Illa Ghee Explains Rap's Return To Lyrics, Recalls Rhyming With Notorious B.I.G.

Exclusive: Mobb Deep's former classmate-turned-affiliate talks about his "Angeldust & Waffles" album, and explains how coming home from a 1990s bid confused him as far as Hip Hop's sound.

Known for his low tone of voice and his affiliation with Mobb Deep, Illa Ghee has been involved in New York’s rap community since the early 1990s. He attended Manhattan’s High School of Art and Design and befriended the duo before their rise to fame when they still went by the name Poetical Prophets.

Unlike Havoc and Prodigy who come from Queensbridge, Illa Ghee hails from nearby Brooklyn, New York. This, coupled with his low voice and streetwise lyrical content have made comparisons with The Notorious B.I.G. almost inevitable. In a recent phone interview with HipHopDX, Illa Ghee offered his opinion about the similarities between him and B.I.G., but noted he doesn’t necessarily validate them: “I’ve been hearing that a lot lately that people think I sound like [The Notorious] B.I.G. I don’t think so…maybe the tone or something, but I really don’t think I sound like him.” For what it’s worth, the two were loose acquaintances during Biggie’s rise to stardom. “We rhymed together a long time ago before he was even [known as] B.I.G.”

Unfortunately for Illa Ghee, his rise to fame took a sudden turn for the worse when he was sentenced and sent to prison in 1996. While doing his time, both Tupac and Biggie died and the state of Hip Hop was changing. Illa knew it and familiarized himself with all of Hip Hop styles, from hardcore to conscious - or as he calls it “mixing ego trippin’ with Hip Hop.” “When I came home from jail, Hip Hop was all lyrical…All the stuff that I read [in prison] and the symbolisms and everything, I was putting that in my rhymes. And when I got home people were like, ‘Yo, you need to dumb that down ‘cause no one’s going to understand you.’” He took that advice: to heart and began to emphasize his hardcore lyrical content to appease the fans. It’s a bittersweet decision considering his dynamic lyricism. “To hear people like Jay Electronica, you know, do the same thing, it makes me think 'Wow, I didn’t have to dumb myself down,' because there are people that want that type of Hip Hop…I’ve come to the realization that this is what the fans want from me.”

Ghee's post-prison relief came in 2004 when he appeared alongside Prodigy and Nina Sky on the track “Hold You Down” off The Alchemist’s 1st Infantry LP, which ended up being the album’s lead single. Since then, Illa has been busy working on his own material, including his most recent Soulspazm Records release Angledust & Waffles, a collaborative EP with producer Dom Dirtee that favors his hardcore sound, as heard in his track “Name Another Rapper.”

Illa Ghee's diligence is evident even during a media frenzy surrounding Mobb Deep and a possible inter-group beef. “Right now, basically, I’m pretty much worried about Illa Ghee. I’m trying to get Illa Ghee stuff together, and I have no clue of what that’s about so all I can say is no comment on that.”

But Illa remains focused, with a new project already in the works. “The next project is Move Still, Lay Standing. It doesn’t have a date yet, but that’s my child. I’m really trying to put that together… I’m just trying to figure it out. I’m trying to get a couple of features together that people wouldn’t expect and features together that people would expect.” If the past eight years are any indication, Illa Ghee continues to rise within the Hip Hop world.
 
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12 Comments

  • YUNG GUNNA

    THIS EP IS CRACK JUICE

  • Anonymous

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  • s_er

    his tone sounds indeed a little bit like Biggie. Any tracks with Biggie???????

  • Diddy

    SO Illa are there any unreleased songs you did with Biggie? Please contact me and we can craete another Biggie Duets album Your sincerely, Diddy

  • Jana

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  • Hip Hop 4 life

    Illa Ghee, If you are reading this... HIP HOP NEED YOU RIGHT NOW!!!! YOU ARE OUR LAST HOPE FOR REAL HIP HOP AND I'M SPEAKING AS A BIG FAN HIP HOP. Keep doing your thing Big Homie.

  • DJ KHALED

    KISS THE RING!!!!! COMING AUGUST 21, 2012!!!!! GET IT ON ITUNES OR IN STORES!!!! SALUTE!!!! AND THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!!!!

  • Anonymous

    I'll say it again: Biggie Smalls, nothing but a FAT TWINKIE. so obese that his fingers were probably too fat to fire a gun off. fake gangsta who probably needed a forklift to lift his fat, flabby ass up a flight of stairs. at his shows, there was no stage, just the ground because everyone knew he'd easily break any hypothetical stage anyone would consider designing for this toad. his voice had that distinguished sound because he'd probably been eating so many fat calories that the fat buildup would obstruct his vocal cords, making it sound like he was drowning (in a pool of his own fat, disgusting but probably true). probably needed a crew of at least 5 jacked guys to lift him off his mattress in the morning (no bed for obvious reasons). he didn't die by getting shot like the media wanted everyone to think, so they could sell his image, he actually died because of heart disease due to his obese figure. With all of that being said, Tupac for life. Peace.

  • Anonymous

    He is nice as hell, i got his other shit

  • DJ J-Ronin

    Illa Ghee is that dude . Dope music and one of the best people i know in this rap shit. Angel Dust and Waffles is out now! Support it!

  • Karen

    Illa Ghee is nice as hell and that track with P called walk with a shotgun shouldnt be slept on either.

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