As you may already know, HorrorGeekLife has been anxiously awaiting the release of Rooster Teeth Games’ upcoming Battlesloths 2025: The Great Pizza Wars. The developers behind the game teamed up with several talented rappers for their awesome trailer, which you can watch below. One of those rappers is Mikal kHill, who is well-known in the nerdcore scene.
After hearing more of Mikal kHill’s music, which led to a bit of an addiction, I was excited to talk to him about his career, Battlesloths 2025, his performance at SXSW next month and upcoming projects!
HorrorGeekLife: Thank you for taking the time to talk with me! Can you tell us a bit about yourself, including when you started rapping as Mikal kHill?
Mikal kHill: I started doing music when I was a child. I’ve been putting out cassettes since high school, which, for me, was the 90’s. I’ve done a lot of different types of music over the years. I’m probably best known for hip-hop music, but I also do folk and punk.
I’ve done some instrumental stuff here and there, and I’m in a handful of other projects and groups. I’m all over the place, but I’m best known as Mikal kHill.
HorrorGeekLife: When I first heard your Mikal kHill stuff and saw your picture, I didn’t believe it. I had to watch a video to really grasp that was you. If someone saw you walking down the street, I can’t imagine they would guess you’re a rapper!
Mikal kHill: It’s funny because I’ve been doing shows for a really long time and I used to use that to my advantage. Even now I rap in a tie usually and I play an acoustic guitar while I rap, so I’ve always played up how nerdy I look. Once I start rapping, it catches the audience off-guard with something they’ve never seen before.
It’s always been my thing, and then we got absorbed into nerdcore, which we didn’t really know existed. There was a period of time when other people in nerdcore wore ties, so I didn’t look different anymore. I was worried people would think I’m trying to rip off other artists in that scene. There were several years where I stopped wearing a tie and shaved my head. But now I’m just too old to give a shit, so now I just do whatever I want. I’m back to “dad mode” and I grew my hair out and play up how much of a nerd I am. I don’t care. (laughs)
HorrorGeekLife: Just in case someone isn’t as familiar, can you describe what nerdcore is?
Mikal kHill: The best description I’ve ever heard anyone give is what MC Frontalot said, “Nerdcore is just like regular rap, you just don’t have to be cool while you’re doing it.” When people hear about nerdcore, they assume that you’re doing stuff that’s video games, but that’s not what it is for me. Nerdcore is more of a scene than it is a style. It’s not restrained to a genre, because we’re all hip-hop, but if we weren’t in nerdcore, we’d be considered very different things.
The best people I’ve encountered in nerdcore already did rap, and then what they were doing just fit into what nerdocre is. The scene notices you and accepts you. Like I said, we’ve been doing it for a long time before anyone started calling us nerdcore. But we did a show with MC Frontalot and people called us nerdcore and we had fans.
HorrorGeekLife: So, I have to ask…do you freestyle?
Mikal kHill: I do not really freestyle. I freestyle when I have to, like if I forget my lyrics in the middle of the song I’ll freestyle my way out. It actually used to be a really big part of our show. We used to do a cover of Wu Tang Clan’s “Ain’t Nothin’ Ta Fuck Wit” and we would have rappers come up and freestyle and we’d freestyle ourselves.
Now, I think part of it is my age because I understand the place of freestyling and the importance of it in the culture, but I don’t really enjoy hearing people freestyle. It’s like really long guitar solos, where I’d rather hear them do songs. I don’t want to hear you solo for twenty minutes. Not that it’s bad, it’s just not necessarily what I want to hear.
But, I don’t freestyle on stage unless I have to, or if someone I’m friends with sees me at a show and has me jump up and do something for 16 bars, then I’ll do it. I can do it and it’s something we do all the time in rehearsal, it’s a good way to practice, but, personally, I just want to do my songs.
HorrorGeekLife: I totally get that. As you know, we’ve covered quite a bit about Rooster Teeth’s upcoming game release, Battlesloths 2025: The Great Pizza Wars. How did you get involved with it?
Mikal kHill: I started going to game developer meetups in Raleigh with my friend, Randy Greenback, who, as you know, has done a ton of games and is an industry legend. He was a fan of my music and found out about me through Sole, who is one of my biggest influences.
I met Phillip (Johnson) at one of the meetups and, at the time, I had done one song for a game previously – Saturday Morning RPG. They paid me for it, but I don’t know if it ever got patched into the game credits. (laughs) Phillip told Randy he’d like to hear some of my music and maybe we could do something for Battlesloths.
He told me about the concept and, honestly, when he told me about sloths flying around on hoverboards, killing each other for slices of pizza, I thought it sounded fucking ridiculous. But, sure…I’ll try it. I didn’t expect to like it, and this was the earliest possible build, so it was nowhere near as polished as it is now, but I was blown away by it. I was super impressed and we played that shit for hours.
At the end of the night, he asked if I’d be interested in doing a song for it and I said yeah, and I can get a decent lineup of rappers for it. I sent a few people I knew videos of the gameplay, the demo build of the game and the concept and asked if they’d be interested in rapping on this. Everybody was super stoked. The rappers who are on it are Adam WarRock, Sulfur, Ceschi, Jesse Dangerously and MegaRan.
It took forever to get a beat together that Phillip liked, I did like 100 beats and he kept shooting them down. I’d freestyle on the beats and he would just shoot them down. (laughs) So, I started sending him freestyles of stupid things and I think the last beat that ended up being the song was about Altoids. I should release the Altoid mix.
But, he heard that and liked it, so I sent to everybody. Ceschi’s part is absolutely ridiculous as he raps in a cartoon voice. It’s so different from what people are used to hearing from him. That made it extra awesome.
Phillip has been really cool to us and it’s great when we can go to stuff, like MAGFest, and he’s there, we go play the game with people after we perform.
HorrorGeekLife: We are definitely excited for the game and it’s great knowing how everything came about. Do you want to continue working with game companies?
Mikal kHill: Yeah, that is definitely a thing I’d like to do. There’s another game of Randy’s that I’d like to work on, so I’m hoping that pans out. I don’t just want to work on games, but indie short films too. I love doing ambient score stuff.
It’s weird for me because I’ve always considered myself more of a songwriter, but I became known as a producer through different projects of mine over the years. It seems like a natural thing for me at this point. As I get older, I’m less driven to write lyrics, but my instrumental output has never slowed down. I’m constantly creating and making new stuff. There’s only so many times you can rap about how sad you are.
HorrorGeekLife: Hopefully we see you on more indie projects soon, then. Speaking of, are there any projects or shows coming up?
Mikal kHill: There are multiple projects that are pending, I’m constantly writing and recording. I have a project with Tribe One, a rapper from Atlanta, called Two Weeks Notice. We’re working on our follow up record now. We started a project called Nightmare Planet, which is a punk band with some rap elements in it. It’s basically me singing, we rap some and my live band is the band in it.
I have ThoughtCriminals with Sulfur. I’ve been working on an album of folk stuff for a long time, but I haven’t released it because there hasn’t been a right time. When I started, I was doing mostly folk stuff, but once I started doing more hip-hop stuff, people latched onto that more and they’ve responded to it the most, so it became the focus by default.
I’m performing my main act, Mikal kHill, at SXSW, along with some ThoughtCriminals stuff because Sulfur actually plays bass for me. I’ll have my whole band there, along with Randy as my DJ. We’ll be playing at the Karma Lounge on March 18th. It sold out one year, so I definitely recommend getting there early. It’ll be a good show.
HorrorGeekLife: You’re definitely staying busy! Again, I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me. I’m looking forward to what you have coming next!
Check out Mikal kHill: