#DaFiveFingerDiscount: Illus – Behind the Mask [Editorial]

Posted on September 19, 2014 by

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The latest in our #DaFiveFingerDiscount series comes from the emcee/artist Illus about his project, Behind the Mask.

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It is really hard to pick favorites because each song is its own special memory and there is something important and meaningful about each one. This is why I create music, to express a feeling, experience, idea or a moment in time that affected me in some way enough to actually spend endless hours writing, recording and marketing it as a song or as an album.  That being said I will pick my current five favorite tracks and try and explain why.

“Extraordinary League of Hip Hop Dads” –  was the first song recorded. I originally wanted to put together a group made up of friends who are all emcees and happen to be fathers as well. ICBM produced a bunch of incredible beats and I picked out ten that I thought would be great. All of the emcees on this song were going to be in the group and I also wanted Praverb from Praverb.net to be involved as well. Unfortunately he was busy with a newborn and just couldn’t make this track. I’ve always wanted to be in a group, I love group dynamics and I miss the days of HipHop groups like Leaders of the New School, Treacherous 3, and the Furious 5. Unfortunately the reasons there are not a lot of groups is because it is really hard to organize and throw in the fact that we are all family guys with kids makes it even more difficult. I love rocking with these guys though and hopefully we will work together more in the future.

“Say Less” – went through many variations and I love how the final track came out. I don’t really make a lot of songs that are specifically about me personally so I wanted to give the listeners a little insight into who I am but more importantly I wanted it to be a snapshot in time for my son to look back on so he can see what was going on in his dad’s head. I wanted to create a record that, even though it is about me, any of my friends/fans can connect with it and feel good about themselves. I want all of my people to feel loved and know that they are awesome and that they should love themselves and be the best that they can be.I originally was singing an off key hook so I gave the concept to my man Roxxxteady who took it and absolutely killed it and gave the song a lot of flavor. This is definitely a feel good music track.

“Grapes of Wrath” – is a song I have been wanting to write for a long time. I come from a hard working family that had to busy their butts to make ends meet and come up from nothing and hard work is in my bones. I got my first job at 10 and haven’t stopped working since. I really respect the working man and woman who put in a hard days work, whether they are sweating in fields picking fruits and vegetables, truck drivers delivering food across the country, teachers, librarians, construction workers, farmers….those are the people that make society tick and the world needs them. A lot of people these days are against Unions but they forget how corporations and employers take advantage of the people and the poor working conditions and low wages people use to have to suffer through. Unions changed that and while they are not perfect, they gave the workers a chance for equality and a fair shake. Having the legendary Craig G on this track was also a blessing and I always learn a lot from him. Again Roxxxteady provided the hook and gave it a real soulful flavor that I love.

“Beautiful Thing”  – is another feel good track that I was honored to rock with my man Blueprint. This is our second song together, the first being “Extraordinary” off my album “Family First”. Print is an amazing artist I admire and he has such a gift for words and the delivery of words and his voice is do dope, it is always quite intimidating for me to rock with him. The great thing is I always learn from him and feel like I come out of it a better artist and lyricist. Beautiful Thing was originally called “4th Dimensional” and I wanted to do a track about life and how it is much more than we think. In the end I realized that it didn’t need to be that deep. Life can be complex but it can also be quite simple and in both you will find all kinds of beauty. When I work with other artists I try and make universal songs that all listeners can connect with. There are plenty of collaborations with skillful emcees just spitting ruthless bars often directed at other emcees or whomever, but I want to make something timeless where all involved flow together with purpose and meaning to create a song that can help inspire others or at least make them feel good while they are listening. Not very HipHop? Maybe not. Ha.

“Plan B” – This is the second song I’ve recorded with Apathy. He produced my song “Forever” off the “Family First” album which he also spit on. The reason I love this track is because it allowed me to do something a little different from what I normally do these days. With this track I wanted to express some of my frustrations with the industry so I created a character who is part super-villain wannabe rapper that has emulated some of the worst/best in the industry and as he navigates all of the negativity he starts to realize that he has been wasting his time and he should be fighting to help people rather than emulating villains and commercial pop trash stereotypes.

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