Born in a small village with a population of under 3500 in the Ivory Coast of West Africa, comes BTK Villeion, a young rapper and singer on the rise, breaking the barriers for himself as he lays it all out on the track. After immigrating to the United States, BTK found hardships during his upbringing, leaving him to serve four years in prison, which later sparked BTK’s passion to change his life around and become a professional music artist.
Finding his own sound last summer through his latest full-length project “Drugs and Illusions,” BTK delivers a collection of mixed emotions with the featured assists of artists including Brandoshis and Kitti Red. With a moving posthumous tribute with his track “Waiting” featuring artist and long time friend, OBoy, who BTK described was like a brother to him. “We had the same dream, we met in prison, and we used to do talent shows together behind bars. He got released a few months after me and we got in touch and started doing music together. There’s so much to the story but unfortunately he got shot and killed before we released anything. That was the last song that he recorded.”
Just before releasing his collaborative tracks such as “Hennessy” and “Tell Me” with Eva Shaw and Yung Tory, BTK Villeion talked to us in depth about his come up and path through music – touching on his influences and upbringing, there is an eye opening lesson on what it takes to pursue your dreams. BTK gets into more detail about the album, his creative process and experience working with other artists.
XMPL: Where does the name BTK Villeion come from?
BTK Villeion: BTK is for Blolequin – a small village I was born in Cote D’Ivoire. I remember my brothers and I was the bad kids, they use to call us little villains. Villeion is basically Village-villain combined. BTK Villeion stands for “Blolequin village villain.” So if some how this little village of only 3200 people hear my name they’ll know someone made it out and still remembers those days proudly.
How would you describe your music and what were some of your influences that pushed you towards music?
I will describe my music as; different, relatable, motivational, and diverse. What makes my music different is it’s not just one genre, my music has a range of Afro beat, hip-hop, trap, soft rock, R&B, and pop.
In your latest album ‘Drugs and Illusions’ you don’t shy away from heavy topics, how would you describe this project and the vision you had for it?
Drugs and Illusions is when I felt like I have finally found my own sound. My melodies and lyrics all come from feeling the moment and my life experiences. I have songs on there when I talk about love and some about being heart broken. There’s even some about me feeling like I’m a rock star. The album is a mix of emotions all put together beautifully.
You also have a unique melody when you change up your flows. When did you start discovering the different vocal ranges you have and does that influence your writing process at all?
My melody comes from the beat. I’m a very versatile artist, not wanting to sound arrogant. You can basically give me a rock star beat, pop, Afro beat, whatever kind of beat and I will make a song in that genre that will be up to par or even better than a person that solely makes that type of music.
‘Problems Child’ is a stand out track of your vocal melodies. Tell us a little bit about this track and the meaning behind it.
‘Problems Child’ is definitely one of my favorite songs in the album. I’ll give you the short version of the story; from the age of 12 I was in and out of juvenile. At 16 I got a new case and they decided to try me as a adult and I ended up spending four years behind bars. When I got out I had the same old friends and they were all doing the same thing that I didn’t have the motivation to continue that type of lifestyle. ‘Problems Child’ is basically a letter to mom saying I no longer have the old mindset, that’s why I said in the song, “don’t you worry about me no more, times has changed not going back… when I said I don’t fuck with you no more who are all these people around me.” I was talking to my old associates and I knew I couldn’t change them but I could change myself. That’s when I decided to listen to my brothers and pursue my music dream full-time!
You had features on this project including Kitti Red, OBoy & Brandoshis. Can you tell us what you felt each of these artists brought to this project? What was the experience like working with all of them?
I heard Brandoshis’ music on Instagram and I immediately thought he was a dope artist. I saw that he was an up in coming artist just like myself. I went ahead and DM him and we have been friends ever since. Brandoshis is a talented and down to earth guy and has a crazy melody also versatile.
Kitti Red is another talented and versatile artist as well. We thought my song, “Name” needed a female perspective. She was one of the artists we wanted to work with. Her manager sent the song to her and she loved the song and the rest was history.
As for OBoy, he was like a brother to me. We had the same dream, we met in prison, and we used to do talent shows together behind bars. He got released a few months after me and we got in touch and started doing music together. There’s so much to the story but unfortunately he got shot and killed before we released anything. That was the last song that he recorded. So I released, “Waiting,” in his honor. Everything that I make from the song will go to his family and kids.
What can we expect from you this year? We are excited to hear more collabs between yourself and producer Eva Shaw. Are you planning on doing more collaborations ?
Yes, most definitely! I’m very excited for the year as I am ready for the few releases planned already. Eva is a dope producer and I can’t wait to see what she’s going to do with the songs. Having that level of production Will make my music that much more better! I’m so excited to give my fans some high-quality music this year.
Stream “Drugs and Illusions” by BTK Villeion:
This article appears in the 12th issue of XMPL Magazine, originally published April 11, 2021.