Album: Killa Products
Label: Ev Productions Inc
Rating: 7 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
Chicago seems to be the place to be at the minute in Hiphop circles. With Kanye West repping the Windy City to the fullest, pulling Twista from obscurity, and then helping a rejuvenated Common get his name back into the public eye, everyone knows that the “mid-west is young and restless” right now. IllaNotix may just be dropping at the right time to capitalize…
Together since the early ’90’s the quartet of Stevie Ali, Renegade, Flow Assassin, and producer Big Burley have already made their mark on the Chicago underground scene with a regular slew of mixtapes and live shows whetting local fans’ appetites while the work on “Killa Products” was underway. Now with its release, (in the words of their press blurb), “the group promises to deliver the same level of entertainment that their following has come to expect.
‘Hammers & Scanners’ get things underway, with Burley’s ominous bass thumps driving the track. There’s a distinct dancehall vibe to this cut, from the dub flavour of the backing track to the distinctly average reggae toasting from guest Nu Ras. In fact dude’s mumblings really do get in the way of taking any real enjoyment from the track.
Thankfully, the lead single ‘Mind Of An Emcee’ is free from such aggravations. Again Burley comes correct, with an acoustic backing track that would sound at home on any Geto Boys album post-Willie D, infused with organ stabs and twitching accordian scales. The trio of emcees definitely do justice to the track, with Stevie Ali’s performance of particular note, as much for his audio resemblance to Buckshot from Black Moon, as for his lyrical prowess.
‘Life’ and ‘Do What You Do’ help to illustrate the the adaptability of the crew. The former cut is a smoothed out examination of life situations that questions why we have to go through hardships and struggles; the latter is a dark club-themed cut in a similar vein to Mobb Deep’s ‘Got It Twisted’. In both cases, IllaNotix perform well, switching from serious thought-provoking topics to straight up ig’nant party shit with ease. The later ‘Pick And Choose’ also pulls off the party-themed cut very well.
I defy anyone to listen to ‘IllaNot’ and NOT think of Nappy Roots’ ‘Aww Naww’ – they have the same slow rumbling pace, the same heavy bassline, the same raucous delivery from the emcees. Unfortunately for the ‘Notix, despite the fact that this isn’t a bad track per se, I much prefer the Nappy Roots version.
Every emcee’s favourite targets come in for some more verbal beatings on ‘The Cops’. Over a ganked-from-a-fairground-organ bouncy beat, IllaNotix break down their problems with the boys in blue. From traffic tickets to illegal searches, DWB to flat out assault and murder – every instance of police corruption and brutality is not only touched on, but eloquently broken down…
“…forced him into an alley, pistol jammed in his ribs,
He called em pussies, not the cold steel is rammed in his jibs,
And that’s really all that they was, and even moreso,
They pummelled him with their billyclubs in the torso,
Seven cops, one was black – he spit at the Tom’s feet,
Then they stomped him into a bloody pulp on the concrete,
They split his wig wide open – it was gory as hell,
But as usual they had the same story to tell,
The lieutenant went in his pocket and planted a pack,
And said the dealer that he apprehended had went for his gat.”
Its on tracks like ‘Cops’ and ‘Make The Children Secure’ where the Notix seem to particularly excel though. They address oft-painful situations very eloquently, and its no surprise that on these tracks, Big Burley seems to have stepped his production up a notch to compliment the lyrics – the whole crew really seem to have went all out to ensure that the tracks that stand out most are the ones that cover the serious issues.
Elsewhere, the title track also shines due to its sparkling production. Here Burley loops a simple guitar riff and drops a continuous stream of rapid string stabs over the top, as the ‘Notix go into straight up bragging mode. Lets just say that Chante Moore, Deborah Cox and Vivicia Fox will never be quite the same in my thoughts again! ‘Reachin’ For Me’ and the rambunctious ‘What U Drinkin’ round things off and again illustrate perfectly the two sides to Illanotix – the former is a well-written prayer to God over minimal production, the latter a lively ode to the ol’ fallin’-down-juice.
I must admit to being pleasantly surprised by this, especially after such a patchy opener – “Killa Products” definitely gets stronger as it goes on. This is a nice advert for Chicago Hiphop, and if this illustrates the standard of the artists stuck in the Windy City, then its surprising that its taken this long for them to get their recognition. Look out for this.