Hip-Hop Junkie: Billie Eilish
The pop singer puts respect on hip-hop’s name.
Words: Georgette Cline
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Summer 2019 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands now.

Hip-hop has influenced singer Billie Eilish’s life in every way—without her trying to steal it. She credits Childish Gambino and Tyler, The Creator with creating the artist she is today and inspiring her ingenious visuals. The 17-year-old pop star, who released her debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, in March, has built a loyal following with avant-garde videos like “When the Party’s Over” and “You Should See Me in a Crown.” Eilish, who recently hit the road on her When We All Fall Asleep Tour with Denzel Curry, caught up with XXL to discuss her late friend XXXTentacion’s genius, Tierra Whack’s otherworldly vision and Denzel’s upper echelon status.

XXL: What do you respect about Denzel Curry as an artist to welcome him on your tour and collaborate with him on his 2018 song “Sirens” with J.I.D?

Billie Eilish: He’s just a genuine guy. He’s kinda out of this world in a way. He’s on another planet. Like, when he freestyles. This dude is always rapping. I was listening to Denzel talking, I was like, “Yo, everything he’s saying is him rapping.” I put him on the highest level.

Do you remember what your introduction to hip-hop was?

I remember I was sitting on the corner of my bed; I think I was 11. My brother has always been a big influence with everything in my life. He’s like, four years older than me. So, he would download music. And back then, you couldn’t just stream shit; you had to buy it or whatever. So, I had this whole library of music I didn’t know because [we shared] the same account. And I remember… I think at the time, it was one album, which is Camp by Donald Glover [Childish Gambino].

I remember sitting on the corner of my bed and “Heartbeat” came on and I was like, Whoa. I sat there in awe and I just felt like I had been completely missing a world, you know? I really was like, Oh, shit. This is what I’ve been missing. This is what I like.

You’re known for very creative videos. Is there a rapper that you feel is killing it with creative visuals right now?

I think a really strong one would be Tierra Whack. She really is the definition of out of this world. And I think, like, everything about her. I think her visuals, her lyrics, her songs, her fucking project, like, how there’s basically a short film for [Whack World], you know what I’m saying? That’s on another level. Her style, her live shows, her attitude… I think she’s an artist that’s really gonna change everything a little bit if people let her.

It’s been one year since XXXTentacion’s death. As a friend of his, why do you think his music has resonated more with people since he passed away?

I think it’s kind of unfair when something gets more popular after someone passes. I remember in the midst of it, at the beginning, when I found him on SoundCloud. I had no idea who he was or anything about his backstory at all. I barely knew what he looked like. I just messed with what he was creating because it wasn’t something I had heard before. It was a mix between, you know, all types of shit. And that was without me having any knowledge of anything in his life: who he was, who he knew, anything at all.

I think that’s when you know that [the music is] real to you because you don’t know anything about [the artist]. I think that’s the same with people. You know, if you just vibe with a person without seeing their Instagram or knowing who they are or whatever, that’s like the most raw I think you can get. I don’t know, I think it’s still popular because he was a complete tortured genius.

Check out more from XXL’s Summer 2019 issue, including our 2019 XXL Freshman cover story interviews, a narrative on whether Jay-Z should run for political office and a look into Young Dolph's return after bouncing back from beef.

Kenneth Cappello
Kenneth Cappello

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