Rapper and creative extraterrestrial Billyracxx just released an eight-track project titled Religion on all streaming platforms. The heavily hyped EP, which was preceded by the release of its single “Dead Friends,” is the artist’s most creatively ambitious endeavor to date. Religion sees the polarizing Billyracxx double down on his singular vocal and visual styles — a creative risk that could pay dividends in today’s expressively diverse hip hop industry.
The project is produced by St. Louis native and hip hop prodigy ChaseTheMoney. The 22-year-old producer who works most closely with G.O.O.D. Music’s Valee has also had previous collaborations with Chance the Rapper, Jeremiah, JID and J. Cole. His latest collab with Billyracxx is a sonic departure from a production style that normally employs minimalist type beats on lyrically heavy tracks.
Throughout the project Billy leans heavily on his unique vocal abilities, contorting his voice from melodic hooks to high-pitched distorted rapping to gravely low-pitched bars. Despite the saturated production style, the rapper uses vocal cues to guide the tone of the project, one that is consistently ominous and brooding.
Religion opens with the track “My Loney,” a melodic song featuring a laid back trap beat. The track, like previous Billyracxx songs, is sure to draw Travis Scott comparisons for its heavy use of autotune over Billy’s vocals. While the vocal similarities are hard to ignore, Billy brings a significantly darker and more artistically unhinged dynamic to his music. That wild aesthetic is best observed on the project’s first single, “Dead Friends.”
The anchor track on Religion, “Dead Friends,” was released last month along with an accompanying video. Much like Billy’s previous work, both the visual and musical components of the single conjure a mix of disturbing and frantic imagery. Its fast-paced and bass-heavy beat set a driving, aggressive tone that is best experienced while watching the video. “Dead Friends” is a look into the mind of Billy and his longtime videographer, Dakota Hansen. Their collaborations regularly push the envelope of hip hop visuals, combining elements of horror, heavy metal and trap into mind-bending video components for Billy’s music.
On Religion Billy steps into a new lane as a more lyrically focused artist. His past projects have featured similar use of vocal distortion, layered production and eerie visuals. Yet, this latest EP features longer, more sequential verses that speak on his struggles as an independent and conceptually daring artist.
This more intentional style of rapping is best displayed on “Hellraiser,” the project’s third track. On it, Billy employs every vocal trick in his repertoire to create a song that is both sonically entertaining and low-key confessional. The song’s hook and first verse are featured in a minute-and-a-half long studio visual released a week before the EP. The short video captures Billy recording under an intense red light, an obvious connection to the song’s title and the generally ominous vibe of the whole project.
The obscure and often times disturbing stylings of Billyracxx’s music have earned him a core group of loyal fans, one that exists outside the trappings of mainstream music. Like the punk revolution of the ’80s, Billy and his contemporaries are influential within their self-contained community of fans and artists — one that seems tapped into an artistic movement, yet unknown to the mainstream.
For Houston, artists like Billy are a rare breed. Historically, we look to the artistic incubators of New York and L.A. for unconventional talent like his. With Religion, Billy reaches for a new plateau — both creatively and collaboratively. The project is undoubtedly his most high profile collaboration to date, as well as his most ambitious. That combination may see Religion opening industry doors for Houston’s resident alien in the near future.