Last month, Phoenix-raised Kacy Hill dropped her newest album, Is It Selfish If We Talk About Me Again?, which marks her formal introduction to the world. I say introduction, rather than reintroduction, because it was released on her terms.
So the story goes: Kanye signed Kacy to his GOOD Music label in 2014 after hearing her debut song “Experience” while on his Yeezus tour, where Kacy was a backup dancer. In the years following, much of the media buzz surrounding Kacy came to fruition because of her connection to Kanye West, with nearly half a dozen media headlines literally referring to her as his “newest protégé.”
But far too many of those articles fixated on her involvement with Kanye West, rather than on Kacy Hill—the artist. While Kacy’s 2017 debut album on GOOD Music, Like A Woman, was an exceptional project in its own right, it’s clear in hindsight that Kacy’s artistic integrity and individuality were stifled. In an interview with Harper’s BAZAAR shortly following its release, Kacy called the process of releasing the album “pretty scary” and said it induced an “insurmountable amount of anxiety.” Not exactly the emotions you would want to associate with an artist’s debut release.
This time around, with Is It Selfish, Kacy Hill is in full possession of her narrative, delivering a personal, subtle body of work that gently pulls the listener into a world of glimmer and sheen. The album was released independently this time around, following Hill’s departure from GOOD Music last year. Most of the album’s promotion came from her social media pages and she was free to collaborate with whoever she wanted, whenever she wanted.
And so, we’re gifted with a profoundly individual, carefully crafted offering from Kacy Hill. Her strongest attribute as an artist has always been her alluring voice that offers no comparisons. That’s what made previous songs like “Arm’s Length” so stellar: take away the song’s instrumentals and it’d be just as enjoyable, if not more so, to listen to her voice in isolation.
But with Is It Selfish If We Talk About Me Again?, Kacy sings over strong production from Jim-E Stack, BJ Burton and Francis Starlite of Francis and the Lights. These three producers are not only Kacy’s chosen collaborators on the majority of the album, but they’re also close friends of hers. This undoubtedly led to a more natural form of artistic expression that sharply contrasts Kacy’s experience at GOOD Music. The production is relatively tight and cohesive, drum-heavy, and successfully enhances—and at times expands—Kacy’s potential as a vocalist.
The album opens with “To Someone Else,” filled with pounding drums that bring to mind Phil Collins, and a subtly satisfying “hm” delivered by Kacy at the end of each stanza. “Much Higher,” the album’s second song, is a great example of everything that’s right about the album. Opening with pulsing synths, the instrumentals are drawn back as Kacy’s voice slowly descends, only to bring the two diametric sounds together in rising unison. The bridge on this song is golden.
Another song, “Everybody’s Mother,” is significant for several reasons. For one, it unfortunately does lay bare Kacy’s lyrical shortcomings as a songwriter. At times, the song’s lyrics feel awkward (“Am I even making sense? / I’m just asking for a friend”) and are so plainly direct that little is left to interpretation. Generally speaking, this isn’t really a big deal: Kacy’s voice and the stellar production allow you to overlook these shortcomings. But whereas this album as a whole should be applauded for its raw, natural creation, some aspects of it—like the art of songwriting—could have benefitted from a bit more refining.
On the other hand, “Everybody’s Mother” is notable because it makes you realize how little of this album is forced. “Everybody’s Mother” is given the appropriate space to breathe, to build. Nothing on Is It Selfish is hurried or unnecessarily rushed—each song is given its due time, allowing for small moments of serenity, ease, and reflection.
“Told Me” is an ethereal night-drive of a song, a chamber of vocal distortions and disparate instrumentation that avoids hitting a crescendo, maintaining its peaceful pace throughout. Later we get to “Palladium,” a grandeur display of gentle emotion. Even then, it’s a muted display of emotion, with Kacy trading in the layered style of past songs, like “Like A Woman,” for soulful simplicity. This is the album’s only song that isn’t produced by some combination of the trio of Jim-E, Francis, or BJ, with Cashmere Cat lending his support.
“Dinner,” the album’s concluding track, was originally released as the lead single (or rather, standalone song at the time) back in 2018. “Dinner” may very well be the most polished song in Kacy’s repertoire. It’s definitive of Kacy as an artist and embodies her essence as a creator. “Dinner’s” puppy-filled music video, directed by Kacy, like many other amazing music videos from this album, does a lot with very little.
Is It Selfish If We Talk About Me Again? is Kacy Hill’s quiet triumph, an album created on her own terms that finds Kacy casting aside others’ expectations of her in exchange for personal liberation. It’s no doubt this album was a labor of love, but the fruits of its labor are that much sweeter, because the result was coaxed out of Kacy by her own mind, rather than demanded of her by peers.
When Kacy first released “Experience,” she told Music Times in 2014 that “the whole process was so organic, and I never want to lose that energy.” Years later, Kacy reminds us – and herself – that the energy was there all along, even if it took some time to rediscover it.
Is It Selfish If We Talk About Me Again? is streaming now.