Astoria’s Billy Conahan has one of the stranger path transitions out there, but one that feels classically New York. Born and raised in the City, Conahan got his start as a stand-up comedian when he was 13 years old. Playing several comedy clubs, the experience gave him the first taste of the live stage. Flash forward to today and Conahan is still dominating the stage, this time as a rapper and songwriter.
As a student at Talent Unlimited High School For The Performing Arts, Conahan was writing verses and prose in every spare moment. After receiving his first guitar, he started putting his words to music. When he reached the senior year, Conahan started unveiling his talents in a rap collective called K.O.P.
“K.O.P. was a rap group I formed in high school for a school project. It was an outlet to have fun with some friends,” he said. “One summer, we started writing a song a day. So, it definitely kept me on my toes. Trying to show up with the best piece created a friendly competition amongst us.”
That competitive attitude found its way onto Conahan’s mixtapes, where he mixes live instrumentation with samples to form an ear-grabbing platform to share his rhymes. The mash-up lets Conahan combine his favorite parts of rock and rap music.
“I always wanted to be a frontman for a band. Love the energy and messing with arrangements. It also creates an exciting dynamic to work with, which leads into my use of samples,” Conahan said. “I am a hip-hop purist, and a band allows for recreating songs I cannot loop or sample without rearranging.”
The rapper’s latest mixtape, “Episode III: Illation,” is the conclusion of his “Episode” series, which he said matched with changing aspects of his life. Describing the theme of 2014 as a time of growing pains, Conahan wrapped the series with the strong, hungry 11-track effort.
His recent efforts have paid off as well. Conahan was a finalist at the 2013 Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival Show and Prove.
Conahan’s time in stand-up gave him a foundation and lessons for life on stage in front of an audience. Engaging and connecting with a crowd are some of the most important elements of a live performance, he said.
“The stand-up comedy scene provided a space to improvise, experiment, interact with an audience and constantly engage the fourth wall,” he said. “The people are right there. You cannot only hear them, you can feel them. Having a sense of humor is also a great way to make an audience feel comfortable. Be genuine, humble, human.”
Now that the “Episode” trilogy is behind him, Conahan said the future holds new songs, music videos and bigger, better concerts. If you want to see his stagecraft at work, you can catch Conahan at Hostel International on Sept. 21, Spike Hill in Williamsburg on Sept. 23, 220 South Bronx on Oct. 3 and Tantra Lounge in Astoria on Oct. 26.
For the latest on the Astoria rapper, visit http://billyconahan.com www.facebook.com/billyconahan.