Dangerous lives-a lot of rappers like to brag about leading them. But Billy Bloodshot faces more danger than most.
"Any day, you could find me dead on the side of the road," says the 29-year-old aspiring MC, who, by day, drives a truck hauling petroleum, which he describes as "riding around with an 80,000-pound bomb on my back."
"Any situation where you know life could be over changes things, but I face it every day," he says. "When you're going down a mountain at 90 mph with that 80,000 pounds behind you, it changes your perspective. I been in some street situations, but this is a whole different level."
Bloodshot spent a number of years on the street. "I ain't gonna lie and say I was some kind of kingpin. I was doing what everybody else in the white T's is doing," he says of his past. "The money was pretty good, and I was good. Then I had a son. I know people with five kids and they're still jumping fences to hide from the police. I didn't want my son to come up like that. When I first got this job and got insurance and went to the doctor and it was covered-I liked that."
With this job and his family, Bloodshot says that he is "in the best place I've ever been in my life." That's why he wants to give up the rap game-sort of.
Bloodshot is hanging out, as he often does on his days off, drinking Boh with his sister Akaia Gamble in the house she shares with her longtime boyfriend Will B. Smilardo. The house smells invitingly of Old Bay from the crab house next-door and is decorated with eclectic and antique furniture. Portraits of MLK and JFK hang side by side on the wall. A rabbit hops around, chewing up whatever it can get its teeth on.
Bloodshot and his sister are black, and Smilardo, also a truck driver, is white, and he's Bloodshot's biggest supporter. He is a talker, and he won't shut up when it comes to Billy Bloodshot's music.
"There's nobody out there doing anything as good as Billy," Smilardo says to anyone who will listen. He contacted City Paper about Bloodshot and maintains the SoundCloud account called "da CRABCAKE . . . (BMore's Best Jumbo THUMP, NO FILLERS!)."
"He's obsessed with Billy's music," Akaia says of her boyfriend with a good-natured eye-roll.
Bloodshot himself is a different story-"haunted by rap," he says, he can neither quit it nor entirely embrace it. He was reluctant to talk to CP, and he doesn't do live shows. He is interested in the art, but he sees little need for the business and promotional ends of the game and seems happy to take a trip to the studio every couple months.
"I hate the business end of it. Somebody wants to sign me, and they want to own half of Billy Bloodshot, and I say, 'Man, you weren't there when I was writing rhymes at the table when I was 12'," Bloodshot says. "That made me lose a lot of my drive. I've got a real job and a son. I don't need any of that. I'm a humble guy."
Only minutes-if not seconds-after declaring his humility, Bloodshot says, "But I am the best rapper alive. My versatility is insane. My range is ridiculous. No one can do what I do," he says. "I have a passion for the music, and it will always be free.
"If I got offered a deal tomorrow, I can't say I'd take it," he says a minute later. "I mean it would be a ticket out the hood. I want a house in the suburbs. I know gangsters. If you wanna shoot it out, I can make it happen. But I don't want that no more."
But then again, he adds, "Sure, it would be nice to party in Vegas with all my friends. Don't get me wrong. If I make it big I'm gonna party and drink and tip strippers and all, but I don't need to create an image or have all of that phoniness."
Bloodshot has other issues with promoting himself. They began one Christmas morning when Smilardo woke up and watched an online conspiracy theory video dealing with the Illuminati-the alleged shadow group that is supposed to rule the world.
"I was blown away," Smilardo says. "I sat there for two hours. Then I woke Akaia up, and she watched it. Then we called Billy, and he watched it too." Billy has taken his conspiracy theories a bit deeper than Smilardo and he worries about bringing them into his music.
"I have deep political stuff, but that's what gets you in trouble," Bloodshot says. "The Illuminati and shit."
So, Bloodshot continues to live a life poised somewhat precariously between musical drive and driving a truck. "I hate to say it, but I have jotted down lyrics while I was driving the truck," he says. Nobody, including Billy Bloodshot, seems to know what side he'll come down on.