Trill Nik is an emcee and battle rapper from Petersburg, Virginia. Hailing from the home of Moses Malone and Trey Songz, Trill’s battle rap background dates to his first battle the 7 Cities Sharks League in 2014. Eventually, he became a familiar face within the League of Champions and Southpaw Battle Coalition in Richmond, thirty minutes north of Petersburg. He put up a classic battle against one of the founders of Southpaw, Bravo. Trill also has solid battles against the likes of Mutant Academy’s own Henny L.O. in that same league. In 2020, he released his debut album Villain that has Jake Roberts on the album cover looks like he’s going through a moment of insanity. The last time I saw Trill Nik was when he attended the first round of the Southpaw’s Road To Supremacy tournament and seeing him for the first time in over two years at a battle rap event was delightful. To talk to Trill Nik in this interview was like talking to your favorite cousin at the cookout.
Jay: Describe your upbringing in Petersburg. Being a Richmond native myself and how Petersburg is a straight shot down Route 1, I’ve seen Petersburg go through more crises and perils than the former murder capital at various points in my lifetime. What were some of the experiences that molded you into who you are today?
Trill: I was born in Petersburg, raised in Third Ward and Harding. Pecan Acres that place makes me tough. The heights and Third Ward gave me my name. Living out there was a game of survival. It pulled me closer to the streets. I got my first kiss out there, smoked my first cigarette, sold my first drugs, that place made me who I am. People back then knew me as Biggs or Biggie. People kept saying I looked like Biggie then and it just stuck. You can tell someone is from Petersburg if they call me that. One of my music influences out there was Buck J. Fee Buck J. He used to be on iPower 92.1 in Richmond. The dude used to do everything. Freestyling with saliva on the side of his mouth because he was rapping nonstop. That was one of my biggest influences along with Holly God who is still one of the best rappers I ever heard in my life. He’s on Villain. Those two guys from Petersburg right there are great. I hate Petersburg also because it took a lot of my friends away. People that I can’t get back.
Jay: Explain how you got into making music and battle rap?
Trill: I was always writing. Ciroc O Trauma is my childhood friend and got me into rapping and battle rap. At first, I felt like I didn’t need to get into rapping, but Ciroc said “Nah keep writing, you can do rapping.” When I was eighteen, I got stabbed two inches from my heart. I was breathing heavily due to the punctured lung. What kept me sane during recovery was that I wrote for two summers straight. Some of my influences early on are the likes of Jadakiss, Joe Budden, and Lloyd Banks. Those guys are great storytellers and writers. I’m a student of the game so I like to test my skills and later I got into southern rap like Project Pat, Three 6 Mafia, T.I., and Rick Ross. I recorded my first record at twenty-two and I got locked up because of what I was doing in the streets. The day I got home, my homie Jason Booker, who was my manager, saw me at the bus stop after I got out and took me to a studio. I had so much material that I wrote from my time away and I had two successful mixtapes with the HMO crew. Villain was my first solo tape. I’m glad I wanted that long to drop a solo project because I didn’t know how to put my life in words. I was a punchline rapper because of studying guys like Lupe. I realized as I got older, battle rap made me a better writer and helped me learn how to better piece things together.
Ciroc is also the reason I got into battle rap. Years ago, I got a call from Ciroc and he asked if I wanted to battle Big Jinya. I declined because I didn’t know who he was, but I was always known in the city as a dope emcee. Time goes by, I write my first battle, see how I write it and I get booked at 7 Cities Sharks. I battled Tatum. My first battle did like three thousand views. I knew most of it came because of him as he had a Def Jam deal at the time but to have that many views on my first battle were very surprising.
"When I was eighteen, I got stabbed two inches from my heart. I was breathing heavily due to the punctured lung. What kept me sane during recovery was that I wrote for two summers straight."- Trill Nik
Jay: Given how the fans are having more of an influence on how the URL battles are being judged, and how the Caffeine platform allows more input from fans than in the past, how do you view the battle rap culture today?
Trill: It’s a good and a bad thing. I'll use Swamp vs T-Top as an example. Swamp choked three times and I saw fans say give it to Swamp. T-Top had a flawless performance. They play favorites sometimes, hate the new guys, or don’t even give them a chance. Yet they complain about how new guys aren't getting a chance. Battle rap fans are very fickle. They love you one day and hate you the next. When I first got into battle rap, I was looked at as one of the worst because my sound and flow weren’t down pat. At the time, I didn’t know how to add my actual personality within my rounds. It took one battle and I was on the top of people's list out of nowhere. Me as a fan, I know what I like to hear and some are guys like Lu Castro and Sheed Happens. Definitely the Jakkboy’s [Jakkboy Maine], Nu Jerzy Twork, and Jey The Nightwing. I look at it as a fan and one day this can be competitive and always analyzing what they can do and how they can do it.
Caffeine makes things kind of weird because it’s being presented in a super cinematic way. Something like 8 Mile. It looks weird with the swerving camera. Don’t do that, stay in one spot.
Jay: Who are some of your favorite battle rappers internationally and locally known today?
Trill: Locally, J Morr, Bravo, Sonny Kolfax, Redd Handed. I look at the DMV as local too. Swervo and a few other guys. Gary Alston is dope.
Jay: Let’s talk about Headshot Music from Villain. The guitar in the instrumental gives the theme of gun talk mixed with vacation music. When I first heard the song back in 2020, I instantly felt like I was out in Hawaii pistol-whipping someone at an outdoor bar. Talk about the creative process behind Headshot Music.
Trill: It was the last song I did, and I did it as a joke. I was just chilling, rolling up, and the beat came on. I was like “SHIT this is hard.” I listen to instrumentals sometimes and was just chilling. The idea sparked and I kept playing with the hook and said, let’s not take it too seriously. It was the last song and there’s a Headshot Music 2 dropping on Villain 2. That’s a lot of people’s favorite song and I got so many reviews about that record. The reviews on Villain are crazy.
Jay: In my interview with Sonny Kolfax, he discussed this upcoming project known as Stoner’s Island featuring yourself, Redd Handed, and Preme. Considering that you’re a wrestling aficionado, what wrestlers would you compare each member of the Stoner’s Island group as?
Trill: That’s a good question: I look at us like the Hart Foundation. I always look at myself like the Hitman, Sonny is Owen Hart, Redd is Brian Pillman, and Preme is Jim Neidhart. We’re loud and don’t give a fuck. Earlier in the year, all of us were dropping back-to-back. It was a crazy five months of just dropping music nonstop at a consistent pace. You can see the numbers. I was not expecting Villain to be taken the way it was. I thought people were going to look at it like how people check out battle rap videos one time say it’s fire and don’t bother to revisit the battle. People still hit me up. Michael Millions hit me at eight a.m. in the morning complimenting the work and all the heavyweights were telling me great things about the project. It hit me like, "damn, I really did it."
Jay: On Harlem Heat featuring Sonny Kolfax, you described your music as it being like “If Basquiat was drug dealing” meshing lines about gun bars and off-white fashion apparel. You would proceed to say that “I shoot it with a lean. I learned from MLK what a lane can do to dreams. I can smoke a pound of haze, I wrestle with it, I’m Moxley with the razor blade…”. In those lines, you combine some of your interests like, fashion, specifically being a sneakerhead, and your affinity for wrestling. How often do those interests coincide with your music? Before you answer that, I loved how you incorporated the famous Booker-T “Hulk Hogan, we’re coming for you” promo at the end of the song.
Trill: Wrestling and fashion are EVERYTHING to me. Everything I did in the streets to survive. I’m not a statistic. I talk art, I talk Basquiat, branding because it’s stuff I’m into. I’m heavy because, at one point, I did not know how to incorporate that in my music until Westside Gunn. Harlem Heat was wild and there’s going to be a second Harlem Heat coming soon.
Jay: Who are some indie artists that you would like to shout out?
Trill: T.R.I.G., NUMBER ONE FOR SURE. HAD TO SAY HIM FIRST. Willie Skates from Petersburg. DJ Stacks. Three-way. Illa Styles, I got a record with him too. Radio Blitz. Nickelus F. The goal to me has always been to get a record with NIckelus F. Monday Night is one of my all-time favorite rappers in Richmond, he spits crazy. That project with Henny L.O. he did, Battle Scar Decorated, was wild. Michael Millions is a big inspiration to me work-wise. Skinny Hendrixx and Key Saint Laurant are others to shout out