Since his debut project The Lonely Limo—a fearlessly personal mixtape featuring guest spots from heavy-hitters like Lil Wayne—Ricky Hil has brought an unapologetic honesty to his music and never shied away from speaking the raw truth. Over the years, that approach has left a powerful impact on an entire wave of musicians within the underground scene, including a number of rappers/singers who’ve emerged as major cultural figures (Kid Cudi, XXXTentacion, The Weeknd, Juice WRLD, to name just a few). In his latest output, the consummate artist’s artist sheds even more light on his demons, and embraces a stronger sense of purpose than ever before.
“A lot of the time in my songs I’m saying shit I don’t really even want to say—but I do it anyway, because I know there are people out there that feel the same way I do,” says Ricky. “When you’re going through something and you feel like no one understands what you’re feeling, it’s one of the loneliest things in the world, and I want to do what I can to help people through that.”
On his recent single “Slippin’,” Ricky shares a hypnotic and soul-baring track that alludes to his past struggles with mental-health issues and addiction. “That song’s about feeling like I was slipping back into darkness, because there was a time when I was in a really dark place, and pretty close to death,” Ricky explains. Partly inspired by War’s 1971 R&B/funk epic “Slippin’ Into Darkness,” the song unfolds in woozy rhythms and eerie textures created with his longtime collaborator TrapMoneyBenny (a producer who’s also worked with Drake, Chance the Rapper, and Playboi Carti).
Born in Fairfield County, Connecticut but based in Los Angeles, Ricky first started experimenting with making music as a kid, armed with a turntable set-up and a stack of vinyl. “My friends and I would run the instrumental track and do our own verses and try to record a whole song in one take, because we had no way to go back and edit,” he recalls. “I fell in love with it, and I’d stay up all night every weekend—I didn’t care about anything else, I just wanted to create as much as possible.” Although South Philly rappers like Beanie Sigel influenced his early work, Ricky later discovered singer/songwriters like Bob Dylan and focused more heavily on sculpting potent melodies and sharpening his songcraft. Mostly raised on rock-and-roll, he later played in a punk band, infusing his songs with a kinetic energy that still permeates the music he makes today.
With his previous releases including collaborations with the likes of The Weeknd and Kid Cudi, Ricky has recently refined his vision, and fully leaned into his love for darkly charged beats and slow yet dynamic tempos. “I went into all these new songs just wanting to be completely myself,” he says. “I decided I’m done with happy music, and I’m only getting on beats that make me really feel something.” As part of that creative revitalization—which includes recording up to five songs a night—he’s also begun drawing his own cover art, naming famed tattoo artists Jack Rudy and Mister Cartoon among the main inspirations on his artwork.
As Ricky reveals, his newfound clarity is closely tied to certain positive lifestyle changes in recent years. But while he’s seen serious improvement in his mental health in that time, he remains very much in touch with the realities of depression—a factor he considers incredibly important as suicide rates continue to climb, especially among young people. “It’s getting so out of hand: people are killing themselves before they even know what it’s like to actually be happy,” says Ricky. “I don’t know how to help people directly, but maybe hearing my songs will help them feel less alone and give them some kind of hope. It might make them think, ‘He’s gone through the same kind of thing and he’s still kicking—so maybe I can try to make it another day.’”