Kacy Hill is About to Take the Music World by Storm

Kacy Hill is About to Take the Music World by Storm

She may be Kanye West's proclaimed protégé, but this rising siren is forging her own path as one of V's four September cover stars

She may be Kanye West's proclaimed protégé, but this rising siren is forging her own path as one of V's four September cover stars

Photography: Mario Testino

Styling: Paul Cavaco

Text: Nick Remsen

This story is taken from V103, on newsstands September 1, available for pre-order here

“The strangest thing about everything right now is figuring out how much of a voice you’re allowed to have,” says Kacy Hill with a sighing laugh, over the phone from Los Angeles. The 22-year-old singer-songwriter (signed to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music) is dropping her first full-length album this September after rippling across the blogosphere in 2014 with her track "Experience," and furthering that momentum with the release of Bloo, a five track EP, in late 2015. She looks like a tattooed, septum-pierced blend between Lily Cole and Sansa Stark. That is, an angelically pretty redhead, but with flickers of a severer side. She is also well-spoken, delivering points with the coolly unaffected confidence of her millennial generation, but as she just admitted, the road to celebrity is paved with warped political asphalt—and Hill’s awareness is as striking as her elocution. “For example, I am really passionate about women’s rights, and on Twitter, I’ve spoken about gun control, but I feel like with the position I’m in now, it’s like, Okay, you can talk, but not too loud. I don’t want to endanger potential.”

That young person’s wisdom is no doubt a result of Hill’s trajectory, which began in Phoenix, Arizona, then arced west at age 18 to L.A., where she became known for modeling American Apparel bodysuits. She was then brought on as a dancer for West’s Yeezus tour, art directed by Vanessa Beecroft. Both entities—American Apparel and West—know a thing or two about the power of choice in communications, the former with provocative advertising and the latter with agitprop social media statements and, well, “I’m’a let you finish…” Hill, then, is in a way the ultra-meta: a New Era 2.0 brand birthed and cultured by New Era 1.0’s OG players, the common thread being self-identification in a world of viral potential, hyper-scrutiny and a ruthless, though thankfully often forgetful, public.

KACY WEARS COAT CHLOÉ NOSE RING (THROUGHOUT) HER OWN ON LIPS LANCÔME ABSOLUE PRECIOUS CELLS NOURISHING LIP BALM

It was in Phoenix that Hill’s melodic promise first surfaced. At her performing arts school downtown, she played the somewhat obscure oboe, the clarinet’s louder cousin. Phoenix has also proven to be an unanticipated rock for the young musician, even though, like a lot of kids in a lot of towns, she wanted badly to get out. “We actually shot the album art in Arizona, and it was based on a feeling of nostalgia—we did it at my childhood home. So it’s still a relevant thing, but I struggle with finding the medium between being ambitious—like, I want to do everything—and wanting to have that feeling of home.” Later in her interview, she offers the lovely sound bite: “the American Southwest is the ultimate reset button. If I could make a candle, it would be the smell of the Arizonan desert after it rains.”

Hill departed the Yeezy tour early to pursue her own music; she and West did not discuss business until after her exit. It went down as so: Hill received a call, and she and West reconvened in Atlantic City, New Jersey, of all places. Soon thereafter, her deal was inked. Her thoughtful electro and orchestral pop bent differs from other styles on G.O.O.D.’s roster, a lineup that includes Desiigner and Big Sean. She might seem like a wildcard at G.O.O.D., but there’s a clear reason why she caught West’s ear. Hill’s sonic balance is naturally tuned, a deft mix between her hollowed-out, high-octave chant and her deeply fulfilling but unobtrusive acoustics. That she’s a born lyricist only sweetens the tea. “Experience,” her breakout track, boasts a menacing reverb as she go-lightly sings serious lines like, “Language a nasty wall, body feels it all, lust rules the water sourcing each breath, each fall.” (Even at the beginning of her career, Hill was acknowledging the weight of words.) “Arm’s Length,” which appears on Bloo, has big sound wails and instrumentals, recalling another redhead chanteuse, Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine.

At press time, Hill’s album was nameless. Well: “I have a name, but I feel like it’ll change, so I am afraid to say anything.” The sentiment slightly mirrors her mentor West’s build-up to the release of his latest record, The Life of Pablo (it was once called Swish, it was once called Waves). But she does divulge, also as of press time, that there are “no features—I wanted this album to be just me—some really cool orchestral elements, a pretty poppy tune, and overall a wide range.” She further cites the dynamo performer Héloïse Letissier, aka Christine and the Queens, as inspiration.

JACKET AND BELT (WORN AS TOP) KENZO PANTS LOUIS VUITTON ON FACE LANCÔME BIENFAIT TEINTÉ BEAUTY BALM

Verbally and aurally, Hill’s path is laid and thus far proven. But what about sartorially? What does the one time face of American Apparel billboards think of high fashion? “Well, I don’t wear my Yeezys that often,” she jokes, referring to the much hyped sneakers from West’s line with Adidas. “I’m kind of into retro-inspired stuff, vintage and modern together, actually.” Then, insightfully, she adds, “I like Prada as a good staple, but you need a statement to elevate it. Marc Jacobs is always good. I like things that are whimsical. And I try to avoid an all-black look, I feel like it’s an easy way out.” Oh? “It’s too easy. It’s like, you look good again today, but you looked the same way yesterday.” The thought lends further testament to the consciously shifting needle of Kacy Hill’s emergent persona; she is careful to be true to herself, while positioning said self on a chameleonic and responsive platform. From a distance, it’s rather amazing to watch and to ponder—a brain functioning with finely engineered whirs and clicks, Grade-A fueled by a flame to make it big.

Which brings us back to something she will freely admit, something that is perhaps the most compelling thing disclosed over her phone call, as it points to a fire just starting to burn. In her time touring with West, Hill performed at Madison Square Garden, which very few performers will ever get to do, headlining or otherwise. The palpable pulse of the New York crowd, the cavernous scale of the Garden, the gravitas of West’s existence—it sealed the proverbial deal for Hill, then and there. “I had a moment,” she says, “looking out at the audience. It was surreal. I realized how badly I want to be an artist and how badly I want people to feel the same way about my music. It was like, I really want this, for myself.”

FROM LEFT: LUCKY WEARS COAT CALVIN KLEIN COLLECTION PANTS KENZO JEWELRY (THROUGHOUT) HIS OWN KACY WEARS TOP BALENCIAGA SHOES GIUSEPPE ZANOTTI DESIGN
KACY WEARS TOP BALENCIAGA HEELS GIUSEPPE ZANOTTI LUCKY WEARS JACKET CALVIN KLEIN COLLECTION PANTS KENZO
Credits:

Makeup Dotti (Streeters)  Hair Christiaan  Models Taylor Hill (IMG), Lucky Blue smith (Next Models)  Manicure Lisa Jachno (Aim Artists)  Tailor Hasmik Kourinian  Traveling Producer Philip Bode  Executive Producer Kat Davey  Production Managers Jude Spour (MT+) and Suzy Kang (GE Projects)  Production Coordinator Chris Cowan  Producer Gabriel Hill (GE Projects)  Digital technician Jacob Storm Photo assistants Alex Waltl, Rasmus Jensen, Andrew Rogue  Stylist assistants Amanda Merten, Angelina Vitto, Jennifer Yee  Makeup assistant Akiko Owada  Production assistants Beau Bright (GE Projects), Ryan Pienkos, Tyler Ofstedahl  Onset retoucher Liam Black  Location Smashbox Studios

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