Ten years ago, an album was released by a group of young white males going under the guise of "Non Phixion". Unless you're already clued up on Ill Bill, you're probably thinking "Wow, big deal" but not only could each member rhyme their asses off, they somehow managed to collate an insane line-up of producers worthy of an established veteran. Boasting soundscapes provided by DJ Premier, Large Professor, Pete Rock and Juju from The Beatnuts, "The Future Is Now" went down a storm. Ill Bill's brother Necro held down the rest of the album whilst Sabac Red, Goretex and Billy himself exchanged verses using their distinct New York accents which although similar in nasal tone, complemented each other perfectly. Cutting a long story short, Ill Bill prospered and went on to release numerous solo efforts whilst the other members (minus DJ Eclipse) slowly faded into obscurity. "The Grimy Awards" brings Ill Bill full circle, boasting a production cast as good as, if not better than his debut work. DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Large Professor and the other Beatnut; Psycho Les, all return whilst DJ Muggs and El-P bolsters the line-up to mouth-watering levels. With all this association comes expectation, and although Bill has crafted strong albums previously (namely "What's Wrong With Bill?") his recent work has been heavily influenced by conspiracy theories. That's not a bad thing of course, but the creative juvenility had been sapped out, most notably on "Heavy Metal Kings". Thankfully, the supreme production that has been assembled for "The Grimy Awards" has reinvigorated Bill to craft an album for fans BY A FAN. "Paul Baloff" demonstrates his heavy metal influences, including a conversation with the thrash metal member of Exodus. "World Premier" is similar to Royce Da 5'9'', Phonte and Stat Quo's "Homage to Premier" in that it delivers a well-deserved tribute to DJ Premier, with Bill demonstrating his acclaimed nasal flow:
The beat is cookie-cutter Premo, but Preem's recipe has been flawless since 1989. Perfect scratches and the same fucking drums, I could listen to a whole album of these two together. Fellow master of the MPC, Pete Rock, delivers a booming upbeat production on "The Truth" that's decidedly un-Pete Rock. The positively soulful backdrop is refreshing to hear as Ill Bill usually chooses morbid music to share his rhymes. There's no denying that the Rugged Man-like method that Bill uses to roll words off the tongue is impressive. Occasionally, Ill Bill veers towards socio-political on the post-apocalyptic "How to Survive the Apocalypse", but never does "The Grimy Awards" feel preachy. "Exploding Octopus" argues whether murder can achieve peace, and discusses whether terrorism aimed at corporations or passively refusing to embrace technology and modern society can benefit one's mentality, similar in vein to what Siddharta Gautama famously did. On paper that sounds like a deep, philosophical piece but it's difficult to take too seriously having heard Bill's large catalogue of murder raps. "Power" has DJ Muggs applying a great Jay-Z sample to some pumping kicks and snares with what can only be described as a medieval sound effect jacked from Encarta's Mind Maze (remember that?). O.C. provides a strong assist but Cormega seems to continue to drop breathless verses like this:
"I might front but I won't go backward
I'm every slave's dream, I own my masters
unlike most rappers, even if I don't go platinum
I live like I did that's all that matters
they said I couldn't do it I did it
independent with lyrics, dope producers
for listeners, potent music
no excuses, only a chosen few shall be proven
to be true to the culture…
…revolution's the only solution
get back to basics
stop chasing illusions the vultures are looming
causing confusion, regain the focus you're losing
the goals are improving, the future of our culture and children and
vocally gifted artists are supposed to be winning
but those who be spinning be dick-riding more than the women
causing division by Ignoring the feelings of the fans
that know what is missing hip hop in its purest existence"
"Vio-lence" demonstrates Lil' Fame's incredible personality, even when operating at 50% intensity. The more I hear Fame on his own though, I yearn for Danze to finish his adlibs. Whilst Ill Bill rapping about guns is nothing new, even his impeccable flow doesn't hold a candle to Lil' Fame's expertise on the subject, no matter how ridiculous:
"I'm from where the murderers ride
you heard that I died?
probably envisioned me shot up and laying on a stretcher
because I ain't the nigga to die from high blood pressure
my demise in the midst of a crime profession
look at his eyes, he's ready to die "Lord bless him"
it is what it's gonna be, not a lot worries me
don't care if there's twenty of us or one of me
gun boys ride with us, niggas still get yapped
pistol whip the hall monitors, you know what time it is"
"The Grimy Awards" does have a few missteps however. "120% Darkside Justice" is incredibly generic, both musically and lyrically. I used to be a huge Jedi Mind Tricks fan but since Stoupe left, they have taken on a soul-less, industrious European sound that makes Vinnie Paz and Jus Allah sound like any other gangsta rapper. It's a track that screams "comfort-zone" and is precisely why I wasn't keen on the "Heavy Metal Kings" album. "L'Amour East" is not your usual Ayatollah production, instead throwing up a beat that feels like it was left off a pre-2006 Def Jux release. This style is executed to far better effect on the El-P produced "Severed Heads of State". The former Company Flow mastermind can seem to do no wrong lately, and his combination of simplistic 80s rhythms and modern electro-dubstep-clatter creates a suitably hard-core sound for Bill to deliver the albums best verse:
"Let's play Dungeons & Dragons on mushrooms & acid
like Ricky Kasso, smoke angel dust & kill these hippie assholes
light the chemicals ablaze - Relevance appraised
venomous exchange of terrorist acclaim - Inheritance of hate
severed heads of state in a parade of chanting Satanists
acts of heinousness are sprinkled on our plates like bacon bits
swallow while you raise your fist in protest
your true emotions camoflagued like God
it's convenient like Amazon.com"
"The Grimy Awards" isn't sure whether to follow the theme of the album, with some tracks following the idea closely, others going off on a massive tangent. Minus a few poor tracks which will only find favour with hardcore Ill Bill fans, there's plenty of sick beats, dope rhymes and legendary guest appearances to please new and old fans alike. 2 Chainz being nominated for a Grammy award demonstrates just how far-removed the music industry is from hip hop. Albums like this are deserving of more exposure, and "The Grimy Awards" may well be the solution for genuine hip hop accomplishments. Ill Bill certainly makes a strong case to win one in 2013, that's for sure.
Music Vibes: 7.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7.5 of 10
Originally posted: March 26th, 2013