Billie Essco remembers the day he saw his creative idol live.
The Buffalo rapper decided to drive down to New York City and go see Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 3 show. After the life-changing show, which featured Young Thug and Kid Cudi, Essco left the city to go stay at his friend’s place in Washington, D.C.
On the drive, there was a “crazy” rain storm, but Essco was oblivious to the commotion outside. School stress followed by a day of travel and adventure –– not to mention Kanye ––brewed into a musical narrative which dominated his attention. With one hand steadying the wheel, the other desperately transcribed the lyrics. Eventually, the song would be titled “100 Hours” and selected to be a part of his long-anticipated album, “Aesthetic Raps.”
The Buffalo rapper claims that “Aesthetic Raps,” his fifth record, is the “musical peak” of his career so far.
“Aesthetic Raps” is where to look if you want to find out what Billie Essco is capable of from a technical perspective, according to the rapper himself. Compiled of 12 previously unreleased songs selected from several years of unreleased work, Essco does not run out of rhymes as he remains steadfast in his goal: showing the local community that talent is growing from within. The record is one of his three most recent that are now available on all major streaming sites.
The Spectrum caught up with the rising rapper to talk about his new album before his Sept. 7 performance at Music is Art, and discussed the album’s relation to his past work, his favorite tracks and the origins of the title.
Our full interview, lightly edited for style and length, follows below.
Q: In an old interview with WGRZ, you recommended that people listen to your album “CAFÉ” if they want to know what Billie Essco is all about. Now that your new album is out, do you still think “CAFÉ” is the best place to get to know you as an artist?
A: As my musical career continues and as new albums roll out, I think that each album has a little more information. I think that “CAFÉ,” was very personal because I was going through a lot of personal situations and I felt like the energy of that album really showed you the kind of person that I was. With “Aesthetic,” I think that it’s another realm for me. It’s more about the music. It’s giving the listener more of an opportunity to witness me at my musical peak, listen to me actually rap in depth, using these different words and different ways to say things. I think that with this album it just shows another room in the house. If there were a big house that I’m building, “Aesthetic” would be the room that you show off to your friends and you say, “Look at this, this is what I’ve accomplished thus far.”
Q: For comparison, what room might “CAFÉ” be?
A: It’s the place where you can really just sit down and delve into your thoughts and understand yourself, and also just refresh yourself. It’s about realizing who you are and refreshing those thoughts.
Q: Do you have a favorite track on “Aesthetic Raps?”
A: I know it’s going to change a lot because now that I am listening to it when it’s finally out, I’m listening to it from a new perspective. When we were in the process of finishing it and mixing and mastering, I heard it so much I was just ready to turn it off. Now that it’s finally out, I can listen to it fresh. So right now I would of course say “New Ricks.” I think that is one of my favorite songs that I’ve ever made.
Q: Is there another artist from any medium that you try to model your work after?
A: I wouldn’t really say “model my work after.” I would say that there are people who inspire me to do things in certain ways. Of course Kanye West kind of helped me learn how to build artistry. I think that just delving into my lifestyle and talking about things that are true to me comes from Curren$y.
There are a lot of people that help me get ideas, but ultimately I think it mostly comes from Buffalo –– just being around my city and the people here and just understanding our juxtaposition against the world. We’re in this small, rural area without many resources. Still, we make things happen that are being echoed throughout the world right now.
Q: Does Buffalo have a major impact on your music?
A: Yeah, man. Also, just on life. Realizing where you’re from and then understanding that you’ve been put in this place. Then, you understand what’s going on in the world and you relate to all these people but for some reason I’m from Buffalo. I think that’s one of the biggest things about me. I’m on par with what’s going on in the world, and I have connections to different places and people. But, at the end of the day, I’m from Buffalo. I’m one of the ones from Buffalo. Long before Instagram was around to teach us what to value, me and a couple of my friends were really adamant about giving back to our community. We were trying to show these kids that you can be from a place like this and still make it.
It’s about showing Buffalo that we can be something. And I sacrificed some of myself to prove that point. I came back to Buffalo at a point when I was living in L.A. I told myself that we were going to build it in Buffalo. No matter how long that took, I couldn’t let myself lose sight of that. At the end of it all, Buffalo always was the reason why I took it this far and the reason I plan to take it further.
Q: Can you talk a little about the album title: “Aesthetic Raps?”
A: A good friend of mine, who is also my creative director and my all-around creative partner, actually titled the album. It was going through a few name changes before that because we had this project for a while. But he kept explaining to me that the type of music I make creates its own aesthetic. One day he was like, ‘I think we should call the album that,’ and after the next couple of days, when I listened back to it, I started to pay attention to how much of an aesthetic the music brought. We figured we would make it a series, so we are doing volumes one, two and three.
Q: So there are more Aesthetic Raps to come?
A: Yeah, there is more to come. Honestly, I don’t want to say exactly when, but I will say that it’s coming a lot sooner than people will expect.
Julian Roberts-Grmela is a senior news editor for The Spectrum and an English and philosophy major. His favorite book is “White Teeth” by Zadie Smith and he hopes that one day his writing will be as good as hers.