Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
As many readers of the Independent Spotlight may be aware, nothing quite excites me like a quality independent hip hop act. I absolutely adore the genre and as someone who works professionally with hundreds of indie artists each year, I’m typically inundated with it. Garageband presets, poor production, and subpar delivery plague this scene in particular. (Seriously, one out of thirty hip hop acts I’m sent are worth writing home about.) Fortunately, ILL Ruckus is worth writing home about.
ILL Ruckus is a hip hop trio hailing from the Washington D.C area, or as many are now referring to it, the ‘DMV’ area. These three are aiming to take the hip hop and rap games by storm. Their debut record, ‘Seasoned Vetts Vol. 1,’ is a triumph of indie rap performance, defying all of the stigmas the group faces in an oversaturated scene.
From the opening moments of ‘Spazz On ‘Em,’ one thing is clear: the production behind the group is excellent. I love the simplistic, yet elegant production that accompanies the three performers. Tight beats and fantastic electronic musings accompany some of the most natural rhymes I’ve heard in some time. It’s quite amazing how all three of them bounce off of one another and collide into one powerful entity. It doesn’t feel like a trio. The delivery is so seamless that all three parties dissolve into one another. ‘Spazz On ‘Em’ also exhibits some excellent harmonies in the choruses.
‘They Know’ continues to utilize the vocal range of the combined three rappers. I love how they use the baritone vocals and match them with the lead rap. The soundscapes the band crafts are unique each song. Once you hit ‘M.O.B,’ you’re slammed with another stellar production - perhaps even the strongest of the album. Seriously, the synthesized string accompaniment is nothing short of badass.
In other notable efforts, the soulful ‘This Yakk’ is the highlight of the middle of the record. In fact, it may be my favorite track in the collection. The excellence of this track may be flying under the group’s radar - it wasn’t on my slate to review the track but I discovered it when listening to the entirety of the album and it’s absolutely beautiful. Finally, the album closes on ‘I’m Sick,’ a powerhouse rap track with haunting instrumentation reminiscent of a Bond film intro. The lyrics of ‘I’m Sick’ are poignant as well - Pay close attention to the wonderful lyricism.
‘Seasoned Vetts Vol. 1’ is a superb collection of songs in nearly every way. It’s one of the strongest hip hop outings in a long time in the indie scene. Check out ILL Ruckus. You won’t regret it. They’re a trio to keep close tabs on.