ILLu, 'D👁️Y' | Album Review | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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ILLu, 'D👁️Y'

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Published June 12, 2024 at 10:00 a.m.


ILLu, D👁️Y - COURTESY
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  • ILLu, D👁️Y

(Equal Eyes Records, digital)

In the past decade, Vermont's hip-hop scene has witnessed an explosive proliferation of spooky-talented producers. Consider D👁️Y, a recent album from Equal Eyes Records head honcho ILLu, which features a dozen outstanding artists. Presented as an instrumental "Do It Yourself Rap Album," this is an unexpected and quirky triumph.

It's also kinda weird. First, there's the emoji in the title, always a fun monkey wrench to toss at print media. Then there's the fact it's a compilation attributed to a producer who doesn't show up until the last track — and the album only exists as a YouTube upload. Then again, the music business itself is kinda weird these days, and there is a certain punk-rock, samizdat charm to this unique approach. ILLu is very much the executive producer here, in the same way that Dr. Dre albums are a huge cast of guest artists being orchestrated from behind the mixing board.

Inevitably, this LP is a reflection of ILLu's social network, but it's also a fairly accurate cross section of the beat-making scene in Vermont. Northeast Kingdom producer SKYWISE kicks things off with "SkyLu," a smoked-out banger with a strong dose of the dramatic and psychedelic boom bap that he's built his name on. It's a smooth transition into Es-K's "Revisichrome," a beautiful soundtrack in search of a movie.

From there, things get pleasantly surprising. The bright chops of Burlington multimedia artist Lerrix wash up against the chilled out "Ceviche," an exquisite Big Homie Wes club joint. Mid-song, it abruptly switches gears into a hilariously candid rap about fumbling with the ladies.

After that, the album gets back to being a beat tape showcasing some of the 802's finest. The likes of Dokowala, Freddie Losambe, In.stinct, AgentElsewhere and Flip Physics are revered by heads in the know, but they keep a low profile. That's true for most of Vermont's production talent, really. Forging dope beats and promoting your own brand are two very different skill sets, and a lot of these artists are working parents, making music simply because they love it.

The closing suite is perfection. David Chief is one of the most successful producers out of Burlington by any metric, and "83" is a constantly surprising composition. Old Gold's "No Muss" is a perfect loop trapped in lo-fi amber. Finally, ILLu's contribution is fantastic — a woozy, melodic '90s throwback that wouldn't sound out of place on a Hieroglyphics or Jungle Brothers album.

D👁️Y is one of most important Vermont hip-hop releases of the year. The compilation succeeds on two levels: as a guided tour of a thriving local scene and a demonstration of the vast musical range of the genre itself. Sonically diverse and smartly sequenced, this is another high point in the Equal Eyes Records catalog.

D👁️Y is available at equaleyesrecords.com/doityourself.

Speaking of ILLu, D👁️Y

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