Billy Conahan: The Renaissance
By Ilija Sekulovski
Billy got his start as a stand-up comedian, but going to public school in New York City quickly exposed him to the world of rap. “It was a conversation piece, and all of the sudden the simple rhymes I was writing progressed. After doing comedy for 5 or 6 years, this was something completely new. I took it to the stage and the response was amazing.”
It all started with the Occupy Wall Street movement. Billy says he realized he had something to say, and that rap was the way to say it. He decided to be a rapper that didn’t just rap nonsensically, but one with a purpose – with something to say. Intertwining his lyrics with unprecedented diction, he found a way to express his views and ideas against a backdrop of beats. “I wrote with an agenda,” he says, “You see things and you think to yourself, ‘that doesn’t make sense,’ and you want to speak about it.” But don’t think it’s all too serious – Billy makes it a point to keep listeners laughing with relatable song lyrics. He also says a lot of his imagery comes from Astoria, “it’s my home – I’ve lived here for 22 years, and I’m inspired by it.”
Since starting, he’s graced stages all over Astoria, Brooklyn and Manhattan with his energy and enthusiasm, shifting flawlessly between tongue-twisting rap and calm, quiet, guitar accented vocals. He’s played countless shows at the Waltz-Astoria, his first home stage, who’s owners Song and Pedro Gonzalez are his managers. Pedro affectionately dubbed Billy Conahan, and there’s not a single show he plays at the Waltz that isn’t prefaced with Pedro’s booming voice declaring, “The Renaissance himself – Billy Conahan!” After gaining an audience in Astoria, Billy has gone on to play huge arenas like Sullivan Hall and the Highline Ballroom.
Billy performing at the Highline Ballroom
His first song “On a New York Morning,” came to life in collaboration with Drew Baron Roland (Red Clay). It was welcomed by listeners with open arms, and Billy quickly got to work on his first mixtape – “EPISODE 1.” Not even a year later came the release of his second mixtape, “Episode II: S.M.O.K.E.” Both mixtapes are completely free and available online at BillyConahan.com and on his Bandcamp. He’s also aiming for a summer release date of his next mixtape, “Episode 3.’
Most recently, Billy forayed into the acting world. In Milk and Honey, which just premiered at The Art of Brooklyn Film Festival, Billy acts as the rich, oblivious lover of Maya, played by Yainis Ynoa. The tells of the pairs plans to run away from Maya’s foster home on her birthday, and her abusive brother Johnny, played by Joshua Rivera. Billy says director Daniel Pfeffer approached him at the premier of his previous film, Babygirl, and said he had the “look,” for his film. “I don’t act – but I gave it a shot. After a few auditions I got the part, and it took off from there.”
Billy is a phenomenal rapper with astonishing stage presence. If you haven’t caught a show of his yet, you absolutely should – you’ll be blown away.