Imagine your older brother. Remember when it seemed like his life was way more exciting than yours?  His hobbies always seemed more adult, his problems more complex, and his friends much cooler than your own. He saved you in times of trouble.  This is something younger siblings go through. Even if your brother is a certified Hip Hop Hall of Famer, the adulation is still there. 

When that person is gone from this plane, it leaves a hole that is tough to fill. Illa J [click to read] had to feel that first hand when his brother, J Dilla, passed away on February 10th, 2006. They say when you want to have a connection with someone who is gone from the physical plane, connect with their spiritual love.  There is no doubt that J Dilla‘s spirit was in tune with music, so it makes sense that Illa would connect through the harmonies and melodies that were created. Yancey Boys is just that.

One of the biggest draws to the Yancey Boys is the unreleased Jay Dee beats, held by Delicious Vinyl Records through the mid-late ’90s, when the Detroit emcee/producer was working extensively with storied California indie label, doing production and remixes. His genius really shines through tracks such as “All Good”. The unorthodox sampling of Burt Bacharach‘s “The Look of Love” really hits home. The unannounced drops of the solemn trumpet turn what starts out as a good beat into an interesting listening adventure. Illa takes advantage of it with a silky flow, which really hints at his potential as an emcee.

Even if there is the potential, Illa isn’t all the way there yet. This isn’t more apparent than when teamed with Detroit mainstay Guilty Simpson [click to read] on “R U Listenin”. The production, smothered with a deep bass and a sample from De La Soul‘s Posdnuos, seems tailored to Simpson‘s heavy-handed flow. Illa tries to keep up but is simply beat. Even thought that is the only time he is outclassed by another rapper, he never can get past the production. There isn’t too many times where someone will rewind the album for the lyrics.

The best and worst thing about this album is that it creates a craving for Dilla‘s beats. Tracks like “Everytime” which has an instrumentation that creates a subtle crisp sound. “DFTF” reminds you of Dilla‘s succinct ability to craft the perfect Saturday afternoon beat. Its rhythm section almost forces the listener to get his head knocking to its beat.  It’s enough to let you realize just what Hip Hop lost when he passed.

Yancey Boys is no classic. However, it’s an enjoyable ride that is filled with some great J Dilla production. Illa isn’t the most talented, but he does show glimpses of potential in and around the album, which was truly been billed more around his brother than him from the start. The only problem is that in the future, he won’t have his older brother to have his back in times of musical trouble. Even so, it’s an earnest and sincere attempt from Illa to pay respect to his brother through one of the things that connected them, and in these times, that should mean enough.