Passion Play-Ill Eagle the Anti-Rapper
Passion Play is a sometime column designed to highlight exceptional unsigned acts. This does not mean you should send me your demo. In all honesty, I probably won't listen to it. Unless of course, you are in EPMD and the demo includes the song "Please Listen to My Demo." In that case, rock rock on.
Who: Ill Eagle the Anti-Rapper
What: (The story of Ill-Eagle in his own words)
Ill Eagle has never been shot. In fact, at age 21 he's never even been shot at, which is extraordinary for many young Black males from Gary, Indiana. Ill Eagle didn't intend to be such an exception, a virtual weirdo in a town once called the Murder Capital of the United States.
When you're avoiding gangs and ignoring poverty from the world around you, sometimes all you can do is turn inside and embrace the creative world within. With tastes that stretch from Tiesto to Tchiakovsky, Tech N9ne to The Sex Pistols, Ill Eagle brings a fresh approach to hip-hop that defies common comparison. This is rap for a new generation: diverse, irreverent, real without pretention yet honest and humorous. This is music for the soundtrack of life, sometimes serious, sometimes fun, always memorable.
Where: Gary, Indiana.
When: Ill Eagle's debut LP, The Wilhelm Scream dropped earlier this year to praise from the likes of 33 Jones, Souled on Music, and Model Minority. It remains unclear whether the record has anything to do with Kaiser Wilhelm and/or The Scream.
Why:Say what you want about a guy like Kanye West (and believe me, I think he's as overrated as anyone), you can't dismiss him because the way of the way in which he defies easy labels or categorization. It's that same reason why I think Ill Eagle is one of the most promising MC's to debut this year. Everything about the guy resists easy descriptor tags: he's from the hood but he doesn't front like a gangster. He's a self-described "reverse wigger" who lists Nirvana, Wu-Tang, Bjork and Daft Punk as his heroes. Many of his songs rail against crack-rap's lies and the lying liars who tell them, yet many of his raps come over beats that wouldn't sound out of place on a Young Jeezy record.
A common knock against most underground records is their conservatism, with most underground producers solely trying to recycle neo-Tribe Called Quest coffee-shop beats or 9th Wonder/Kanye West soul loops. Most underground rappers spend their 50 minutes of screen time describing themselves only in opposition of what they're not. By contrast, The Wilhelm Scream seems remarkably forward-thinking, with beats ranging from bass-heavy Southern bangers to year 3000 space-rap beats a la Automator or Timbaland-lite. Lesser MCs would struggle with such challenging soundscapes but Ill Eagle handles them admirably, preternaturally understand whether to fall back into the pocket of a beat and ride it out, or when to step up aggressively to smash it over the head like a game of Whack-A-Mole (no The Mole.)
The album isn't perfect. Some of the hooks could be better and some of the beats are just a bit too abrasive. But when Ill Eagle isn't wasting his time railing about crack-rappers and focuses the attention inward, he's a uniquely compelling artist. Sort of like Murs if he'd grown up in the Midwest and really liked Bloc Party. It's an impressive debut, particularly for a kid just out of his teens living in the middle of nowhere. While the best may be yet to come, Ill Eagle has the potential to be a three-dimensional personality, someone with something to say, one who figures to be worth paying attention to for a long while.
MP3: Ill Eagle-"Warhol Superstar"
MP3: Ill Eagle-"Burn Out> Fade Away"
Download the entire album for free at Ill Eagle's Myspace