You might remember a time in the 90’s when The Black Eyed Peas were still making dope hip hop music; specifically over the course of their first two albums before they changed direction. It’s no coincidence that during these two albums, Kim Hill had an extensive hand in the creation of the music, acting as an unofficial fourth member of the group. She went on to have a respectable career as a solo artist after parting ways with the group, but did you know she’s also been DJ’ing internationally for years now as well? Kim has been on a hiatus of sorts new music wise, but that will change soon with the new material she’s been working on. We caught up with her backstage following her performance at the Soul Factory in NYC, a show which happened to be her first NYC appearance in over six years. We discussed with her how she linked up with The Black Eyed Peas originally, her solo deal with Interscope, how a lie led to her first DJ gig, the new music she’s working on, and more.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Let’s start out early in your music career. Of course you’re known for your work with the Black Eyed Peas. Tell us the story about how you originally linked up with them.
Kim Hill: It was 1995 and I had been in L.A. for about a year. I met them through their original manager, who lived on my block. We met and he invited me to a showcase that coincidentally I had already been booked on for BMI. I met them and Will and I just immediately clicked and started writing together within days. It just kinda went from there.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Of course you’re an amazing singer and song writer in your own right, but you did some great work on their first two albums. What are your favorite memories of working with them on those albums?
Kim Hill: It was so easy. It really was a musical relationship that was just simple. We didn’t have to work at chemistry or writing together. It’s almost like Will could play something and I’d immediately start writing, almost like finishing his sentences. I can’t really say, it was just really easy. Those are the kind of work relationships that don’t feel like work at all. I think that’s why the music really resonated with people in the way that it did.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Eventually you got a solo deal with Interscope in 1998. What was that point in your career like?
Kim Hill: That was a highlight because I got signed directly by Jimmy Iovine. I grew up in Syracuse and there was no black radio so I grew up listening to The Eagles and Stevie Nix and The Cars. When I found out that Jimmy Iovine signed The Cars and Stevie Nix in the beginning of his career, and this was the same man who was interested in what I was doing in the same type of way. It was a highlight, it was a real career highlight for me.
YouKnowIGotSoul: I know things didn’t work out on the label but eventually you released your debut album on your own. What do you remember about creating your debut?
Kim Hill: Will and I created that on the back of the bus during the Black Eyed Peas tour. Everybody from A Tribe Called Quest to De La Soul to Public Enemy to Ice T, we were doing those kind of tours when they still existed. We would literally finish a show, get on the bus, and close the back room door on the bus. Buses are cut into three compartments; there’s the back room and the middle section with the TVs. Usually the back room is where everybody smokes. Will and I were non smokers so we literally had to check out studio time back there. He had an MPC and we literally just did that whole album on the road.
YouKnowIGotSoul: After that you went on to release a couple of more albums but you’ve also been touring as a DJ around the world. What’s that experience been like?
Kim Hill: It’s been great. I call myself a personality that plays records. The wonderful thing about playing records is that I get to create a soundtrack in the way that I like to hear music and watch a room and you’re literally making a mix in live time for people. It’s like a two to three hour soundtrack that is happening right in front of you. There’s no pressure and I can bring my personality as a host, so it’s great.
YouKnowIGotSoul: How did you originally get into DJing and get those opportunities?
Kim Hill: I lied. *Laughs* I had a gig in Prague to open up this really big hotel as a solo artist. There was a tour with Nas and Pharcyde in 2008. The promoter said “They’re going to be here that week, there’s going to be a lot of hip hop heads in town. Do you DJ?” and I said “Yea!” I lied. I booked these amazing venues and I was horrible! What saved me was my personality and the selection was amazing. But I was train wrecking and crashing records and it was horrible. People really took to me because I didn’t take myself so seriously and I played really great stuff.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Something you mentioned on stage tonight was you haven’t performed in NYC for six years. What made you decide now was the time to come back?
Kim Hill: I was asked. It was really simple. I get asked to do things. Sometimes the money is great, sometimes the money is not, but it’s kinda in the way that I’m approached about stuff. I was familiar with Soul Factory, of course Jodine the host is so wonderful. I was just asked in a way that seemed like they wanted me to be a part of something that’s being branded and that’s exciting to me. I’ve done everything from here to here and everything in between and that’s what the journey of being an artist is. I just don’t turn my nose up at a lot of stuff .Gutter stuff I’m not going to do. I’ll watch it on television all day though. *Laughs* It’s always important to share your music and I’m putting new songs out there. I felt wanted, and that’s a good feeling. You get a lot of “No’s” in our business, so if you get a “Yes” from someone saying “I want you just the way you are”, I say “Ok what time should I be there!” *Laughs*
YouKnowIGotSoul: Talk about some of the new music you’ve been working on.
Kim Hill: The new music is incredible. I produced a lot of my stuff. I write all of my lyrics but the making of music I usually kind of compose on guitar and producers and musicians really put it together. I’m a story teller who happens to sing. I love telling stories, I love engaging people. I share a lot of who I am in my work. When I’m not ready to talk, I usually kinda disappear until I can be authentic in what I present. People need to be able to know the truth. Until I’m able to tell the truth in a way that is enlightening and encouraging, then I usually sit still. I’ve done that before where you’re not ready. You saw me go a little hip hop when I left the Black Eyes Peas and it was absolutely my truth but it was abrasive. It needed to be told. Perhaps I needed to release some of my anxiety and pain and anger. The message came off so bitter but it really was just my heart. Just like you really shouldn’t have an argument until you can kind of calm down a little bit and try to be in a good space so it’s received in a way that’s easy on the palette.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Anything you’d like to add?
Kim Hill: I just appreciate the time. I appreciate being in a space to be heard and still be asked to put my work out. It’s humbling, so thank you.