a Woman" is even more arresting than the song, featuring provocative imagery that titillates as much as it puts the control of Kacy's image squarely in her own hands.
The statement she released in conjunction with the new music explained her mission: "'Like A Woman' is an exploration of my own femininity and sexuality. I want my audience to have a similar experience of their own while listening. My goal is not to make a statement, but make space for exploration without shame or guilt. I don't speak for all women. I speak for Kacy Hill."
Today she follows that with a second, equally eye-catching visual for "Hard to Love." Kacy stopped by Complex recently and we discussed the themes she's trying to explore on her debut, how she got to this point musically, and the advice Kanye gave her for the album. Read a condensed version of that discussion below and watch "Hard to Love" above.
It’s been a while since we’ve heard from you. What’s changed in the interim since your last EP back in 2015 to now, on a personal level and artistically speaking?
I feel like the biggest thing is that I’ve had a lot of time to grow. In that, I spent a lot of time… sonically I kind of took away a lot of stuff that wasn’t needed and made things more minimal. It feels like every sound that’s on the album has a purpose as opposed to just making noise. And then I think that I’ve just kind of learned a lot about patience. I spent a lot of time testing my limits and seeing where I feel comfortable in what I’m making, and how much I give away and how much I feel comfortable telling people. I feel like we kind of live in a time where everyone expects to know everything about you all the time and I just realized that I don’t like that and I don’t really care about that.
Expand a little bit on your mission statement that you released with the first two singles.
It kind of goes back to the very beginning of me making music, or moving to L.A. I started modeling for American Apparel very shortly after I moved to L.A.—and I’ve talked before about sexual assault that happened right before that—and me modeling in lingerie. That felt like in some kind of way I was taking control of my body in a way that I hadn’t been able to before and felt like I didn’t have the power to do so. I felt good about myself, I never felt shame, I never felt bothered by what I was doing, but I feel like the only kind of shame or guilt I felt was other people’s projections of their discomfort with seeing a woman that does something with that. And shows her body without having to be like, “I’m empowered! I feel good! This is what I want!”
What if you can do it without constantly telling people you’re empowered, just exist and do what you want and have sexuality and also be vulnerable and also have these other experiences under your belt and not be completely defined by what others project onto you. So when I first started doing music I kind of gave into other people’s discomfort with... kind of like the American Apparel things and the things that already existed on the internet, and I felt kind of pressured to take them off the internet and to take them out of the narrative. It seemed like I was doing myself a really huge disservice just 'cause it was like giving into someone else’s discomfort. So as I was making this album I think a huge part of it was just discovering myself and what it means for me to be a woman, what is it that makes me feel good, what is it that makes me feel vulnerable and a sexual being and just a human. It’s just exploring that and finding what makes you comfortable separate from what your family says, what friends say about you, society says you should be doing. What makes you feel good?
“Like a Woman” seems like such a perfect song to start this and really encapsulates everything you’re saying. Talk a little bit about creating that, especially the producer credits, because it’s not the type of beat you’d expect from DJ Mustard.
So I got in the studio with Mustard, and he brought in Terrace Martin, who I’ve admired for a long time, so I was really struck that he was there. Then I brought Oscar Ingstrom, who I wrote a decent amount of the album with, he just kind of became a collaborator that I enjoy. So it was all of us in the studio and Terrace kind of laid down keys and I figured out the melody that stuck and Mustard did a snap and some bass notes.
Initially, when I went in to write it I had an idea that I was going to write it for someone else, because I almost couldn’t see how a Mustard beat would fit into what I was doing with my album. But once the song was finished I was like, oh, this makes a lot of sense to me, this is really cool. Then, when I was finishing the album, I did a lot of production with DJDS and they helped me finish that song and do all the little background vocals on it and the fun little bridge part. They helped flourish it.
How long was the creative process for this?
I started like three years ago. It’s funny because even as I’ve turned in the album and it’s like, OK, all the production’s done, it’s all written and everything, there’s so much to do. I feel like I’ve put so much thought into the campaign itself and how I want everything to be perceived and seen, that I’m still trying to find a stopping point with it, you know?
When do you think that’ll come?
I don’t know. I’m sure once it’s out, it’ll feel good, but I have no idea what the stopping point on this is. Maybe once it’s been toured and put to rest, but hopefully I can move on before then cause that would be excessive.
Another thing your statement mentioned was seeking advice from Kanye—how did he mentor you for this album?
It was like last June I think. I had finished writing pretty much all the album and it was getting produced. I was kind of like, OK, this is what I want, this is at a place that I’m happy with. It just felt too different, it felt a little more poppy, a little more built-up as far as production. So I met with him and I played him some stuff and he kind of just like... I think he kind of said what I thought he was gonna say. I knew he was gonna have the opinion that he had about the music that was kind of built-out and it felt too unnecessarily big and too many drums, it was too much. Then he kind of offered advice about things with sentiment and how people connect to music and I kind of went back and was like, what is the sentiment of this song? What does this mean to me, and how do I play into the song more than the production of everything?
One thing that really unites G.O.O.D. Music artists is a commitment to executing presentation at the highest levels. Speak a little bit about music videos and the visual formats you use.
I think it was really important. I feel like the music I made, I understand it’s not a bunch of radio hits jam-packed into an album. Number one it’s like, what else do you do? The biggest thing for me too is that it is more than just listening to an album. I kind of want to extend the narrative and the message into a visual field as well. For the visuals for “Like a Woman” and “Hard to Love,” I wanted to work with Jack, the directors that I did them with, for like two years, and I’ve known that they were like the ones. It just finally happened where it was like, this is what it was supposed to look like. It was an “Aha” moment when it clicked and was like, this is it. I think it’s just about making an experience rather than just letting an album go out into the world. I think that everyone just kind of consumes things in such a massive, kind of a scary pace. They want so much music all the time, and they want so much content, so it’s kind of about, maybe I’m trying to slow things down in some kind of way and trying to draw them out and create something that’s more than just music.
Who are some of your cinematic influences.
I have no idea. I have literally no idea. I think I saw the videos they did for Christine and the Queens, and then I saw one they did for Madonna and I was like, this is what it should look like. I feel like I have the same view with the visual stuff as I do with music, as far as influences. I feel like I just know when it’s right and when it feels right, and maybe have this idea of what it should sound like and what it should look like. I don’t know exactly how to explain that or where that image or influence comes from. I’m sure there’s some stem, just like bits and pieces from lots of different things, but I can’t identify like one.
Well do you watch a lot of movies?
I fall asleep in a lot of movies. I don’t watch a ton. I think my two favorite ones are like the Disney Alice in Wonderland and Pulp Fiction, but I don’t think either of those relate to the videos that I’m doing. I’m literally like the least knowledgeable. I fall asleep like 10 minutes in. [Laughs.]
Building up to the release of the album, how exciting does it feel?
I feel incredibly anxious. I feel like I’ve had a yawn stuck in my throat for like a month, which is a real sign of anxiety. Apparently yawns are a sign of anxiety more than they are tiredness. Just FYI. Right now it just feels a little surreal. I don’t think anything’s felt real ever in the past three years. I feel like I just go places and I’m floating around in someone else’s body.
You mentioned touring, are you starting to gather ideas for how that might look visually?
Yeah, we’ve kind of talked about a few little things so that’s T.B.D., under construction. That’s the next piece to tackle.
And speaking of tours, your relationship with Kanye began with you being on the Yeezus Tour. What’s the craziest NDA-free story you can tell about that time?
I was one of the models in the mesh suits that looked like sausage if you ate a big meal. It was amazing, I feel like listening to that album is the most nostalgic experience still. It was super low-key when I was on tour and then I left and I feel like shit went down. I don’t even have details or anything, but there were 12 girls living on one of the buses, all the dancers, and I think just saying that people are like, “That’s a recipe for disaster!” But we all got along super, super well for the most part until you’re like... you just get really tired of being around the same people and living on a bus with them. It was after I left for tour, but tensions were high, there was a bit of a brawl on the bus and two of the girls got into a proper fist fight whilst the bus was in motion. [Laughs.] It happened because they got in a verbal argument first, then one of the girls grabbed the other girl’s lips and just closed them. Then there were just fists. That’s my favorite story. Just closing someone’s lips with your hands.
One of your most notable collaborations with a fellow G.O.O.D. artist was Travis Scott's “90210.” Can we look forward to more collaboration with the team?
Hopefully. I’ve kind of just had my head in the mud with this, so I think as soon as I come up for air, which is probably now, then yeah. I just want to do lots of other things. So, hopefully.