iLLuminate, released Jan. 31, is the second full-length studio album from iLLism. The group’s August 2017 release, Love and Loyalty, immediately landed on the North American College and Community Radio chart and peaked at the number five position. That album also earned them the honor of performing a Tiny Desk Concert for Minnesota Public Radio. iLLuminate is set to rise just as swiftly. The album is filled with empowering lyrics that are accessible to people from any walk of life.
Admittedly, I am a 30 something Midwestern white guy and am not highly tuned in to the hip hop and R & B scene, be it locally or nationally. To that effect, a request to review iLLism’s new record was met with some trepidation on my part. However, listening to Envy and Fancy, the married duo behind iLLism, convinced me to start paying attention.
iLLuminate jumps out of the gate with the synth-heavy “Life.” This track sets a good tone for the album. The synthesizer moves the song along nicely and “Life” features a message that promotes living the one life we are given to the fullest. This track also does well to prove that Fancy is more than just a hip hop songstress. Using the placement of the first track to prove that Fancy can rap right alongside her husband is a smart move and provides a nice jumping off point for the rest of the record.
“Who You Lovin’” is another standout track. An intelligently utilized horn section highlights the music and a drum beat featuring a heavy amount of snare only serves to enhance that effort. “Who You Lovin’“ asks an important question in the lyric, one that many would do well to ask themselves. When asked ‘who you’re loving,’ how long would it take for you to say: yourself? Some people in today’s culture are so afraid of being categorized as selfish that they never take any time to focus on themselves, and this track serves as a good reminder that it is important to worry about yourself sometimes.
Other tracks on the empowering iLLuminate include messages about black pride, spreading love and doing good, promoting Minnesota nice, betting on yourself, and being in love. The powerful messages behind iLLuminate are complimented by beats that, at times, force you to move and, at other times, make you feel incredibly relaxed and completely chill. The album is definitely worth a listen and I am convinced it may turn some on to a genre of music that they might otherwise never dreamed of enjoying.
iLLism will host an album release party for iLLuminate Jan. 18 at the Amsterdam Bar and Hall in St. Paul. The show will feature special guests J’Mere, Mariah Mercedez and the Bendz, and Reel Smoovv. Doors open at 8 p.m. for the 18+ show and tickets are $7.