Ill Bill [click to read] has never flaunted his resume. Truth be told, the emcee/producer/label owner had worked with names like DJ Premier and The Beatnuts, toured the world, and been respected in Hip Hop and Rock’s tightest circles well over five years ago. Without ever needing to say it, these things become clear on The Hour of Reprisal. The effort took over two years to make, and finds the Brooklyn mainstay taking his second official solo full-length and focusing on making an album that’s complete, daring and resonant to both his core, but a wider audience than nearly any of Bill‘s peers. As the intro nearly suggests, you’re given one hour, what do you do with it? This album feels like a complete answer.
The Hour of Reprisal, like a Black Album [click to read] or Be [click to read], feels like a career re-entry point. Songs like “My Uncle” chronicle a character that longtime fans certainly recognize, but with a lens and pen that seems more rehearsed, more thought-out and more focused than ever before. Whether it was ever his intent or not, Bill is no longer celebrating the ills of life, but rather, showing listeners his addicted uncle’s fate as a product of Reaganomics, the other side to the dope-peddling rap that rarely gives testimony to a fiend. Similarly, in a year that’s nodded everyone from Nas, to NY Oil [click to read] to Immortal Technique [click to read] on social commentary, “Society Is Brainwashed” joins DJ Premier in making the kind of conscious Hip Hop both men embody, with the gritty bassline and delivery that make the union celebrated, over a rejected American Gangster concoction. “The Unauthorized Biography of Slayer” borrows Nas‘ 2004 Rakim concept, and educates a half of Bill‘s audience on an album that clearly brings Rap and Hardcore together for the first truly authentic time since Public Enemy‘s “Bring The Noize” remix with Long Island neighbors Anthrax.
Ill Bill‘s attention to detail on Reprisal is staggering. The emcee will walk away from this album an accredited producer, arranger and visionary for the possibilities of genre. “Too Young” embodies a full sound with guiding chorus worthy of radio single, had only it been Akon‘s name in the credits. “The Most Dangerous Man Alive” implements a fiery guitar loop as Bill unveils the secret life of Brooklyn streets for those who know and those who wish to. “White N***er” [click to listen] belongs in circles with Jay-Z‘s “Blueprint (Mama Loves Me)” for its brutally honest storytelling and revelations of pain, marginalization and passion. As one of the most respected emcees in underground Hip Hop, Bill dares to challenge himself after a 15-year career, with a record that undoubtedly legions of fans can make their own.
Very seldom do esteemed veterans reintroduce themselves, and when they do, few can achieve it with authenticity and grace. The Hour of Reprisal is a jarring album, with fist-to-the-face deliveries, Rock and Rap interplay and over 30 years of street wisdom. Bill sticks to his formula, but uses his place in the game, and his expansive rolodex of friends and influences to – just as The Future is Now did six years ago – leave a single, complete impression on how one man carved his own lane in Hip Hop.