Billy Eff Le Chef: “Recovery”
Billy Eff Le Chef is a rapper now, but his background is in punk rock, emo, poetry, and expensive sounding food. He’s actually a chef, if you didn’t know. They’re all uncomplicated and happy memories that bring a smile to his face. His eyes light up as he lists off his favourite poets, artists, and potential dishes he could serve to guests if he ever felt compelled to host a party for 20-odd guests.
A polenta dish with seven-year old cheddar, a 65 degree poached egg and Albert truffles shaved on top. Mizuna micro-greens and sherry vinegar. Beef wellington as part of a main course and a St. Honoré cake to finish off for dessert. There’s obviously way more to his dream menu, if given the opportunity, but the lavish and decadent items may have already caused one to drool on their plate prior to service.
“I’m a big fan of simple things that are just very well executed,” Le Chef said, an approach that he feels also applies to his music.
After spending time as a hypeman and performer for the band Ragers, who fuse hip-hop and electronic music with synths and rock music, Le Chef is about to drop his solo EP, Why I’m Not Where You Are, jumping feet first into hip-hop as a solo act for the first time.
“I’m done taking this shit as a joke,” he said. “I’m never going to take myself too seriously but this isn’t a joke for me anymore.
“I’m going to try to be a rapper now, to the best of my ability. This shit’s going to happen.”
The journey to rap began as a kid, dancing to Michael Jackson and Spice Girls songs with his sisters, but around the age of nine or ten, a friend’s older brother introduced Le Chef to Jawbreaker, a punk rock band set in New York City. Le Chef began as a lover of punk rock and emo bands such as Screeching Weasel, The Promise Ring, and American Football, which helped him with songwriting and poetry, amongst other influences.
“I got into Bukowski when I was very, very young,” said Le Chef. “I was a big fan of Poe and E. E. Cummings, so that’s really what shaped my career as a lyricist.”
After taking part in numerous punk rock bands, Le Chef admits he didn’t get into hip-hop until he joined Ragers, where he brought his screaming and energy from his punk rock days, while developing his ability to rap, to the group.
Soon after, he went from looking at rockers to rappers. He found newer contemporaries such as Chance the Rapper, Pusha T— Le Chef even spat his own version of Pusha T’s “Millions—”and Action Bronson, who also began as a chef before becoming a rapper.
Why I’m Not Where You Are will feature “Tribes,” a track that will be on Ragers’ forthcoming project as well. Le Chef says most of the album was recorded over the span of a few months in Los Angeles, but trouble disturbed him, stemming from a breakup with his longtime girlfriend.
“It’s kind of like the soundtrack to what those few months were,” said Le Chef. “Starting from [having] the best girl in the world and ending, ‘what the fuck, what do I do now? I’m alone, I have a pretty great life but I still have all these problems that I need to deal with.’”
The breakup ate him up from the inside. Le Chef resorted to drugs and alcohol, and suicidal tendencies that he initially believed were behind him, returned. Not long after, he tried to commit suicide for the first time in five years.
Le Chef’s material for the EP could have primarily focused on the depression he fell under, but he removed some tracks because he didn’t want it to be “too heavy.” It’s still an underlying theme, however, along with recovery and rising above those dire situations, throughout the project.
“I don’t think that’s something that gets talked about enough until the rapper kills himself like we saw with Capital Steez,” said Le Chef. “You never get to hear it from someone who actually came pretty close to dying.
“By the time we had started recording the album, I was definitely at rock bottom,” he continued. “As we kept working on it, I was gradually getting better.”
Suicide is a touchy topic for most people, but Le Chef isn’t looking to run away from it, and he’s open to discussing the subject and his own personal setbacks. It’s a subject that matters to him.
He visits a psychiatrist and takes medication to treat his depression. He’s told friends about his situation and he was surprised at the amount of friends who confided in him about their own personal stories. While depression hasn’t completely left him, most of the darkness is past him, and he’s become appreciative of the people around him.
“I have to move because I have obligations, I have responsibilities that I have to deal with,” he said. “I’m very happy that I have an outlet, a lot of my friends who suffer from depression don’t have that outlet.”
Video by Hélène Bauer