My first sighting of Hila the Killa was on a subway platform two months ago. She was freestyle rapping with her partner Sir Kn8 about what they were witnessing on the spot. I was enjoying every single second, getting into the groove and feeling the collective energy of “just another average New York moment.”
Suddenly Hila, out of nowhere, with ease gets into a forearm headstand position and starts rapping upside down, with the mic held close to the floor.
Like whaaat! Multitasking Millennial Free flowing Firecracker of Expression Badass Gangsta Rapper! Who are you??
The L train pulled up before I could acknowledge my respect and love for her art.
Flash forward to sometime last week. I’m walking into Bizarre Bar in Bushwick at Brooklyn Wildlife’s “Where the Wild Things Are” event and I take a look on stage and recognize the voices of the dynamic duo, at it again, with the same signature headstand position to confirm. I dance and sing out to the fun and silly lyrics to Body Hair! Check out their video here.
At the end of the night, I went up to Hila, inspired and gifted her with the band Expansion. Regardless of whether that is her Top 5 or not, she certainly presented this value to me and I suspect for many other creators out there. I acknowledge her for her capacity to expand beyond boundaries of performance art, expression, and delivery with an awesome message to spread. #madrespect
We share a hug and she gifts me a felt heart! And throughout the next few days that I spend in Brooklyn, I’m seeing more and more of these hearts on other people and I learn how interconnected we all are through the Heartfelt Revolution.
reMINDme bands shares the same mission of connecting to strangers to spread love and joy. And so naturally, as two creators doer’s do, we make plans to get together for an interview and here it is!
The 5 Values of Hila the Killa, artist, performer, heart spreader, creator, and lovely human being!
MAY 16 @ Kave Espresso Bar (Bushwick, Brooklyn)
T: GIRLLLLL. My first question. Who are you?
H: I’m Hila or Hila the Killa. I’m an artist, performer, creator. I just like to make things, physical things. I also like to express ideas. The physical things I like to make are very practical. I like to sew or cut hearts. I’m very crafty. The ideas I like to express come out in performance and are often about spreading messages about self love, acceptance, and sex positivity.
T: Tell me more about the hearts.
H: The hearts were birthed through this collective that me and my friend Tate were trying to bring about. We wanted to create an organization that sustained on gifting- gifting energy, time, resources.
On Feb 12th 2015, We threw a valentine’s day themed party. I wanted to decorate this dress. So simplest thing I thought to do is to cut hearts out of felt and pin them to my dress. Tate saw me and was like “Omg you're going to hand out all those hearts in the party! That’s so smart!”
I thought “Wow, that is smart. That’s what I'm going to do!” That night we handed out all these hearts and it just like grew from there. I don’t really take credit for how it became a thing in my life, it just did and the outcome has been pretty amazing.
Basically, I give a heart whenever I have an interaction with somebody, especially when it’s an interaction that would otherwise be muted by a transaction or a societal role dictating how we behave with each other. If i’m at the doctors or getting coffee, or riding the bus, these little interactions we have with people- the doctor, the driver, the barista are missed opportunities to connect with a stranger or human being.
Because we are so used to following a structure of how we are used to behave when people serve you, I try to break that through the gifting of hearts. The hearts are to show that “You are not this role. You are a human being, I want to connect with you on that level. I want to know your name, i want to see you smile.”
And there are great surprises. Sometimes people reject them for whatever reason and sometimes it really warms people. A really dry situation will turn into a really emotionally charged one in a positive way. That person will smile or like say “omgosh wow.”
It’s just a reaction that i wouldn't have had the pleasure of receiving and seeing if I hadn’t given the heart to them.
T: What does the heart represent to you?
H: People ask me all the time. They ask “what is it?” I’d say “It’s a heart.”
DUH. “Okay, but what does it represent? What does it mean?”
For me it’s a symbol of love, and yeah my first value is definitely LOVE.
I feel like we all intuitively understand what love is. Unconditional caring, appreciation, acceptance. Bound into this thing we call love which is immaculate power. It’s definitely something I strive to hold onto and spread
T: Spreading love one heart at a time. So when you are rooted by LOVE as number 1, what else would you say is a value of what you do and how you represent yourself?
To connect it to love, if I was just one love explosion- like how a firework appears in the sky and is gone, I don’t think I would make the same impact. What I really strive for is sustainability. How long can I keep this fire burning? How can I be resourceful and efficient so I can keep spreading hearts, spreading love, and also take care of the planet, rejuvenate the gifts that were given from the Earth, and take care of the Earth?
It comes across in a lot of different ways I guess. Not like my life is super sustainable or the way that I live- I’m not off the grid or grow my own food, I wish i did- I’m not quite there yet, but I practice Zero Waste lifestyle. Which is also a big thing that I'm campaigning for right now. I live this way to lead by example. And I also talk a lot about it. I'm starting to document all my adventures living this way, and what it means, the pitfalls that come across, where I let go and where I actually keep very vigilant.
T: Can you share more about Zero Waste?
(As Hila is talking, she’s pulling out all of her stuff from her backpack. Show and Tell!)
H: Zero Waste is sort of a corporate term actually, it’s been re-appropriated by environmentalists that work on lifestyle changes. Basically, you won’t see me walking around or having a day out without my backpack. Backpacks make it so that I don't have to take a plastic bag from a place.
In this backpack, I’ll always have my jar of water. I've broken one jar before this jar, but this jar has been chilling for awhile. This jar has water in it, if i need something else in a pinch, if I'm hungry and want to buy take out food, then I can also use this jar for that.
I never buy plastic water bottles. I haven’t bought packaged food in months. I also carry another cup with me. Because some places don't let you bring glass. And I fill it with water, if I go to a party and I want to drink wine, I put wine in here. Also when I go to friend’s houses, I use my own cup. It gives me more incentive to wash it and leave no trace.
I also have this utensils bag. If I eat food out in the world, I don't need a plastic thing. I have a wooden spork. spoons for soup…chopsticks.
You go to any Japanese restaurant and they'll give you one time use chopsticks and they come with that paper. That’s all waste, those are only meant to be used once and it’s also reflected in their quality. I avoid plastic with a passion, I'm more lenient on paper, metal and glass.
If it’s meant to be trash, I’ll avoid it.
And the last thing is a napkin. So if I go to a restaurant and they give me paper napkins, to be used once, I’ll push the napkin to the edge of the table and hopefully they won’t throw them away or they’ll use it for the next person.
I have my own napkin, and it’s also great if I get a sandwich at a deli, I’ll ask them to put a sandwich in my napkin so I avoid the paper wrapping. No trip to the garbage can,
This is just a tin. Later we’ll go to the food co-op and I’ll show you how I fill it.
I have all these produce bags, paper bags I've been reusing. More napkins to wrap herbs in, things that are loose and veggie that you don't want just thrown in the bag.
And I try to bring food from home, so that way I eat healthy and eat locally. I shop at farmers market. I only buy things without packaging, basically the produce aisle, and if there’s any bulk food options at the grocery store, I can refill my containers, that’s all. No potato chips or anything
When it comes to home cleaning and hygiene, it’s a whole other thing too. I really simplified. I don't buy shampoo or conditioner, or soap in plastic. I source my cleaning products either in bulk or I’ll make it. I like baking soda toothpaste, I have a wooden toothbrush instead of the plastic one. I don't shave so I don't have disposable razors. But one could get a safety razor and use coconut oil if they did want to shave.
That’s really it. My cleaning regimen has simplified to the point that I don't think about it at all.
T: How did you transition into this Zero Waste lifestyle?
H: It’s been a transition. I reached a point now where I’m pretty comfortable in the systems I have, so it’s time to take it up a notch. I guess it started at Burning Man. Prior to Burning Man, I had no concept about Leave No Trace, Zero Waste, trash. I just didn't think about it. I remember prepping for my first burn, buying everything on Amazon. Ziplock bags, baby wipes, just tons of stuff. And on the website they say leave the packaging at home.
There’s a certain strange thing about Burning Man. As it strives to be more sustainable, there is still a big gap between the values it preaches (i.e. leave no trace) and all the energy it takes, and the waste it produces to prepare for the event. Applying leave no trace principles on the earth is where zero waste plays a role. Maybe you’re not bringing your trash to the burn, but if it’s at home waiting to be dealt with, it’s still making an impact on the earth.
So it started there and upon coming back from my first burn, I did start carrying a vessel for my water. I did that because it was easy and fun, I had more water on me. I didn't think about it in terms of Zero Waste, I just thought about it in terms of convenience.
And then I met my friend Reni Lane who has this blog Zero Waste Rockstar (zerowasterockstar.com) that I’m going to start contributing to. And she has been doing it in a more strict way. I was looking at her blog and thinking that I need to make this change now. I need to go full in. I'm not going to accept any more plastics or packaging. I'm going to start with my food. It started with me vowing to only buy things at the Farmer’s Market, which was really difficult,
But even at the Farmer’s Market, there are always plastic bags. So then it evolved from only buying things at the Farmer’s Market, to always bringing my own bags too. Every day was a new thing.
T: So Sustainability plays a huge role in your life. I’m amazed by all the little details you notice and so many different ways we can all start driving change through small to large actions. You’re obviously super passionate about it.
H: I’m passionate about it because there’s so much mindlessness. So it’s like I'm bringing awareness to plastic, because plastic is this thing we made. What we throw away defines us. How we move about this world and what we decide to take responsibility for, and what we decide to not to take responsibility for.
I think a lot of people, me included, have been going through life saying “I want change, I want people to respect each other, I want to see racism abolished” and getting angry with the government and the media, but not looking internally in the way that I operate in this world, and the way that I support businesses with my time and my money.
And so Zero Waste and trash mindfulness, it’s a way to hone in on every activity that you do as a human being in this planet and really being accountable for yourself.
On top of what is birthed from this, since I've gotten comfortable carrying my own things and not creating trash, I’m also logging all my expenses. Every time I buy something, I log it down on a piece of paper and on Friday’s I record it in an excel sheet, just to keep track of all my purchases.
T: There’s an accountability and responsibility for all the things you are doing. Awesome. So would you say that is your third value?
H: Yes, ACCOUNTABILITY
Sustainability and accountability tie together, especially when it comes to zero waste.
“Do i need it?” “Do we need it?” it’s really examining what you need and maybe deciding that I don't need so much, and trying to make my life richer by having less, needing less.
Also it frees’ up so much time. If you're not shopping for clothes, or food, or taking out the trash, so much time gets freed up to do other things. To be outside.
T: Accountability in this way is examining what you need, what you don’t need. And staying responsible for your impact.
H: Yes, being responsible for your impact, your actions, your moves, the thing you decide to do or say or not say. That’s very important to me especially as a performer and writer, choosing my words and ideas I want to express and making sure I’m not judging other people, or placing blame on other people. Constantly returning to the point of inner reflection. Introspection
T: Inner reflection and awareness, introspection. Reminding yourself of your values. I know that one.
So the last two values, I want you to consider the impact of what you do. You said you are a performer and you’re taking in Love, Responsibility, Accountability, Sustainability, all of that. How do you share all of that through your performance?
H: Totally. We have this song called Plastic Man. It’s an examination of plastic. My verse is about refusing plastic, reusing other kinds of materials and reducing consumption. In terms of bringing awareness to plastic, I hope that someone will listen to the song and notice all the plastic around them.
There’s another song I just wrote “Bring your Own Cup.” It’s like a fresh prince style rap song that tries to make reusables stylish.
I want that to be really fun for the kids, something that will make having your own cup really cool. But yeah I think freedom of expression is definitely an important value for me. Freedom of expression is to express yourself with your voice and your body, the way you exert energy. I don’t think anybody should be bound in their expression. Fun and playfulness too.
T: For sure, you are using an element of play in your expression and in your art. So Play in Expression is your 4th!
H: Yeah. Keeping it fun and playful, enjoyable. Life is hard. There’s a lot of work and a lot of healing. So I want to keep it fun and enjoyable.
T: How do you do that?
H: It’s hard sometimes.
For me, I try to practice gratitude and remind myself of the things I'm very grateful for in my life. And remind myself that its just a game, nothing really matters. Sometimes that could be depressing, like “ugh nothing matters” but for me it’s that “hey, this moment is fleeting” “oh i made a fool of myself in this situation. Okay, it’s over.” Looking forwards to the future also really helps me and staying really present, breathing and meditating if I'm really upset.
Otherwise, I can access playfulness and joy effortlessly. Sometimes it’s hard.
T: Thank you for acknowledging that. I know when you are on stage, there is often this persona “that my life is full of fun and play” but getting to know you now and feeling this rich depth, it’s really nourishing to feel that you too, also fall into deep spouts of life. It’s the “life is hard, so how can we get back to finding joy in every moment” game.
H: Yeah, also being in a relationship in collaboration is really intense. It really reflects and brings up a lot of shit. Sometimes it’s hard to be alone, but sometimes being alone is really freeing.
These last two years, I've been hitting open mics, making performance at the top of my priority list. This last year was when I started collaborating with Sir Kn8 and really upping my rapping game.
T: Yeah, so we’ve got standup, freestyle, rap, spoken word poetry, music, storytelling, headstands, and dance. All of these different forms of Expression incorporate Play into the meaningful messages you have to give about Love, Sustainability, and Accountability.
So with all of that said, I want you to think about the value you aspire to have. The glue that holds it all together.
H: PATIENCE is the thing that comes up for me. In terms of something I value and what I strive for.
Patience not to expect things to change the way you want to change right away. Not stressing out about how much time things take, truly. And also remembering that time is all there is. Being patient is an acknowledgement of the endless sort of vastness of time.
I just think that would be the glue.
T: That’s hot. I’m oftentimes whacked with the “I’m not there yet” voice. I love that you said that. Back to the basics.
H: It’s so important for me, because partially the way our society is constructed is to value certain things like success, fame and money, especially at a young age. So oftentimes, I will reflect upon where I am at in relationship to those societal values and I’ll be like “I’m not making money on my hearts. Maybe I should just stop” or“oh I'm not there yet” “I haven't made it” but at the same time if I choose to, I can also remember that it’s not about that at all and if I love to do it, I should just keep doing it. If I get good feedback, I should keep doing it. I'm not waiting for anything. It’s not about reaching any destination, it’s about the journey being the most fulfilling it can be. Every step is fulfilling for any reason.
And the truth is, I don’t care about being famous in the conventional sense of being famous. I feel like the celebrity person is this person that is above us and that needs to be respected and like not looked at straight in the eye, I don't want that, I'm not looking for that. I'm not trying to be above anyone else, I want people to feel empowered to come up to me and say “Whats up?” That they respect the work I do and feel free to speak what they do. I want friends and collaborators.
T: Ha! Funny you say that. That’s exactly what happened and how we are here meeting up today isn’t it? I love it. Synchronicity in all the right places.
So I’m thinking about your LOVE, SUSTAINABILITY, ACCOUNTABILITY, PLAYFUL EXPRESSION, PATIENCE and how they all relate to your renegade mission to spread love and kill hate in this world? Would it be possible for us to create a few sentences for your Values Statement to tie everything together?
Together we co-created the following Value Statement for Hila the Killa
I want to be more accountable for myself first and live sustainably so that I can retain energy for the long haul and spread love through playful expression. Any big change on the global level requires patience and lifestyle changes and also patience for myself and others in the world.
Beautifully stated. We wrap up the interview with a Facebook Live sharing our experience. I beatbox “Boots and Cats” while Hila raps about her 5 values and about Zero Waste.
It was AMAZING!
Hila also takes me to the Bushwick Food Co-op shop right next door. I see her pull out her own brown paper bags from her backpack and buy almonds and granola by the bulk. I notice for the first time that the store also has soap in bulk that you can refill in your own container. It’s as if my eyes had opened up to a new way of seeing and being.
As for myself, I made it my own challenge of bringing my own brown paper bags with me, and to not take any store napkins or buy any water bottles. Let’s start there. Small steps.
Consider how you do anything is how you do everything. That each action you have, no matter how big or small, can create impact. Also consider how we all have a unique voice to share what matters the most to us.
How Hila repps her style and carries on her Heartfelt Revolution is representative of her unique blueprint and the message she’s passionate to carry out in the world. It’s been fun witnessing and am super curious to see what’s ahead in her journey.
LIVE YOUR PURPOSE
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