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Ill Bill – The Grimy Awards album review

If there was ever a trophy to be handed out for raw, unpretentious boom bap, Brooklyn Vet Ill Bill would be nominated, so it’s fitting he stake his claim on The Grimy Awards (Fat Beats Records), his personal gritty gala.

On the early standout “Acceptance Speech” Bill pays homage to his career’s influences over Junior Makhno’s shrill symphonic chops. He plows through shout outs, from god to snakes in the grass to “Ace London studios for letting us rehearse when we ain’t have nothing.”

Ironically (on an album named Grimy) these reflections are where the album shines. Bill can certainly hold his own in a no holds barred cipher, but the lyrical funnel cloud his free-association flow creates pales in comparison to the openhearted, borderline vulnerable recollections and analyses that set the project apart from the typical 100-boasts-a-minute boom bap CD. “Paul Baloff” is a strong song in a vacuum, yet in the context of such a thoughtful album that and a cacophony of other overly sinister content falls short.

Over El-P’s venomous bass guitars on “Severed Heads of State”, Bill verbally acknowledges his artistic ascension by noting it’s “time to clean our house and take our corner back, put a message in the music –this is more than Rap.”

The album features legends of production, who pillar dusty drums under sophisticated samples and provide a strong sound scape for Ill Bill’s weathered growl.

On “When I Die”, he delivers on a majestic Pete Rock backdrop to discuss appreciation for his grandmother and uncle Howie, who he notes as the namesake for his record label. DJ Premier comes through to receive his own roses-while-you-can-still-smell-them moment on the thumpy “World Premier”, and DJ Muggs and Large Professor also provide vintage boom bap with “Power” and “Acid Reflux/Canarsie High” respectively.

Features wise, the Awards’ guests are beacons of “griminess”. Vinnie Paz and Lil Fame help turn up the energy on “120% Darkside Justice” and “Vio-Lence”, and Cormega and OC come through on the aforementioned “Power”, which is both introspective and motivational.

Power” is an example of another tone this album takes successfully, as tracks like “Canarsie High” and “Exploding Octopus” which discusses over-consumption and reliance on electronics, displays Ill Bill’s penchant for analysis and observation (most importantly) with solutions.

They say with age comes experience, but Bill is proving that it’s not just experience, but the ability to meaningfully articulate them that grows with age. The Grimy Awards is a versatile excursion through Ill Bill’s mind that in itself is worthy of award consideration.