You can be anyone in NYC. It's the place to let your freak flag fly, and because of this wonderful freedom, the city has its fair share of characters: the man who dresses as "Buddy the Rat" and scares subway riders, the Green Lady of Brooklyn, the Naked Cowboy, etc.
Well, time to add a new one to the list: Meet the "eco-rapper" that dresses up like Planet Earth.
Thirty-two-year-old Hila Perry, aka Hila The Killa, dons an inflatable, wearable ball covered in spandex made to look like the globe and raps about the Earth and ways we can help save it from climate change and pollution.
"We have these amazing artists like Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion whose songs are so catchy and fun to dance to," Perry tells us. "A lot of educational music is not as catchy or fun to listen to as the songs about sex and relationships. I'm trying to bridge those."
You may have already seen this hard-to-miss act. She's gone viral on TikTok for a video of her rapping "Wet Ass Planet," her parody cover of Cardi B's "WAP," in Times Square. Perry has also performed at House of Yes and Caveat as The Earth.
In another viral video, she swings around House of Yes while rapping "Wet Ass Planet," loses her grip and topples into the crowd.
@hilathekilla Reply to @khourystory ♬ original sound - Hila the Killa
"[The Earth costume] is a lot more difficult than most people realize," she admits. "It's very big so I'm constantly knocking into things. My hands don't do everything they need to do and it gets kinda hot in there."
Despite her world literally crashing down at House of Yes, Perry's been at this for a while.
She doesn't just re-write lyrics to popular songs, although those have been hits. In 2017, she produced the "I Am Plastic Man" music video featuring her partner, Nathan Oglesby, and Akil Apollo Davis, where the props, set constructions and costumes were all made from discarded plastic found on the streets and beaches of New York City.
In it, Perry raps: Yo, some people check out my ass/Some people check out my glass cup/when I have it on me, ain't no trash with my coffee/I refill, I reuse/plastic bags I kindly refuse/Reduce consumption, I choose to cruise on my bike/When I move truth I quick nix the plastic/fix it before the landfills/Reflect upon the grand hills/affect the change in action/Human life is just a fraction/Generations of people pass us/The future and the past see a world of plastic dust.
Since then, she and Oglesby have come out with "Compost (feat. DiorNoel)," a catchy tune about the act of composting that features the iconic Astoria Pug, the pop song "Plastic Free Party", the helpful eco-rap "20 Climate Solutions in 4.5 Minutes" and many other original songs.
She's performed as Planet Earth on the street, at city-hosted events in parks and even at The Shed at Hudson Yards. This Earth Day, she'll be busking around and also headlining an Earth Day event at Rubulad.
Perry says the audience she draws while performing as Hila the Killa—a nickname she got at summer camp when she was 14—shows people are interested in her kind of art.
"It really is all about the Earth for me," she adds. "More than people idolizing me as the Earth, I want people to feel empowered to do whatever they want to do for the Earth. It's why the education part is so important so you can do something awesome. It's about us and our community and our city. I'm passionate about being here in New York City, my home, and I believe can turn it into an eco-city or maybe I can start the process."
Perry, who is a Bushwick local, went to film school at New York University but she saw the importance of an eco-friendly life when she attended Burning Man, where no littering is allowed. For someone who grew up in Lower Manhattan, where trash is everywhere, it was a wake-up call.
She eventually took a permaculture course at the Center for BioRegional Living and, in 2018, she actually won a grant to help her facilitate a composting system in the backyard of Trans Am Cafe (RIP), where she turned 1,500 pounds of food waste into useable compost.
She recognizes that there are already so many people doing important ecological work in NYC but she sees her job as elevating their voices and being an "Earth cheerleader here in the city."
But even the Earth needs to have a plan for the future, as we're learning. This summer, she'll be producing "The Earth Show," a variety show with similar vibes to Bill Nye the Science Guy but with an MTV and Saturday Night Live twist. It'll inform viewers through music and art and focus on New York.
"I'm excited! I'll interview New York City trees and ask them about the shit they've seen," she says.