As an avid junkie for Hip Hop, I am constantly learning and discovering new themes, artists, trends, soundscapes, producers, you name it. As a student of the art I will continue to gain knowledge along the way. I look for substance and artists who can educate me through their music. Ill Conscious is a true emcee who comes to mind, with the way he expresses himself, and how eloquently he speaks. I was very excited to interview him, and his responses moved me even more. It’s an absolute pleasure to share this interview with you all.
First off thank you for taking time out of your schedule for this interview. To start off, what’s the story behind your name? Who is Ill Conscious? What does the name represent and mean to you?
Peace. I’ve always had the word “conscious” in my name, however different variations & forms came about as I started to evolve as an artist. I would consider myself a free thinker or someone on a quest for truth in this society, thus my ability to be observant of my surroundings while having a keen sense of awareness to life and all of its components. At least, that’s what “conscious” represents to me. Being from Baltimore, the ills of society has plagued us in a major way. Being that voice for the good, bad & the ugly really transcended the meaning of my name. My uncle who was my mentor in this rap shit used to tell me that I was way ahead of my time and always would tell me that I have a crazy ill mindset. From there it is history and the merge would create ILL Conscious.
What’s your earliest recollection of when you were first introduced to Hip Hop? And when did you decide this is was something you wanted to be involved in?
I’ve always been a fan of hip hop since the womb, however coming up I had several close friends who were into the entire culture to the point where they were writing their own lyrics. I was the one transcribing lyrics from songs on the radio just so I can memorize the words. One of my friends actually would put me on to new music all of the time, however it wasn’t until the Nas and Jay-Z beef circa 2000-2001 when I was about 11 or 12 where I became influenced to pick up the pen. It was something about the intensity of that beef that had me infatuated with the art. As a result, I dug back even deeper to what I would discover a plethora of real hip hop that I hadn’t fully comprehended in the 90s as a child. My early childhood development and junior high days I always considered my self very much into creative writing whether it was poetry, vignettes or any type of literature. 2001 was when I would say it all originated for ILL Conscious.
How do you feel about the evolution of Hip Hop and the direction it’s currently headed in? From the 80’s, all the way to now, what’s your take on the scene?
Once you understand the agenda of a white supremacy society and its constant battle for power to maintain a population of dumb, deaf and blind, then you will understand how and why the music of today is far from the direction and purpose it was initially intended for. Its not a coincidence. In the 80’s we rebelled, the people, the streets needed an outlet and it was positive for the youth. The 90s were more equipped with lyricists that helped create the image of the struggle and shed light on major issues in our community. However, when you have government intervening with the players then you will start to see how hip hop has become a corporate driven business opposed to the rebellious state it started as. Rappers make chains, cars, and fast women the priority. Hip hop is very different. In the mainstream, the culture is absent so thats why we are considered “underground”. What’s underground today was once the norm for the radio waves. The majority of mainstream radio perpetuates the uncanny behavior of our troubled youth today, but I say that to say this. I still love this shit.
Are there any things in particular you focus on or seek out in terms of who you choose to work with when it comes to the production aspect?
I don’t really have a certain type of production that I look for. It really doesn’t even matter if the producer is popular. It really just depends on the mood I am in at that time and how I’m feeling. I dig the dust and grime sound that everybody is into, but I also like that lo-fi smooth sound that has that perfect frequency. I look for beats that aren’t overproduced. I like to keep it nostalgic with a modern sound and a lot of breathing room to show my lyrical prowess. There are producers that I have been working with for some years now that are my go to if need be. Peace to MWP and Loop.Holes.
‘The Prerequisite’ was amazing. How long did it take you to work on this project and what did you want fans to walk away with after they’ve listened to it?
‘The Prerequisite’ was a project that came about as a result of not releasing my “Import Export” project that was supposed to be the sophomore work following my first album ‘The Essence’. At that time, I was dealing with real life situations and I had to adapt to the circumstances. I believe the process of making “Import Export” was tainted and I wasn’t prepared to release that project with all of the negative energy surrounding at the time. So…I went back to the drawing board. I eliminated the potential threats and I created a new slate. I wanted people to see my diversity on The Prerequisite and my growth as a lyricist. I wanted to have tracks for every mood and I believe I did just that. Showcasing my ability yet still making the important songs for the people. ‘The Prerequisite’ for me was my real introduction to this “underground” circuit that everyone highly reveres.
Can you tell us how you ended up working with Mz Boom Bap for Sorcery?
I met Mz Boom bap online. We linked organically through the respect and admiration for one another’s craft, continued to network and get a feel of each other’s style and the rest is history. I plan on doing a “Sorcery” tour with Mz Boom Bap in Europe hopefully within the next coming months. Look out for more music and projects from us in the future. It is only the beginning.
Despite being unique in your own ways, you and Jay Royale have a lot of chemistry. How long have you guys known each other?
I’ve known Jay Royale for maybe about 7 years now, however we didn’t do our first track together until 2015, approximately 4 years ago. We had a high respect and admiration for each other as lyricists. The first track I heard from Jay was his rendition of Big L’s Ebonics. That shit blew my mind and I had to link with my brother.
I’m sure you value all of your work, as you should. But is there any project or song in particular that has a lot of meaning or sentiment to you? Something in particular that you’re the most proud of?
I would say “The Testament” is a song that carries heavy sentiment for me. I spoke about my deceased son and grandmother which affected my outlook on life. Prior to ‘The Testament” I haven’t spoke about my son on wax since 2008 on a song called “As I Mourn” from an older mixtape. “The Essence” was my first official debut album in 2015 and so many opportunities came with the release of that. I’m forever grateful.
Is there a possibility of you and Jay Royale doing a full length collab together, or even an EP?
So here’s the story behind ‘The Tutelage’ project. From 2015 – 2017 we literally recorded enough for a full length project. The only thing that needed to be done was the mixing and mastering. However, due to constant shows, traveling, us just working on our own solo projects as well as life taking precedence, ‘The Tutelage’ didn’t quite come out when we had hoped it would. There’s a reason for everything and the timing is imperative. With the release of ‘The Ivory Stoop’ and my projects we just haven’t had the time to sit and focus on it again. We are scrapping what we did previously record and have intentions of collaborating on an album again as we have both evolved as artists. We are better than what we were when we first began this endeavor. I’m still very open to the idea and Jay is as well. We perform together a lot and we understand the demand behind the project. Stay tuned you never know.
You just got back from Chile and I’m sure it was an amazing experience. Where else will you be touring this year? Any plans of coming to California anytime soon?
Chile was amazing. The remainder of the year I plan on touring in Switzerland, France, Spain and the UK. I am currently trying to plan something with my brother Supreme Cerebral and you may catch me in LA as early as July if everything works out in our favor. I plan to hit the west coast regardless anyway so look out for me in Cali in the summer months.
I hope you all enjoyed the answers from Ill Conscious as much as I did. He strives to keep Hip Hop in its purest form and excels at what he does. Shout out to Jay Royale and J Scienide as well, two others who are really keeping the culture alive and thriving. Ill Conscious, thank you once again.