Oct 19, 2015

#InCaseYouMissedItMonday: Self Titled (Illa J) - @IllaJ; A Niles P. Joint

It’s never easy following in the footsteps of a successful family member. When your late older brother is one of the most beloved and revered producers in Hip Hop history, the challenge seems nearly insurmountable. This is a common theme in the story of Illa J.  

Being the younger brother of J Dilla had some perks. He became a member of his brother’s group Slum Village and his debut album was filled with posthumous Dilla beats. However he soon yearned to outgrow his brother’s shadow. He wound up moving from Detroit to Montreal and had his self-titled sophomore album produced by Canadian production duo Potatohead People with a couple of co-producers. With these new pieces in place, Illa J is ready to set off on his own musically.

As cool as the album is, it actually starts on a seemingly sad note with She Burned My Art which is a breakup song with a hopeful monologue at the end. It sets a sonic tone at least as the beat is entrancingly smooth.  It also features Canadian spitter Moka Only, who shows up on four of the album’s eleven tracks. Universe is appropriately titled as it is a bouncy space-funk joint that is two step worthy. Aside from rapping, Illa J gets to display his singing ability on the song. Kaytranda continues a hot streak and co-produces Strippers, a hypnotic ode to the exotic dancers of the world. Conversely, Sunflower is a duet with Allie that profiles as more of a love song. While being entirely sung by both parties, the guitar work is astounding. It’s a sweet song that is also danceable. 
Of all the sports in the world, I’m not sure I’ve heard too many songs about bowling. Perfect Game changes that with lyrics chock full of bowling termanology that Illa J uses to describe how dope he is. The entrancing keyboards that Potatohead People have mastered are stippled with the sound of a ball knocking down some pins. The closer is one of the more heartfelt joints you'll hear in 2015. Never Left pays tribute to J Dilla. The title says it all, Illa J feels that his big brother is always with him. At the same time, he speaks about people that try to profit off of Dilla’s legacy. It’s a very honest song that shows two sides of a story that most don’t cover. There are many tribute songs to deceased loved ones on wax but there can sometimes be a seedy factor when it comes to dealing with posthumous material and other affairs. I commend Illa J for addressing it while also expressing love and reminiscing over his big brother.  

Illa J is possibly the most chill album of the year. It seems like every single track was purposely designed for you to groove to with your drink of choice, creating a very even wave for the album’s duration. Now musically and thematically Illa J utilizes some of the same trademarks that Dilla had perfected. But by switching labels (from Delicious to Bastard Jazz) and going with Potatohead People in lieu of beats from the vault, Illa manages to make an enjoyable album on his own terms while still keeping with family tradition musically. Potatohead Peoples deserve recognition as far as the beats go; not only do they stay consistent with quality, they also don’t use any samples at all. They might seem like minor footnotes but they are both easier said than done and hold pivotal indications for the future. Illa J is a homecoming of sorts, as Illa J himself successfully forges his own place in the game and lays the foundation for a bountiful solo career. Listen to Illa J below.


Multimedia Journalist, Founder and Chief Editor of WTM Host of A-Side B-Side Podcast and more. I like to talk about stuff and write it down. Sometimes to a microphone. Either way, I need you to feel this.

No comments: