KACY HILL - HARPER'S BAZAAR GIRL ON THE RISE
KANYE WEST'S PROTÉGÉ KACY HILL TALKS WORKING WITH THE RAPPER
The breakout star comes into her own on her first studio album.
In addition to Big Sean, Teyana Taylor, Tyga and Desiigner, one of Kanye West's protégés is a freckled, former American Apparel model-turned-ethereal-pop-breakout-star, Kacy Hill. West's G.O.O.D. Music label signed the Arizona native in 2014, a few months after she released her debut single, "Experience," and after she had danced backup on his Yeezus tour. Less than three years later, Hill, 23, now boasts a debut album executive-produced by West, titled Like a Woman.
The title is a dead giveaway for the rest of the record. In it, Hill explores her feminine experience—love, heartbreak, desire, being underestimated, feeling used—all with lightweight vocals, atmospheric tracks and dramatic lyrics. "If I am the beast from temptation is born / Why can you not see the woman as more?" she sings in her closing track "Am I."
Like West, Hill is also dipping a toe in the fashion world, moving on from her American Apparel gig. She made a cameo in Calvin Klein's Fall 2016 campaign (which also starred Kate Moss, Bella Hadid and Margot Robbie, to name a few), performed for Cartier's Fifth Ave store re-opening, and is becoming a front-row favorite.
Before the release, Hill talked to Bazaar.com about what it was like working with Kanye, putting this record together and what womanhood means to her.
Releasing a debut album is exciting for sure, but Hill keeps it real—it can also be frightening.
“The biggest thing is just that it's been just this insurmountable amount of anxiety. I think just because I've been working on it for so long, and it's hard to have perspective when you work on something for a long time. I think it's anxiety about seeing how it's going to be received, and also almost just like letting it out into the world. It's like releasing it from the nest. It's pretty scary.”
She wants listeners to learn to be comfortable with themselves.
“It's called Like A Woman. A lot of it is about being alone and sitting with yourself, and finding what makes you comfortable. A lot of that, for me, in the visuals and in this whole campaign I've built around it is about exploring feminine sexuality. Really about finding your comfort zone separate from any relationships, or family, friends all of that and just being with yourself.”
And that comfort doesn’t necessarily depend on other people.
“It’s not finding what makes you comfortable through the relationships, it's finding what makes yourself comfortable without them, kind of separate from everything. I think I'm still learning all the time. I guess the goal for me is just to always feel like I'm growing up and learning something. I didn't go to college, and I think that I've still always have a little bit of guilt in that, but I think part of what comforts me is in what I've done in my 23 years of life or whatever is I've learned a lot about myself and about how to interact with people. What makes other people feel good and what makes myself feel good. I think that's just a big constant learning process for me.”
"What if you could feel empowered without constantly having this disclaimer behind everything?"
To her, empowerment isn’t something you have to constantly explain to other people, it’s about living it out without reservations.
“It’s less about just empowerment and more just about exploration. I think I talk a lot about female sexuality in a way that you don't have to state that you're empowered all the time. It's about being unapologetic about it, and exploring your boundaries and making it more of a normal thing instead of constantly being like, ‘I'm empowered by this and I feel good about this.’ What if you could just do it without constantly stating that, and constantly having to feel like you have this disclaimer behind everything?”
In early June, Hill released a haunting video for her track “Hard to Love,” where she appears barely clothed, while a man paints her words on her skin, until she’s entirely covered in ink. The visuals come off as an offbeat lyric video, but it also combines contrasting emotions of sexiness and discomfort.
“I shot the video for "Hard to Love" and "Like a Woman" with J.A.C.K., this incredible French director duo. I saw their work through Christine and the Queens, thought they were incredible two years ago, and I knew I had to work with them. The time finally came around to shoot videos so I got to work with them. I told them that I wanted to create something that felt sexy but almost a little bit uncomfortable. Just in a way that isn't conventionally sexy or sensual in a way that isn't appealing just to the male gaze, and something that makes me feel good. They wrote up the treatment for "Like a Woman" and "Hard to Love" and we worked on a few little things together. I'm super happy with the videos. I think they're some of my favorite things I've ever done.”
The first time she played her album for Kanye, he wasn’t a fan. But he imparted her with some great advice.
“Kanye just really helped me redirect the album. Last year this time, I had almost finished the album, and then I had a meeting with him. And it was the first meeting I had ever had with him about my music, and he listened to a few things. And he was like yeah, ‘I don't love it.’ And I was like, ‘Okay.’ So then he talked a lot about sentiment in music and art. And I think that that resonated with me, so I went back and he gave me some suggestions on the people that I should work with. I took some of his advice and redid all the production of album and the visual direction. And I think the biggest thing is that it was very general advice, which I think is the best kind of advice you can give in a creative setting because it gives someone freedom to think more. So I think that's what he did for me.”
“I mean, I'm not around the other artists every day, so it's less about that and I think just more about being aware of making space for innovation, and being different and trusting your gut with everything. I think there's also an attention to aesthetic and being conscious of what everything looks like, and how it's presented.”
Since releasing her Bloo EP in 2015, she’s learned to prioritize songwriting and honesty.
“I redid the whole album and I think it was just about making everything more minimal, and letting the songwriting be at the forefront. And just making sure that everything felt honest to me, and what I wanted it to sound like.”
She wasn’t always sure she wanted to pursue a music career.
“I don't think I ever really knew. I never really could pinpoint what I wanted to do until I started writing music. In high school, I literally thought for a second that I wanted to be a symphonic oboe player. I had no idea what I wanted to do until I wrote music. I think I just needed to find that to figure out my purpose.”
But she's using some lessons from her past, such as her modeling days, as she cultivates her path as an artist.
“I think just that I have intention to create my own things, and I don't really want to be just an instrument to someone else's vision. I think I realized that I have a lot of ideas of my own, and a lot of vision of my own. I think my purpose is to execute those.”
ctic mix of artists.
“Harry Styles, Jeremih and Maren Morris.”
Listen to Kacy Hill's album, Like a Woman, below.
Via Harper's Bazaar