Illus :: Ear Pollution :: American Mule Entertainment
as reviewed by Vukile Simelane

Illus is an underground cat from the NYC, and has been rocking mics for years on end. As well as being an immensely talented creator of cult comic books; one can spot the talent of the cover of his offering "Ear Pollution." This shit has been dubbed as a venture into the scientific arena (read experimental), and features an array of remixes, old cuts and tracks with a distinctly raw feel. I must begin by saying that this LP is at times a contradiction. I was keen on the concept, and had the kind of anticipation you get before a Tarantino movie reels in. You know you gon see and hear some shit that you'll remember, but you ain't too sure how off the wall it will be. Truth be told, I have mixed feelings about this one.

Illus himself chooses this moniker as a means of depicting his artistic prowess with a paintbrush, as well as for his ability to create portraits on the canvas of hip hop. Now a native New Yorker, Illus spent days of his rearing in the 'slums' of Bridgeport and Stratford, CT. The opener "F.A.C" is a track that denigrates the current values in hip hop. Overall, the message reminds one of what Guru once said in 1993; "fake MCs, they always act hard..." Then some shit called "Arrggghhhh" drops in and Illus rhymes in a grimy voice matched by an equally-soiled beat. This one has a pulsating siren heard throughout the verse, with hoarse screams in the hook. Deep upright string-pulling is also evident here. The C-Doc co-produced "Feel Good" has an organic-sounding, guitar-laced construction. Here, the MC waxes lyrical about the essence of hip hop. However, the flow doesn't seem to match the beat. The lyrics of this song are a textbook definition of what I call 'Redenbacher Rap.' I just wonder if this is the microwave kind or freshly-popped.

"Skills" sounds like it should have been on the soundtrack for "Krush Groove" with its retro feel and resonance. Synthetics and a rhythmic drum melody permeate this piece of shit song. The MC's tonality is "faux grimy" like my 8 year old nephew's impression of Sticky Fingaz. Yet again, not another quotable couplet. The fifth track is "Rules" and I'll do my best not to say much about it. I'll just let the lyrics speak for themselves. The beat is an 80s-esque drum programming debacle, and yet again the flow is tardy for its date with the beat. I don't know if this has anything to do with the fact that the music was not mastered, coz a number of the tracks have a rhyme that is off key in comparison with the beat. Maybe it's a new concept; rhyming off key on purpose. Who knows? Think of the "Scenario" video when Tip talks about getting violated, and you'll get the picture. Beat and rhyme are not in sync. Just peep these words though:

"I would never bite another MC that's a sin
In the world of publishing it's called plagiarism
It means what ya say, you create, it ain't yours
It means you be fakin, like cheap ass whores
Fakin orgasms, takin what ain't yours
That's why I'm hatin all these pop star thieves
Dropping like they hard, but I don't believe"

So, after a forgetful first five cuts, the Incredible, the Rhyme Animal, Chuck D directs his legendary flow at rich-ass rappers who don't come correct with lyrical aptitude:

"Yeah I'll take it, I'll be damn if I sell my soul to make it
Year before I was born and when I die it's gonna keep on
keep all them acting superior
Treatin folks inferior
Check, ya soul search is interior
Money is a tool, give a fool a million dollars
You got a million dollar fool
In God We Trust y'all
But the ashes to ashes, and dust to dust..."

"eMpTyV" is easily one of the best cuts on this LP. MTV, VH1 and anything Enron-esque gets a fat middle finger. Here, an unknown member of the Impossebulls spits carnage:

"I don't give a damn about some fuckin CRIBS
I don't give a damn about Ozzy's kids
[...]
Where I come from it ain't cool to be a WANNABE
Why don't you come clean and stop all that frontin B?
It's funny to me, how you still call yourselves MTV
without playin any goddamn music
Sometimes I wonder if them kids out there would even put up with this shit
If they had to choose it
Every time I turn on the damn telly
I'd swear the only rapper out there was Nelly"

Damn. "For Me" is a break beat with a thunder hand clap over a thick bass groove. Just enough to get ya blood going. The musicality of "Mic Villains" is enough to make Quest Love proud. Piano riffs, a drum backbone and soft humming blend melodiously. Knonsense's first verse commendably carries the beat he co-constructed with Illus. I will say that this track is a ground breaker as Illus actually manages to rhyme in accordance with the beat. Lyrical Beast steps through on "Commercial Break" which has a mildly amusing insert on the 'Achilles heel' of black people, fried chicken. Beast does his best to keep up with the music, which is running all over the place like a headless 'chicken.' The Impossebulls pop up on "R.I.A.A." to warn others about the rape and pillage tactics of the industry giants. Think of it as a watered down version of Tribe's "Show Business" and the Genius' "Labels." Phon-X and Munch come up on "New Colors," where the former has a stint behind the boards. Acoustic strums and a complex drum loop accompany a gloomy saxophone, and Munch is the only one here holding it down. "Hellaspaztic" is the showcase for Beast's antics. Unfortunately, the rock-guitar driven beat doesn't do justice to the caustic punchlines spat out by the Beast. The verse deserves an accolade of sorts for sheer audacity:

"I'm hungry bring ya pussy here just so I can eat
Nevermind, fuckin wit ya, I'm better off beatin my meat
Cause you got my mind sex between them jeans
writin rhymes that would make my mother ashamed
Sayin shit other people are scared to like
'I'm glad Tupac is dead. He was a fuckin coon'
You think I'm dead wrong? That song
Isn't that what Biggie said?
Well fuck him, he ain't +Dead Wrong+ now
He's just fuckin dead. Did I say that?
Was that too drastic?
I told you I don't fuck around, I told you I was hellaspaztic
I like to shit for fun, pass the Ex-Lax
and the white powder - not the coke, pass that anthrax
Aaaachooooo! Y'all got symptoms of a flu
and this lump on my ass is turning blue
Sayin something foul on a rhyme, it ain't nothing major
Sittin in R. Kelly's mind, in a room full of 6th graders
Once again I'm hellaspaztic, insane
Goin down the plains like Aaliyah, on a plane"

Personal Foul; Lyrical Beast. Roughing the Rapper. He drops some more ill shit on "Memories Are Made of This," albeit with some help from the Scallions. Beast then makes his final appearance on "Forever Young" where he reminisces about the glory days of the artform. "Look" is constructed with faint taps on the drum set, and angry tugging of the guitar strings. "My Journey" is just that. A bargain basement "Juicy" while "Charlie's Short Hand" contains another sound byte from a Kentucky Fried Chicken employee induction video. Illus intonates about a plethora of topics here; then on the 1993 recorded bonus cut "Hip Hop vs Rap," the Illus I want to hear appears. The beat is on fuckin point for the time (fuck it, even now). Why couldn't this cat capture that raw passion he so desperately wants to put out. Illus describes this LP as "a collection of very raw tracks." That it is, but homeboy's flow is valid on only 2 tracks. Lyrical Beast steals the show. A word of advice to Illus. Rewind back to 1993 or put down the mic and stick to creating bomb ass album cover artwork. I have a feeling that the "bling bling Photoshop montage" trend perpetuated by the Cash Money clique is about to end.

Music Vibes: 5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 6 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 5.5 of 10

Originally posted: April 6, 2004
source: www.RapReviews.com