The refrain of Toronto rappers Justin Trash and killVill’s latest banger speaks for itself. It encapsulates the swagger that comes with showing up to an event hours late while buzzed off a dreadful mix of Ace Hill and Hennessey. “Ninety percent of the time we’re chilling, we’re fucked up…,” laughs Justin. “When we’re fucked up together, we’ll wait till the other guy’s stopped talking then we’ll talk about something else. When I noticed it, I was so heartbroken.”
They’re no strangers to downtown Toronto’s rap scene, but neither of them are originally from the city. Justin was born in Ontario, but he grew up in California where he was caught selling ecstasy by his friend’s parents at age fifteen. They threatened to turn him into the cops unless he left the country, so he chose to return to Canada instead of his family’s motherland Korea — eventually landing in Whitby, ON or “Whiteby” as he calls it. “I was the only fuckin’ Asian kid in the whole town, and they made sure I knew that,” proclaims Justin.” Vill also hails from Whitby before he’d head to Scarborough.
The pair met through a mutual friend at Fanshawe College in London Ontario, where Justin was studying general arts and Vill was registered but never attended. Justin touches on his school stint on “IFELLINLOVEWITHTHE₩” (“fuck going to college you do this instead”) and he tells us he never went to class. When Justin moved to Toronto, he became “best friends with a lot of hatred involved” with Vill and his ACV duo partner MosPants. “I actually met Mos and Ryan [Vill] first, so my niche joke is calling them OBB like the Original Boyband,” he shares in reference to his Uptown Boyband (UBB) collective made up of himself, roclee, and Joe Rascal.
Justin and Vill have since played countless sets together, including many Secret Service Club gigs as well as career highlights at Lee’s Palace and NXNE this summer. “Having everybody like ACV and UBB on the same stage—that confidence, I can’t even explain it. We’re like Transformers and we just attach to each other and we’re like ‘yo, nobody can touch us’ for the 30 minutes we’re on stage,” recalls Vill. Their crew came together naturally, as their relationships are centered on supporting each other’s dreams in a variety of artistic fields including fashion, film, and tattooing. A hallmark of their shows is the sense of community that doesn’t feel cliquey, even if the artists themselves keep their group tight-knit. “We’re super fuckin’ open to meeting new people, but we mostly keep things in circle and try to build a family mentality,” states Vill.
Both of their stage names stem from preemptive self-deprecation; that is, dragging themselves so no one can drag them first. killVill’s origin story echoes Jekyll and Hyde with “kill” referring to his attempts to kill his ego, and “Vill” being the “ugly and extreme” part of himself where he “get[s] to be rowdy and disgusting and throw everything onto a canvas.” Justin, on the other hand, added “trash” to his middle name because of how he felt while choosing it and because “the genre trap is considered trash so [he] was like, why not be the best out of the trash music?”
In conversation, Justin and Vill are the opposites of their aggressive stage personas. Despite his drug pushing past, Justin insists he isn’t trying to come across as intimidating. “We’re tryna be like ‘anti-k-pop stars’ so we gotta be cute, but our music has to be savage. Have you ever watched Mob Psycho 100? This guy’s very calm, his demeanor is calm until you fuck with him and then he goes Mob Psycho and he goes to a hundred or whatever? That’s like us; we’re calm, we’re tryna be nice to be everybody but like, if you fuck with us we have to be savage.” The artists channel their suppressed anger through their “anti-life” music, which is a therapeutic tool for them - it’s helped Justin get rid of his need for anger management sessions. “Yeah I was super angry too, but now I’m zenned out as fuck,” adds Vill.
“FUCK IT UP” was produced by Curtis Waters, and its music video was directed by Roda Madhat and styled by James Wallace. The visuals align with Madhat’s signature glitchy style, and the cast consists of their main circle (minus Joe Rascal). Justin had already been performing “FUCK IT UP” to a different beat for two years until Vill played him a verse that he immediately decided to add on to the newly produced version. “It kinda makes sense to have [Vill] on [“FUCK IT UP”],” explains Justin. “I’m going back to California and taking him with me so he’s kinda like my weapon. At the end, he comes out like, ‘SHUT UP LITTLE BITCH, I’M YOUR DAD!’”
The track itself ends abruptly in the vein of the lo-fi Soundcloud trap wave. Many of Justin and Vill’s songs follow this structure to draw in the listener then leave them hanging. “I guess that was me experimenting with my version of the trap flow, that early version of it,” says Justin of the lyrics. “I wasn’t really tryna copy anyone either, I was just listening to the original beat and the first line–‘I was only 15’–I was thinking about California, and that’s exactly the age I was. In my mind, I was like, how could all that happen to me? I just went off that.”
Music is a non-stop priority for the guys, and it’s largely a collaborative effort—the pair are releasing a joint mixtape soon. “I try to feed into my friends’ dreams a lot,” says Vill, who is working on projects with MosPants in addition to solo material.““[The Uptown] Boyband album is kinda the biggest thing right now for me, cuz we got hit up by A&R from Sony and Universal so we’re like maybe we’re doing something right. Hopefully, when we drop it it’s gonna be something really big for the boys,” adds Justin. The album is composed of two parts—the “Heartthrob” half is pop-centric, and “Heartbreak” breaks down into trap. It will be the group’s first collective release after playing songs together under their Uptown Boyband title for the past few months.
As for their aspirations outside of music, Justin responds simply: “Tryna stay alive.”
Diyana is on Twitter.