Being the younger brother of a Hip-Hop legend and having the bloodline of hip-hop royalty flowing through your veins is bound to be an arduous task for any aspiring musician. Nonetheless, John Derek Yancey, better known as, "Illa J" is the younger brother of the late great, "J.Dilla". Illa J was born on October 13th, 1986 in Detroit Michigan and would grow up in a family filled with musicians as both his parents could sing and play instruments while his brother Dilla was a masterful musician in his own right. Illa J was also part of the great Hip-Hop group, Slum Village, who was blessed to have J.Dilla's stellar production on their two albums, "Fantastic Volume 1" and,"Fantastic Volume 2". Just as he details in this HipHopDx interview, although rapping has been one of his passions, he still believes he will always be a singer first. Both fortunately and unfortunately, for Illa J he would end up being spoiled by living with a legendary musician J.Dilla as he always had his pick of his hottest beats. Consequently after his older brother J.Dilla passed away from his terminal illness in 2006, Illa J would drop out of college to cultivate his first full-length project called, "Yancey Brothers" that was entirely produced by beats Dilla left behind. This project was Illa's first tribute to the greatness of his older brother J.Dilla with him deciding to show off his rapping skills over Dilla's luscious & funky musical landscapes in the tracks, "DFTF" & "We Here". Although this album showcased his lyrical abilities to illustrate a funky boom-bap vibe with the production from Dilla musically, the more mature and self-driven album would come with Illa's second album after he moved to Montreal, Canada.
Illa J would step down from Slum Village to focus more on his solo career and over the next 6 years since the release of his first project he would collaborate with Frank Nitty to release the project, "Sunset Blvd". In 2015, Illa J would finally release his debut self-titled album, "Illa J" under the record label Bastard Jazz Records. As he stated before in this HipHopDx interview, he believes he has always been a singer first and this album showcases such, with more of an r&b, funk & jazz sound courtesy of his new production group Potatohead People. The tracks, "Universe" & "Sunflower" illuminate Illa J's singing skills over more up-tempo beats that have come a long way since his first project. There are still bits and pieces of J.Dilla inspired sounds from his new production team in tracks such as the jazzy sound on "Cannonball". Even the track, "Strippers" is very synthy and has a very dope swing to it with jazz inspirations throughout the song. The project ends and very appropriately so with his own tribute to his brother Dilla in "Never Left".
We encourage you to check out Illa J's dope new project, "Illa J" and to purchase it here to support Illa J respectively!