Formerly a member of early 2000’s staple Non Phixion, Ill Bill has built worldwide acclaim as an edgy proponent of remaining true to Hip Hop’s roots. An acquired taste for certain, his hardcore repertoire has served an audience driven to appreciate the cold depiction of New York that coincides with the chip on his shoulder—both products of being raised in a far more frantic era. Handing out trophies to the elements that shaped his being, The Grimy Awards is Ill Bill’s latest addition to what has become quite an extensive catalog over time.
A probable inspiration to the demented routine of his younger blood brother Necro, Ill Bill’s form is off-putting and uncompromising without signs of easing up. Putting his rolodex to good use, The Grimy Awards is a celebration of the underground’s elite and his place within it, as scratched hooks and abrasive raps are sure to delight the stereotypical “backpacker” crowd. Perfectly capable of holding his own, Bill enlists the help of up and coming Action Bronson affiliate Mayhem Lauren to wax nostalgic on their old stomping grounds on “L’Amour East,” while “Power” features vets O.C. and Cormega, the three proudly repping the spoils of independently controlling their careers. As its title suggests, the gritty outlook of “Severed Heads Of State” has El-P behind the boards along with dropping a guest verse, and the similar style of Jedi Mind Tricks aids Ill Bill’s lyrical slaughter on “120% Darkside Justice,” songs not designed for the faint of heart.
Though Ill Bill possesses strengths in flowing, The Grimy Awards stands out on the merits of its production lineup suited to please golden age enthusiasts missing the East Coast’s prior domination. For starters, Pete Rock provides the soundtrack for “When I Die,” a tribute to the late Uncle Howie (his name and voice a fixture in the minds of Ill Bill’s fans), as well as the complicated delivery in the philosophy found on “Truth.” Another legend to land two spots is Large Professor, responsible for “Acid Reflux,” an homage to the LSD hallucinogenic and “Canarsie High” where Bill’s dropping out to get a GED is rationalized by losing faith in society. On the same dark path, Psycho Les handles duties on “How To Survive The Apocalypse” and in a rare moment of positivity, “World Premier” closes the album saluting Gang Starr’s beat maker extraordinaire, with its very subject lacing the track.
Violently ominous, Ill Bill provides a rather jarring listen, as The Grimy Awards sticks steadfast to an abrasive script. While longtime fans will likely praise Bill’s dedication to holding down his loyal following, the limited amount of calm here will cause the unintiated to wonder if he just lacks the desire to leave the comfort of his bubble and cross over and ward off anyone yet to familiarize themselves with his work by this point.