Kacy Hill: In Bloom

© Grace Pickering
Jumper: Shrimps

Words by:

Kacy Hill is hard to pin down. When we speak on the phone, the 23-year-old singer is driving through Los Angeles with a day’s worth of post-production bits and bobs on her table. She’s busy, to say the least, and has been ever since she skyrocketed to virality in 2014 on the back of her woozy self-released single Experience. Lithely dancing in a clear falsetto above precocious wobbles and clicks, her star power was budding but obvious. Nearly three years later, Kacy’s ready to bloom.

“There’s quite a few of them out there,” Kacy says nonchalantly when I wonder if the perfect pop song exists. “I think it’s a song you can listen to from start to finish and lose yourself in. There’s no part that has the possibility of being any better; everything fits perfectly into the next piece like a puzzle.”

Kacy Hill’s debut album is cut from the same cloth. Hard to Love – one of the two leading singles from the album Like a Woman – starts as an airy whisper above a pulsing halo of synths before seamlessly growing into a full-throttle stomper. What starts as fragility pivots and becomes a roaring battle cry. She dives into the chorus headfirst, calling out: ‘Tell me nothing has changed, that words still hold all the same, and you, you make it hard to love.’

“I think that was almost too personal to listen to,” Hill says. She pauses before continuing, “Part of it is that I spent so much time working it and reworking it – that was probably the most difficult song to finish from a production standpoint. But writing it was also really intense because of what it’s about. Writing is like going to therapy,” she says without a break. “You slow down and figure things out, and I think there’s a catharsis in that.”

And there’s been plenty to discover along the way. It’s been more than three years since we first heard of Hill off the back of Kanye signing her to his GOOD Music label after being passed one of her tapes on The Yeezus Tour. A chance encounter? Maybe not so much: Hill had been working with artist and Kanye collaborator Vanessa Beecroft as a non-dancing performer for the first leg of the tour. Beecroft, in turn, had found Kacy modelling for American Apparel on her gap year in Los Angeles, and while modelling itself was more of an opportunity that fell into her hands, Hill’s work as a songwriter follows a similar ad-hoc path.

“I left the tour because I was working as a model and knew that I wouldn’t be satisfied just modelling,” she explains. “It was a surreal experience seeing the tour from the other side and then being invited into a group of such talented, passionate creators.”

“What is it that drives the subject to make me feel like a woman?” she asks as we move to discussing her song Like a Woman. The song explores Hill’s femininity and sexuality, coupled with a video where she drifts off into various intimate fantasies. But who, or what, makes Kacy feel like a woman? “I love the question because, for me, there is no one subject. I like making myself the subject and asking myself what it is that motivates me to embrace my femininity.”

© Grace Pickering
Jumper: Shrimps

It’s a track that caused a stir with its release: produced by DJ Mustard, the downtempo track is notably bare of the requisite “Mustard on the beat” tag. It makes sense, too – the song combs through Hill’s own experiences as a woman on her own terms and at her own pace. Indeed, Hill’s album is laced with self-probing and examination.

“My experience with femininity is an infinite learning process”, she continues. “It is a loaded word that carries an immense amount of power and resilience with vulnerability. So far in my life, womanhood has been defined by independence and self-discovery. I try and define myself separately from relationships I form both in my personal life and my career”.

Perhaps it’s this self-determination that makes Hill’s success so inevitable. There’s no room for uncertainty: she’s certain, assured, and she stands her ground. As confessionals, her work is refreshingly honest and candid, neither tempered nor tampered with. It works, and she knows it.

‘Don’t tell me it’s wrong if I need you when I used to live just to breathe you,’ she states firmly in Cruel. ‘You’re losing touch of my view. Don’t tell me I’m wrong.’

Photography: Grace Pickering
Photographer’s Assistant: Ony Nwanokwu
Stylist: Trudy Nelson
Make-up: Karina Moore using Anastasia of Beverly Hills

Like a Woman is out 30 June via G.O.O.D Music/Def Jam

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