J Dilla’s quintessential production is among the most legendary and imitated styles in Hip-Hop. Since making his mark and especially since his passing, producers and MCs alike have tried to recapture that unmistakable Dilla sound. For the most part, these attempts only make us long for the real thing. Now younger brother, Illa J has decided to make a foray into rapping to continue the family legacy with his debut album, Yancey Boys which is completely produced by J Dilla. Unfortunately, Illa’s deficiencies on the mic stifle his quest to carry on the Dilla legacy.
Yancey Boys starts with “Timeless,” a soulful track highlighting the album’s positives: Illa’s soulful voice and knack for making smooth music. Illa J croons over Dilla’s beats to create purely relaxing tunes. The planets align for Illa when he creates the an incredible blend of his singing skill and understanding of the desire to succeed as a Hip-Hop artist. The track is an anthem that the independent MCs out there can relate to. When he sings on hooks for “Showtime” and “Illasoul,” one can’t help but wish that the younger Yancy boy would dedicate more time to laid back singing. This wish is only heightened when the kid begins to rap.
Illa J has a long way to go to be considered in the higher echelon of MC along with his other Detroit peers. His bars sound like they were spat in a blunted out freestyle session in a college dormroom. Peep: “Your girl is my witness/she came in the living room while I was puffin my brains out/and she start suckin me down while I watch my favorite sitcom/why people so slow wit it? Uh/Are you people listening to see how I’m flipping this?/What color is that?/It’s called originality.” Read that again. Yes, six whole unrhymed, off-beat bars. A little more focus and deliberation would go a long way to improving these missteps. However, very few need to be a supreme rhymesmith to sound good over the big brother’s beats.
J Dilla’s signature production is the star of this album, making the album a solid overall listen regardless of the debacles in the forefront. Anyone longing for that Dilla fix need to look not further than this zesty blend of jazz infused Hip-Hop. J’s squeaky clean drums and flawless horns permeate the album, making each song easy on the ears. It’s amazing that there are still such quality Dilla beats still lying around. Regardless of Illa J’s rhyming handicap, good music still sprouts in spurts. “Souds Like Love” makes for a great domestic soundtrack while “Air Signs” is a heartfelt ode to the Yancey family that would make Dilla proud.
Overall, though, it’s hard to overlook Illa J’s lack of lyrical skill. When Affion Crockett from Wild ‘N Out puts in better bars, maybe it’s time to put the mic away for a little bit.
Previously Posted — Illa J & J Dilla – “We Here”