ILLnique, Divine Retribution

In a time where much of Hip Hop seems to be cast from the same mold of kitschy club tracks, Autotune lyrics and “shawties”, it’s a breath of fresh air when someone decides to eschew the contemporary that everyone else is doing and trek out on their own. Maybe it’s the “two paths diverge in a wood” factor or maybe there is still a modicum of originality left out there. Whatever the case, ILLnique is going in that direction: making original Hip Hop with atmospheric backing and honest, simple beats.

The EP opens to (appropriately so) “Intro” a faraway, fade in beat emerges while the backing vocal sample crescendos. Even in its brevity (1:27) it is a case of foreshadowing of what the rest of the album offers. “Engage” opens with another straightforward beat and eerie electronic backing strings forming a melody. Vocally, ILL sounds a bit like Xzibit, but his rap pace is steady and progressive forming an almost head-bobbing groove to the track. “Moment of Ascension” features New Age style flute and keys at the intro before the lyrics abound from the trippy instrumentation. Again, the beat isn’t overdone to the point of distraction, it is a simple bass a snare type timekeeper. Again the atmospheric intro is utilized on “Underneath One Moon.” The sound bite is accompanied by an intro melody before again surrendering to the heavy lyrical delivery and crisp backing beat.

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When the structure of the tracks; with their simple backing beats, clever lyrics and choice samples are melded with ILL’s choice musicality, the sum of the parts is an original sound within the genre. And while that structure is utilized throughout the EP from track to track, the individual songs are strong enough to stand on their own merit or as one of a few on the album. I would be very interested how far ILL would branch out on a full-length.

by Christopher West –

[Rating: 3/5]

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