Illa J – Yancey Boys
Illa J is the younger Brother of one James Yancey, AKA J Dilla, who sadly passed in February 2006. J Dilla was a legendary beatsmith, perhaps revered more posthumously, yet that cant mask the creativity and sheer talent he possessed. His parting gift for younger Brother, Illa J, was some beats. So here is Illa J, emceeing over said beats, for his debut LP on Delicious Vinyl. The LP is called Yancey Boys and it’s available now.
Rich and soulful, Yancey Boys spans 14 tracks and 48 minutes of music. It features appearances by Guilty Simpson and Debi Nova, yet refreshingly isn’t totally engulfed by cameo appearances. I find that to be commendable in a time where one way to shift units in the form of a hip-hop album is to cram as many familiar names on there as possible – which 9 times out of 10 actually has a detrimental effect on the album.
What follows is a review of Yancey Boys written by the wonderful Orsi, exclusively for Jus Like Music…
02. We Here
03. R U Listenin’? feat. Guilty Simpson
04. Alien Family by Frank Nitty
08. Mr. Shakes (Skit) aka Affion Crockett
09. DFTF feat. Affion Crockett
10. All Good
11. Sounds Like Love feat. Debi Nova
14. Air Signs
The first Illa J track I ever heard was We Here in early October 2008. My friend Thristian was spinning it in the club, and I was thinking “what’s this? This is good…” and slowly started nodding my head in approval (you know, like all those cool hip-hop cats do when they are digging the beats they are hearing). Safe to say that by the end of the first chorus I couldn’t control myself anymore and had to go up and dance. I remember having a nice little giggle at the Krusty Kreme reference in the second verse, and I begged Thistian to hook me up with a copy of the song. Of course, he never did, and I forgot all about it. Until Gav sent it to me whilst I was stuck and bored at work (Australia-UK time difference can be a bit tricky like that). I got so excited I made my boss play it for the entire office. Since then I have been listening to the album at least twice a day, and I have to admit, I’m feeling it more and more for every time I hear it.
The short piano intro on the first track Timeless makes you think jazz for nine seconds. Then the beat appears, shortly followed by soulful vocals that will make even the most uptight suit from the city relax. What I especially like with this song is that the piano actually follows through the whole track, and adds that extra jazzy/groovy touch that sort of lays there in the background, but still manages to become defiant at times and grab your attention. A perfect start to the album if you ask me.
R U Listenin’? feat. Guilty Simpson is one of my favourite tracks on Yancey Boys. I usually put it on in the morning when I’m on the bus. I close my eyes and imagine myself in the sun on some distant island, with the ocean close by and light breeze in the air. Don’t know why… might be because the beat that screams Dilla, or maybe it’s the chilled out flow Illa J has when he raps (I love it when emcees rap effortlessly), whatever the reason is, the track is definitely one of the best ones on the album.
If you’re a fan of old school hip-hop then DFTF feat. Affion Crockett might tickle your fancy. The scratching at the beginning makes me think of early Common songs, and takes me back to when I was the only white girl in the neighbourhood running around in Adidas Superstars trying to learn how to breakdance and had just fallen head over heels in love with hip-hop (good times, people!). Just like most of the tracks on this album, DFTF is very laid back and chilled out.
And I think that’s why Yancey Boys is one of my favourite hip-hop albums of 2008. The beats are top notch and have that “Dilla sound” that I have always loved. It’s not crammed with a million featuring artists (that most of the time serves no purpose in my opinion), and I think Illa J’s method of producing effortless and laid back raps adds to the cool vibe and relaxed atmosphere that the entire album projects and seems to be consumed by.
Could Illa J ever replace Dilla? No, but I don’t think he is trying to either (and good for him, that would be some pretty big shoes to fill!). Does he have the potential of becoming something amazing? Yes, I think he does, and Yancey Boys is a damn good start if you ask me. 2008 had some good hip-hop releases, but this was the album that made me think that hip-hop might not be dead after all. It’s fresh, but timeless. So if you haven’t had a listen yet, make sure you do!