Artist: Ill Bill
Album: What’s Wrong With Bill?
Label: Pyscho+Logical Records
Rating: 8 / 10
Reviewer: Matt Barone
Those familiar with the music delivered by Brooklyn natives Non Phixion (Ill Bill, Sabac, Goretex) and Necro over the years know that happiness and light-hearted tunes are to be found elsewhere. These extremely talented, and seemingly troubled, MCs drench their songs in gloom and intensity, traits that have garnered them a great deal of respect below the radar and a faithful cult following of listeners. Non Phixion’s “The Future Is Now” conveyed frantic paranoia and grim social commentary over flawless beats crafted by veterans such as DJ Premier and Large Professor, while Necro’s obviously positive releases “Gory Days” and “Brutality Pt. 1” are the closest rap fans will ever to get to audio horror movies.
Continuing this crew’s recording legacy is Ill Bill, arguably the most prolific of the Non Phixion members, who opens the flood-gates for the upcoming Psycho+Logical Records record store assault with his debut solo effort, “What’s Wrong With Bill?” Ill Bill has earned a strong reputation for covering life’s darker issues with an uncompromising honesty and an intimidating lyrical ability. Calling him a verbal monster seems rather fitting, as Ill Bill consistently attacks his verses with a force that demands attention, and his bars are metaphor-laden exhibitions of anti-conformity. Finally grasping an Ill Bill solo album in my clutches, my expectations were high, and once I saw that it is entirely produced by the demented genius of his blood brother Necro, these expectations reached Yao Ming levels of height.
After experiencing the world through the disturbed eyes of Ill Bill, I am pleased to report that my ears were blessed with what will easily be one of 2004’s strongest rap releases. As hinted at earlier, “What’s Wrong With Bill?” is not for the squeamish or uptight, due to its overall blackout-like darkness. Discussing such fun topics as murder, extraterrestrial abductions, political corruptness, and teenage homicide, this 16-track journey into Ill Bill’s twisted mind benefits from being independently released. Much of its subject matter would never see the light of day on a major record label, making this disc a much-needed alternative to the overly-peppy selections being heard on modern radio. Don’t get it twisted, this reviewer enjoys positive things as much as the next person, but doses of macabre as entertaining as “What’s Wrong With Bill?” can not be denied.
The festivities begin with ‘What’s Wrong With Bill?’, a dose of brutal self-examination that allows listeners to understand why their host has such a warped mental. Providing a moving look into his problematic female relationships and tainted beliefs, Ill Bill’s voice reveals a genuine tone, and the hauntingly beautiful Necro-produced backdrop reeks of despair and pain. ‘Overkill’ changes the mood up drastically, filling eardrums with eerie organ keys and rolling bass behind Bill’s battle-ready death threats. ‘American History X’, one of the album’s highlights, is a relentless bashing of our government, foreign relations, and the affects these topics have on our country. Name-dropping George W. Bush and comparing himself to a crucified Iraqi soldier display just how much patriotism can be heard on this powerful song.
Bill invites his boys to join in on the fun, rounding the tracklist off with a few successful collaborations. Bill, Necro and Goretex pay tribute to their residence of ‘Glenwood Projects’ over a surprisingly smoothed-out Necro beat, while both Necro and Goretex appear with Q-Unique on ‘Canarsie Artie’s Brigade’, a sinister vocal ambush made all the more convincing by the moody and bleak production. The Non Phixion trio reunites on the misogynistic ‘Porno Director’, practicing far-from-romantic seduction tactics while further solidifying the group’s solid chemistry. The guest verses from Goretex will make fans hungry for more, with his perfected flow and sharp vocabulary as effective as ever.
Ill Bill is the main attraction throughout the album, but Necro proves to be a breakthrough co-star. His ever-improving production abilities reach their creative peak on “What’s Wrong With Bill?” as he experiments with new sounds and ultimately establishes himself as one the game’s top beat-makers. Bringing in infectious funk courtesy of guitar licks on ‘Unstoppable’ shows a sense of artistic maturity, while the playfully avant-garde sounds heard on ‘Death Smiles At Murder’ manage to improve on his already unparalleled gift of audio horror soundtracks. Necro is putting in a ridiculous amount of work these days, solely producing the nine upcoming Psycho+Logical Records releases, so if justice is ever served, he will be recognized as a full-blown master behind the boards.
With the exception of Madvillain’s genre-pushing “Madvillainy”, perfect rap albums are a rarity this day in age, and “What’s Wrong With Bill?” suffers from a few slight flaws. The album’s two conceptual offerings, ‘The Anatomy of a School Shooting’ and ‘Alien Workshop’, miss their intended targets slightly. ‘The Anatomy of a School Shooting’ finds Ill Bill assuming the roles of the two kids responsible for the Columbine shootings, as he attempts to portray the inner suffering and pent-up rage each boy felt. The problem with this track is that no new ground is broken, and all that Bill really does is inform listeners of things that everyone is already aware of. ‘Alien Workshop’ sports a tight futuristic beat but comes off too gimmicky and ends up playing like a B-grade science fiction picture headed straight to Blockbuster video. In the end, though, this album is packed with enough heat to let minor setbacks like these slide.
So what exactly is wrong with Bill? Well, God only knows, but it seems like this MC has more issues than Rolling Stone. Whether this album has helped him to resolve some of his inner struggles or not is unknown, but listening to Ill Bill air out his dirty mental laundry is vastly entertaining. This release is a much-purchase for any hip-hop head yearning for some true hardcore injected into their beloved music. Ill Bill proves that he is a complex and undeniably skilled lyricist, while Necro will make up-and-coming producers immediately step their games up. Simply put, “What’s Wrong With Bill?” is an end-to-end banger worthy of your hard-earned dollars.