Beginning to make music at 12 years old, Edinburgh rapper and previous SAMA nominee Billy Got Waves cemented himself as one of the most exciting artists working within Scotland’s rap scene with his 2018 debut mixtape Kill Billy. We caught up with him upon the release of Rocket Boy 1/3 – the initial instalment of his 3 part album.
Rocket Boy 1/3 has been your first solo release since 2018. How have you been applying yourself creatively during this hiatus?
Bro, I have been busy! I was working on a film set for a while, I had some collaborative releases in between with [Edinburgh based artist] Joell and have been doing a lot of shows. For example, I did a show with Reebok and Size a few months ago, supporting London rapper Che Lingo. I have also just been working on myself, getting my head to the place it needs to be. I’ve been travelling, too; right now I am speaking to you from Toronto.
This new EP reflects on drug abuse, sex, and partying, from a more retrospective point of view, rather than the hedonistic attitude we found on Kill Billy.
On Kill Billy I was just focusing on the fun, going out, getting waved, never any consequences. That was my attitude at the time. Rocket Boy 1/3 focuses more on the reality of drug abuse, which isn’t just all glamour and having a good time.
In ‘Silver Surfer’, you say, ‘So high up this is where I feel safe, When I come back down, I hope I still feel this way, Numb the pain’. This lyric is reflecting on drug use as a coping mechanism. Can you delve further into your past relationship with drugs and how you feel it affected you on a mental health level?
I used to be going out all the time and thinking about nothing else. I have another bar, ‘I don’t know where I’m going, but I know I’ll get there if I’m floating’ which basically means that it doesn’t matter what the occasion is, I am going out and finding a place to get fucked up, I think this can be a lot of people’s attitudes. Drugs have resulted in me going into dark places and Rocket Boy 1/3 reflects on this.
More generally, what artists have inspired you the most musically?
Lil Wayne has been someone I’ve always held up as the GOAT in terms of flow and lyricism. I’ve listened to him since a young age. Recently I’ve really been enjoying the sound and aesthetic of FKA Twigs, Lancey Foux, Rosalia, Santi, SALM, and Sega Bodega.
Do you have any plans for music videos attached to these tracks?
I have a visualiser for ‘Poison’ on its way! Right now, I am looking for more funding to be able to make a short film to attach to each of the parts, something more conceptual than your standard music video.
Can you explain the series title, ‘Rocket Boy’?
I guess because I want to take the listener up to space… Rocket boy has so many futuristic and outer space themes both lyrically and instrumentally, so it made sense to me. It is also an ode to Astro Boy from my love of anime and Japanese subcultures in general.
You have a feature from Alloysious Massaquoi, of the Edinburgh legends Young Fathers, on your opening track B.O.A.W. How was it working with him and how did this collaboration come about?
Alloysious I knew a bit from growing up in Edinburgh, as teenagers we were always in similar social circles and all of that. Later down the line, my collective 131 Northside ended up sharing a space with the Young Fathers guys. It’s always been inspiring seeing them do their thing. I was showing Alloysious some tracks, and he got on one of them and made it a completely different thing.
What was the biggest challenge making Rocket Boy?
Money. man. Money is always the biggest challenge. I would have loved a big PR budget, a bigger budget for everything really but that’s how it is. From a creative standpoint, Rocket Boy felt as if it had come naturally.
Your grandfather, Bert Marshall, was a jazz musician who played alongside pioneer Django Reinhart. Did you know your grandfather? How has he influenced you as an artist?
Haha! Close. Bert Marshall was my great great grandfather and died before I was born. I actually only found out about this recently and there is still a lot to uncover. It’s crazy, he still has songs on YouTube that probably have more views than mine! Bert was said to have been kicked out of Django Reinhardt’s band for being too dark skinned, which forced him to move to the UK and a few generations later I appeared.
Billy Got Waves’ Rocket Boy 1/3 was released 11th March on 131 Northside