*Judith Hill is making a statement, bringing consciousness, poetry and strength to the listening public with her album, “Baby I’m Hollywood,” due for release March 5th with the title single of the same name released on Friday, January 22, 2021.
“I’ve personified Hollywood as like a woman and survivor that has seen peaks and valleys,” said Judith Hill. “The whole record has this theme that travels throughout the record- of basically owning my identity as an artist that was born in North Hollywood and learning how to really be a survivor in the midst of different hardships and seeing people kind of come in and out of your life and it feeling very transient.”
“Baby I’m Hollywood” chronicles much of the life that many artists and musicians experience in Hollywood, a town that can be quite unkind at times.
“The record really has a lot of emotional peaks, whether it’s like deep sorrow or celebration, but really it’s that journey of my life and Hollywood being a symbol of that world,” she said.
With much of the political climate and turmoil of present-day as tools for her sensational arsenal of lyricism, Judith Hill’s music has immediate appeal. When asked about the social consciousness of today’s artists, she had a thoughtful response.
“I feel that music has always been at the forefront of culture, speaking truth in documenting what’s happening in society and it’s important for artists to be that mouthpiece,” said Judith Hill, who also was a finalist on the popular TV show, “The Voice.” “Artists should speak honestly about what’s going on.”
And indeed, the bi-racial artist, of Black and Asian descent, has worked with many of the most socially conscious artists of recent music history, having worked with the ultimate greats of pop music, including Michael Jackson, George Benson and Prince, who mentored the talented artist, co-producing Hill’s debut effort, “Back in Time.” She’s also worked with film legend Spike Lee, recording 11 songs for Spike Lee’s movie, “Red Hook Summer” and toured with Stevie Wonder, Elton John and Ringo Starr. Additionally, she was an official tour opener for John Legend and Josh Groban.
Judith Hill always had music in her life. Her parents, Michiko Hill, a pianist from Tokyo and Robert Lee “Pee Wee” Hill, both musicians, would always have jam sessions in their garage. Her biggest influence, she said, was Rose Stone, sister of Sly Stone of the iconic musical ensemble “Sly and the Family Stone,” considered rock and roll royalty.
“She was like a second mom to me when I was growing up,” said Judith. “I would go to her house every week and listen to them rehearse the choir stuff. She comes from rock and roll royalty. So that whole experience is really what inspired me. Tata Vega, Rose Stone- those are people that really inspired me as a young kid. I was always like a sponge soaking up all that energy.”
Growing up as a bi-racial daughter of Asian and Black parents, Judith Hill felt the requisite challenges of identity and fitting in.
“I grew up, going to an all-White evangelical Christian school,” reflecting on trials of growing up bi-racial. “It was hard being a bi-racial chick in that environment. I would say that I more identified being a Black woman. I was surrounded more with my Dad’s family, I didn’t get to see my mom’s family as much and she used to speak Japanese to me when I was really young, so I was bi-lingual, but then she stopped speaking to me so I lost the language and I wasn’t able to speak it anymore.” Fortunately, later in life, Judith was able to connect with the other important side of her family. “I did reconnect with my Asian roots and that’s been awesome,” she said. “But it’s hard when you’re two things because sometimes you feel like you want to be a whole of one thing in order to be a part of the tribe, but I think more and more we see mixed races and the world is becoming more that way.”
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She also listened, as a teenager, to Lauryn Hill, Aretha Franklin and several gospel artists, including The Clark Sisters and Vanessa Bell Armstrong. The versatile artist also rounded out her considerable vocal chops by listening to jazz artists, such as Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holliday. She began, as most singers, by singing for small events, bars and clubs, but it wasn’t until she worked with Spike Lee, on the movie “Red Hook Summer,” that she had her first showcase.
“He put together a big showcase for me at the Key Club,” she reflected. “It was my first kind of coming out artist show and we really did it up and that was special. It was a coming-of-age moment where I knew that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
Sometimes hard work performance and working on your craft pays off. She was performing for a club one evening and a fellow musician made a life-changing suggestion to her. “Why don’t you try to audition for Michael Jackson’s up and coming tour, they’re looking for a background singer,” she said a matter of factly of working on the “This Is It” Michael Jackson tour.
“Long story short, I auditioned, it was a very small audition and I ended up getting the gig. It was incredibly life-changing. Michael is a very magical, once in a century type of human being that lands on this planet and his energy was so electrifying. It was my first time seeing how music has the power to transcend, heal and inspire and create magic on stage and that’s what he did.” She sang a duet with Michael Jackson on the ballad, “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,” of Michael Jackson’s posthumously released film “This Is It,” and sang a version of “Heal the World,” at Michael Jackson’s public memorial service.
Not too many artists have the opportunity of working with one pop icon. Judith Hill worked with many of them, including Prince. That opportunity came as a result of an interview.
“Somebody asked me a very random question in an interview, who would be your dream collaborator?” she laughed. “I said ‘oh it would be awesome to work with Prince, not thinking it would ever come true.” Apparently, Prince saw the interview and reached out to her. “He was interested in working with me,” she said. “He had never saw me from working with Michael, or from ‘The Voice’ he just saw that interview. We talked on the phone about how exciting funk and music from the 70s is, and how much of a disciple of funk music I am.” Prince invited Judith to Paisley Park, worked on some music with her and Prince gave her some music to her ears. “He was really excited and said ‘hey, I would love to produce your album,” she laughed. “But it really came from that interview that I thought no one was paying attention to.”
She also had the fortune to be on tour with Ringo Starr, of the mega iconic group “The Beatles,” and pop legend Elton John.
“Ringo is really one of the most easy-going, nicest people you can hang with,” Judith explained. “He’s amazingly fun and jolly. A really great spirit. I was really laughing a lot of the time. He was so funny.” And Elton John? ” He was a really intelligent and thoughtful human being,” she said. ” I really enjoyed my time working with him as well.”
Baby I’m Hollywood
Judith Hill’s project is a social statement on Hollywood; however, the immensely creative artist is also sensitive. On her project “Baby I’m Hollywood,” lyrically, she uses a metaphor, a theme, using Hollywood as a fictitious character, sympathizing with how Hollywood feels, with the transitory nature of the people that come to see her then leave. “Everyone’s expecting so much from her, you know,” she reflected. “Everyone wants something from her, a piece of her, they need her to make their life. So, I’m giving her a voice and taking the perspective of ‘well what would she have to say about all this? They put the red carpets on her, they put the fancy dress on her and the show must always go on. You see loss and tragedy and the show always goes on. I think that’s part of being a public servant and an artist, you bring all that story into the music and does inspire people.”
But how political is her album and what is she trying to say on one of the album’s signature album songs, “Americana?”
“Well, it’s a political statement just to say, I’m a Black woman, just to declare who you are in America,” explained the lyricist/songwriter. “America wants us to assimilate into something more homogenous and something that doesn’t really declare something. That’s why I wrote that song ‘Americana,’ it’s really showing the different sides of identity of women- as a Black woman and an Asian woman.”
And what does that mean? Does that have a place in America? Are you considered American or are you considered as ‘others?’ Judith’s “Americana’s” lyrics has a strong, dual message.
“’Americana’ not only talks about identity but how capitalism has played a role in racism in America and how this idea of ‘get your piece of the gold’ and have it ‘first-come, first-serve’ and colonization has really caused this whole situation and so that song touches on both of those things.”
Being a native of Los Angeles, Judith Hill often hears a lot of critics that bash her town and her city.
“It’s interesting, because as a local, LA always gets kind of a bad rap,” she laughed. “You know, when somebody says, ‘she’s so Hollywood,’ that’s usually not a compliment- Hollywood being a very pretentious place at times and many times it’s the place of broken dreams.”
Judith has seen many of the broken dreams first hand. Hollywood is littered with many transients, in a sea of broken dreams and promises.
“It’s a transient thing,” she lamented. “I would see people come and go, because it wasn’t stable, okay you make friends and then the next day, they might move back home. And then there’s a new flux of friends that come, so I always felt like there were so many chapters of my life as a local.”
“It’s not like a small-town vibe where’s it’s like, the same people you grew up with are the same people you’re going to see when you’re like 40-50 and we all know each other. There’s still a sense of community but it’s harder to have a sense of community.”
Feeling a sense of community can be difficult for a lot of artists, but because Hollywood can be so transitory and Judith Hill is often on the road, much of the time some of her newly-made friends have left town by the time she’s returned.
“Everything is so transient,” she admitted. But the talented artist wouldn’t leave Hollywood and Los Angeles for the world. “At the end of the day, it feels like an Ellis Island of Creative,” she laughed. “For me it’s where my parents are, where my whole family is and it’s where the music- all of the incredible chapters of my life of music- all have come from this city.”
Judith Hill has been in incredible demand. Recently she performed for the NBA (National Basketball Association’s) NBA 2020 Draft and performed her song “Thank You,” for the audience.
“It was cool because at the time they wanted to do a campaign centered around faithfulness, thanking your mentors and thanking people that believed in you when you were growing up,” she said of performing her song. “It was really special to be a part of that.”
The dynamic and social conscious megastar also recently assisted in the political realm, performing at the “Georgia Comes Alive” Festival in conjunction with Headcount, to get out the vote in Georgia for the Georgia Senate races.
“It was really important to be a part of that and was really honored to be a part of that,” said the singer and composer. “I’m so proud of everyone that went out and voted. I feel the message was really pushed this time and people understood how really important it was for their voice to be heard and participate in voting, especially after everything we’ve gone through. It was a time where the artist community and all the communities came together to change what was going on and I feel that message was successful and I’m really happy I was part of that in a small way and the future is hopeful because we’re coming more proactive and understand in order to change the system, we have to do our part. It worked out.”
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She’s also worked with Target, and you can hear her vocals on “Here Comes The End” by My Chemical Romance front man Gerard Way for the trailer of the Netflix series “Umbrella Academy.” Additionally, she had several breakout performances of David Bowie’s “Lady Stardust,” and “Under Pressure” for “A David Bowie Celebration: Just for One Day.”
The socially committed artist, who also is releasing a single, “God Bless the Mechanic,” intends to use her music as a tapestry for social change.
“I’m always 100 percent passionate about social justice, equality and also unity,” she said. “I will always work on trying to pursue that. And trying to heal us, particularly America right now. Music does heal. Music has a way of speaking to people that words can often get in the way. I think as an artist, I have a responsibility to use my music to spread truth and bring unity and really speak to the issues of that are going on right now.”
“I’ve always had the opportunity and blessings to work with lots of people and make music here,” said the mega-talented when asked about her love for Los Angeles, Hollywood and North Hollywood. “And I love the sun. I love being out in the sun. I do consider it home.”
Indeed, Judith Hill, a mega-talented and socially conscious artist will have the sun shining on her success for years to come.
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“Baby, I’m Hollywood” album will release on March 5. Album link here.