The wizened old death rattle of a voice reminiscing about “Glenwood Motherfucking Projects, man” on the new Ill Bill record sounds exactly like Jim Carroll. It’s really Uncle Howie, a guy about Jim’s age, also from New York, also an ex-junkie, who, with a little help from his rap-star nephews Necro and Ill Bill, recently kicked 38 years of addiction, got off the streets and into the rap game. Before this year all I’d seen of Howie was him shooting heroin on a Necro album cover, shooting heroin in the video for the “I Need Drugs” single (a hilarious 2000 remake of LL’s “I Need Love”), and in these really poignant pictures from Necro’s website that chart Howie’s doomed trudge through life (one of them is a chilling black-and-white shot of Howie as a mere boy: handsome, smoking, eyes slitted and looking for trouble). These days, he raps on tour with his nephews, blesses tracks with his gutter-vet cackle in the studio, and enjoys a healthy folk-hero status in the horror-rap community. Go Howie!
If you want to hear him in action, check out Ill Bill’s What’s Wrong With Bill?, which dropped this month on Bill’s label, Uncle Howie Records (which also houses heads-only NY acts like Immortal Technique, Goretex, and Ill Bill’s posse gig Non Phixion). It’s a great album if you’re into that grimy, journeyman’s kinda New York hip-hop (that could never be mistaken for that grimy, Elsewhere kinda hip-hop). Ill Bill’s raps here are pretty similar to his Non Phixion raps: porn, conspiracy theory, anti-government rants, murder death kill—usually all in the same bar so as not to bore. His flow, a rough but nimble whiteboy lope a bit like RA the Rugged Man’s, is rock solid and totally convincing as he turns his spittled rage on George W. Bush, school shootings, his hard-knock youth, and aliens. His brother Necro (specializing in murder death kill) produced the album. Aside from the opening title track (which sounds exactly like Black Rob’s “Whoa”) and a few bits of pretty mafioso strings, the beats all have the same steely, unsmiling East Coast–classic feel that has built Necro’s realer-than-real rep behind the panels. When he’s not producing, Necro is a ferocious entrepreneur who has his own signature porn-flick series, runs his own record label (Psycho+Logical), and interacts megalomaniacally with his hopelessly devoted fans. He types in all caps, and makes sure to end all communications with a friendly reminder to DIE.