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September 6, 2010 | by  | in Music |
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Tommy Ill

Tommy Ill
Tommy Ill
(Loop Recordings)

Full of catchy choruses, early nineties feel-good beats and soul samples, this debut full-length from Wellington rapper/producer Tommy Ill lives up to the hype created by his first few EPs and maniacal live show. A so-called “indie-rapper”, he inverts the usual rapper braggadocio, as others have done before, without doing away with it completely. He’s serious about his work—this is a true lover of hip hop having fun and seriously enjoying it.

Most of his rhymes are hilarious and self-deprecating. ‘Robot’ reminds me of someone like Das Racist; it’s an awesome song about his little robo-buddy who’s “gonna be bigger than big” apparently. He takes pot shots at scenesters—something we all love—on ‘Winning’(see also: LCD Soundsystem’s ‘Losing My Edge’): “Listening to Best Coast just to stay relevant. Listening to Beach House just to stay relevant. Listening to Tommy Ill just for the hell of it.” Some of it could be old Souls of Mischief material and other songs nod to A Tribe Called Quest’s energetic brand of jazz-sampling and their use of acoustic instruments. Much of it grabs 60s R&B hooks and runs with it. These songs are built to please a crowd; ‘Come Home Mr Ill’ is an instantly likable pop-rap song with chart potential.

The production is lush but clean-sounding—lo-fi but all the better for it. Obvious work has gone into these ten songs, with assistance from the boys from Crackhouse 5. Hip hop has had a bit of a mixed history here in New Zealand but Mr Ill’s tunes don’t suffer from the corniness and over-earnestness that some local stuff contains. His sound is accessible, and hopefully he’ll reach more ears with this release, but he’s definitely more Tourettes than Savage.

The sunny quality of the music should tide us over till summer. But not everything here is a party banger. Closer ‘Matchsticks’ is emo-rap at its best and a classic break-up song: “She stole my heart and all she left was nerds”, goes the mantra. It’s a highlight from this excellent little album.

3.5/5

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