If you’re unfamiliar with Illecism by now, you haven’t been on a hip hop blog in months, (including Okayplayer.com). So I’ll give you a sec to do some research (Hint: try illthy.com). The prolific young emcee is already on his 10th project and this one is based on the game Final Fantasy VII which is centered around protangonist, you guessed it, Cloud Strife. It’ll be interesting to see if Illecism can find his niche. The oft-overlooked emcee has even put his album on iTunes Japan early. He must be in a hurry to show Japan his homage of their culture as Cloud Strife is very unique and quite possibly Illecism’s most polished work.To those familiar with Illecism’s work, you might find Cloud Strife to be a departure from his previous work. In fact the only potential disappointment some may have with the album is the style emphasizing a sing-song type of flow as opposed to a straight up traditional rap. It’s not a paradigm shift however, as his fans well know dude can sing hooks…and he’s got bars. Cloud Strife is no exception. There’s really something for everyone. The list of game references is enough to make any FFVII nerd happy. Admittedly, I had to do some research on the game, so forgive my Wikipedia knowledge.
As far as beats go, the production of this album is really a lottery draft of up and coming producers including Nicatyne, Lee Bannon, Trade Vorhees, Rufio and AbJo. Despite the variety of producers, the tracks sound cohesive as a project.
Frequent collaborator Nicatyne provides a lot of production for the album. Of the 5 tracks he made my favorite “Genova Thesis,” an interlude which samples the game’s simple theme but eventually gets layered with crazy synths and a pretty serious snare. Also of note is Tifa Lockheart (Heroine). Tifa is the object of Cloud’s affection and serves as inspiration for a love ballad. It’s also a dope metaphor for drugs, can you guess which one? Among the other tracks on the album, my personal favorites are:
Not all rappers pick the best track as their first single (maybe it’s the label’s decision more often than not), but “Midgar Music” is by far the stand out track. Las Vegas producer/rapper Trade Vorhees is to thank for the haunting framework. Lyrically the song starts with reflections of Illecism’s past and current struggles:
“So I’m doin 35 in the fast lane/ thinkin too hard on how to get this cash mang/Just wanna throw it down on my gas tank/and keep drivin…while reminiscing on my homies from the past days/and ex’s who probably don’t remember my last name/ what’s goin on?/maybe I need to clear my dome/no music on as I hum tryin to hear a song/”
I’ll spare you the chorus because if you hear this album it’ll be stuck in your head regardless…very catchy. The introspective lyrics eventually drift in to premonitions of having wealth and success in the industry, as he says “Everything around me’s cloudy.” Eventually the track comes back down to earth as he states:
“Maybe I need to spark this/Maybe I need to park it/perhaps my world will when my rims stop spinnin…This is on the regular, I hate bein different/God is this a curse or package with red ribbon?/Life stinks, I’m just ventin/you like that? I just penned it/paragraph indented…”
A lot of what makes Aeris Flower is the beat, provided by Rufio. For the uninitiated, peep this track and appreciate the intoxicating and seemingly erratic hi-hat pattern. His off kilter-drums are something of a signature. Upon first listen, the relatively simple arrangements work but on 2nd or 3rd listen you really begin to notice the subtle build to the beat. The reemergence of the break at about a minute and a half coupled with Illy’s interlude suggesting “the green one gives me powers, I inhale for hours” makes it all work.
Ultima Weapon (Nothin Gon’ Stop Me)
This track probably has the most traditional rap feel to it despite the lack of slapping drums. They aren’t necessary however, the sample just reminds me of something MF Doom would use and the chopped up vocals in the beginning are reminiscent of Dilla’s Donuts. AbJo provides the canvas as Illecism spits his multi-syllable style:
“If you knew shit I’ve been through day to day dog/
You would know I have more spirit than a seance/
but you don’t so I gotta cause hella chaos/
let em know that my flow is nasty as an Adolph/
Hitler/ Mister /nigga where’d you get that style from?/
You softer than a whisper…”
Dudes got bars.
To really appreciate Cloud Strife it needs to be heard a few times and as a whole. If you do I’d be willing to bet it gets regular rotation in your CD player. It is a very original undertaking for a project and hopefully it’ll help jumpstart the career of a very talented rapper that still makes good music, we need to support these dudes.