Album Review: Ill Clinton – “The Illvolution”
If you follow Ill Clinton on Twitter, you were already aware of The Illvolution‘s coming for several months prior to its release. When he spoke about the project, it was always backed by so much pride with what he’s accomplished and excitement to share it with everyone else… and it is well earned. He should definitely be proud of what he’s created here.
We’ve heard what he could do in terms of instrumental projects in the past, but this is his first full-length compilation album where he recruited a rapper to spit over every single beat–all 15 of them. Guest appearances include Mallz, PremRock, Allen Poe, Carl Cavorkian, Crypt The Warchild, King Syze, Adam Selene, and many more. As far as production goes, it’s similar to Depths in that he explores many avenues of hip hop, from hard and dark beats to airy and fun. Plus, I can sense his soul and the meticulous effort behind every sound in the way he layers his beats.
I feel like this is his sleeper cell album. I’ve previously deemed him as talented and have been a fan of his instrumental work, but him having complete creative control with who he wanted to rhyme over his beats is a skill in its own rights. For the most part (we’ll get to this later), I think he did a damn good job on guest features because not only did the artists shine on their own, but they also highlighted and magnified the brilliance in Ill Clinton‘s beats.
The album kicks off with “Cold Crush,” featuring Mallz. The moment that I hit play, I excitedly thought, “Ohhh, yeah?! It’s gonna be like that?” The beat begins with small loops of a vocal choir sample (“Oooooh!”) and bright guitar strums, but the temperature really changes up when the punchy snares and thumping bass jump into place, and Mallz throws down aggressive raps about his credibility as an emcee (“Got a whole team of alphas // Hungry for the championship // Give no fucks about ya // Take the game, put my stamp on it // I’m Sampson with the afro // A pimp with the black fist // An activist rapping with passionate passages“). Whooooo! This track hits hard, and it slides right into another neck-breaking track called “End It,” featuring Crypt The Warchild and King Syze. Drum kick and snares are thick like molasses with some restrained brass blows laced throughout, while mic killers King and Crypt spit “magical verses mixed with satanical urges.”
Every time I hear some dope brass on a beat done well, I’m pulled into it and loving it. This is one of those times. I was hooked the moment that I heard the loud, prominent saxophone on the hard-hitting, jazz-influenced song of “Got Jokes?” In combination with the dusty boom bap drums, I turned the volume way up for that beat alone, man. Also, a muffled trombone (or something) comes in during the hook, too, making it even more brass-driven. Hell yeah! I haven’t even gotten into J.O. The Last Man‘s contribution. I’m not familiar with his work, but I like his grizzly vocals, abrasive delivery, and don’t-give-a-fuck attitude on this song. More of my focus was on the beat, though, not gonna lie.
“You’re not fly, ’cause they say that you’re fly // You’re not dope ’cause that story they wrote // I deal with ‘do’, deaf ear to ‘don’t’ // Indulge in your fiction, I just won’t.” On “Deaf Ear,” PremRock takes a cool, simple approach to the dynamics of egotism and indolence versus well-deserved props and diligence within the music scene. I really like this song. I don’t think that this beat could stand on its own as well as it does with PremRock’s verses. “Top notch, top shelf, always top of the line // Lay you down like rock salt, you are not on your grind // So, log offline // We’re not from the same vein, motive, or kind // Mind detection takes time and I’m patrolling what’s mine.”
When listening to “Other Side of Town” for the first time (with it immediately following the previous four tracks), I thought it fell a little short. Beat wise, I was expecting a little more, especially with the rock-sounding “Wrong side of town” vocal peeking through. Not sure what it needed, but it wasn’t grabbing me. However, after giving it another several listens the next day, and separate from the others, it did grow on me. Over a simple 2-note piano sequence and a dusty drum kick, the Firm Taqtics duo tell a cautionary story of karma, watching your back, and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. All guns out. It’s a decent song, but not among my favorites. Another one that wasn’t a favorite was “Still Kickin.” In fact, I don’t really like it at all. No disrespect to Ill Clinton or Dro Pesci, I just didn’t vibe with it in the slightest.
“Don’t Look Up” is more of a lighter tune (the beat isn’t dark and hard in sound) as far as production goes. Despite there being a thumping, head-nodding drum rhythm in the forefront, there are rim hits and delicate guitar strings in the background that make it danceable and feel-good. Plus, there’s a vocal sample on the beat that evokes a little bit of a reggae vibe, and I really enjoy it. Providing the raps are Allen Poe and he tells a dope story that chronicles the life of a DIY musician… and chooses to stay that way. Props to them both on this track, it’s so good.
“Sandman’s Hook” features someone I’m more familiar with and that’s Carl Kavorkian. This one is in a similar vein of musicianship, or lack there of. Over a hard-hitting, daunting beat, Carl spits filthy, aggressive rap jabs at wack-ass, incompetent rappers who are jumping on the coat tails of trends. He kills it. “You’re a version of a person that started rapping // With a trend that was happening // You thought that you could cash in // With a flow that’s below average // You are the type to end a show with no clapping // One more time, how many other’s stuttered rhymes // Is it you could possibly fit inside of your cluttered mind // You’re just a hoarder of useless information…”
The mid-pitch piano notes, boom-boom-bap drum pattern, and soulful vocals pieced within the hook has my head-nodding in “Ju Loss,” featuring Peet Calibur. Real good. Ju win.
Wooooo! Next up to bat is a 90s hip hop/jazz flavored jam called “Back In The Day,” and it finds Andrew Milicia taking a nostalgic trip down memory lane and how hip hop positively influenced his life. ATCQ all up inbetween the verses. The swinging drums and high-pitched piano notes are fly, too! Another favorite right here!
Not sure who Vas and Digs are, nor can I find them on the internet, but they are on the next track, titled “That’s What I’m Goin’ With.” The woodwind instruments on this song is nearly hypnotizing, like that of a snake charmer. “My life dictates my music, stupid // Live what I rap // Don’t care how dudes do it,” the two trade unapologetic verses about rapping that real life shit. I like the contrasting tones in each of their voices, too.
With the title of “Grime Sync,” you might expect something a little more dirty in terms of the beat, but here the grime is present with Sick Six‘s participation. I like it when Ill Clinton lets the beat play without the drums, letting you hear the melody of the other instruments first. With this one, he lets the beat build with a mellifluous-sounding piccolo, muted drums, and high and low register horns. It’s truly quite pretty, even when the snares start slapping. Sick Six comes in with an out-to-kill demeanor, declaring his self-determination, and that he won’t hesitate to take out any opponents. “I’ll never quit // I’m never stopping // I ain’t never seen a mic that I ain’t rocking // I ain’t seen a project I ain’t finish // What, I ain’t drop it // Ain’t you seen me do that shit myself, son // For the last 6 years, I ain’t done, dun.” Dope track.
I really dig the whistling and organic-sounding guitar playing on “Since Atari,” featuring Charlie GooGootz. It’s a beat that would stand well on its own as an instrumental, but it also works with Charlie on it. It’s a fun track, but it had me wondering who the heck he is with all the “It’s Charlie GooGootz!” name dropping all over the hook and weaved through his verses, haha. Couldn’t find anything on this dude through Google search. It’s an OK song.
Daaaaaaamn, I could listen to “Sweet Friends” on repeat so many times, though. The beat is absolutely delectable! It makes me visualize the sweetest, most exotic destination with waterfalls, aquatic life, and mother nature being all green and lush. Yeah, something like that. You know what, it reminds me of something Stainless Steele would produce, and I’ve always been a huge fan and supporter of his music. Anyway, yeah, then he has F. Virtue with personal rhymes about wearing his heart on his sleeve, feeling broken, and trying to get find solace–or, at least that’s what I grasped. Mark this up there with my favorites on this album… such a beautiful and deep-sounding song.
Last, but not least, “History of Silence” was originally a track on Black-Tokyo‘s B.L.A.C.K.T.O.K.Y.O album, released in 2012, and it featured Adam Selene on the raps. The song was then remixed by Ill Clinton, and now it’s here on this project! Selene killed this one, and that’s not even a comment on his aggression, but the passion behind his in-your-face subject matter about corruption, oppression, and homicide that occurs every day. Ill Clinton matched his frustration with hard-hitting drums and dark, melancholy violins. Excellent song and remix.
All in all, it was a dope album. There was only one song that I didn’t like (“Still Kickin'”), and it had very little cons, but other than that… the album is so fuckin’ dope. Well done! And what’s even cooler is that it’s available for a FREE DOWNLOAD! This is quality music right here, guys, and it’s yours for nothing. Give thanks and props where due, though. Stream and hit that download link to be taken to Bandcamp.