The Ill Funk Ensemble, are based in Albany and have been stepping on stages since 2006. They’ve even been blessed to perform live with Grammy-winner Mr. Cheeks of the Lost Boyz, Naughty by Nature and Young MC and placed forth in a national competition to perform at Royal Family Affair with Soulive in 2011. They have also had a placement on the show “Road Trip Nation” and had an honorable mention in the John Lennon song-writing competition.
While most of you try to dichotomize terms like hip hop and rap, I just listen to the music now. This album, to put it simply, is off the chain. Unlike mainstream rap today, where the same stuff is rapped about over and over, this album thinks outside the box. With so many artists lacking depth, subject matter, and quite honestly intelligence, you still have The Ill Funk Ensemble and a few others to hold on to. In this repetitive game of rap, these cats set trends and explore uninhabited terrains in everything from rhyme patterns, beats and musical substance.
“The Duality” is an album of spacey hiphop, R&B and soul funk, that develops a startlingly fresh, original sound. The Ill Funk Ensemble deal out hard beats, as well as laid-back vibes that perfectly suit the band’s overall sense of melody. The album’s chief musical foundation is funky R&B, but other influences pop up all over the 12 tracks as well.
Some tracks have a spiritual, almost gospel feel (though only in tone, not lyrical content), and the production team frequently employs the spacious mixes and echo effects of dub and the now famous T-Pain vocal style, in creating the album’s modern soundscapes.
The album opens with “She’s Fearless” which is an infectious blend of swingbeat, G-Funk and mid-’90s, R.Kelly-style soul moves. Languid, lecherous but with a hip hop attitude that dominate.
“Afraid of Heights” sizzles along a 70’s dance-funk bravado and leads to one of the album’s standout tracks. “Amazing,” which cruises on a outrageously catchy chorus line and slinky acid-jazz beat, which is hard to ignore.
Jermaine Wells’ vocals are off-the-cuff heart n’ soul deliveries, that blend perfectly within any genre or tempo. The Ill Funk Ensemble also greatly benefit from the fact, that the entire 5-man crew share vocal chores. Giving them an added edge with harmonies and other fancy vocal interludes.
Check out “Bringin’ The Heat” for the clever vocal interludes before you move onto another standout track. The sexy and hypnotic, “Hot Crazy Good Love.” Now here’s a group that understands the power of the chorus.
“The Duality” is filled with many highlights, like “Different Day (feat. Michael Gaydusek)” and “My Gosh,” but the track that epitomizes the sound of this outstanding band, is without a doubt “Find A Way (feat. Steven Atkinson).” This track has got it all. Beat, lyrics, flow, melody and chorus-line, with a hot musical arrangement to match. “Find A Way” stands head and shoulders above anything else on an album that is already air-tight on all levels, which should give you the measure of things.
“The Duality” sound production is mellow gold and the overall vibe is just outstanding. The air-tight flows and beats will make your head bob and your speakers purr with bowel-obstructing basslines.
Jermaine Wells (Lead Vocals/Freestyle), BJ FitzGerald (Guitar/Lead Vocals), Dennie Brooks (Drums/Backing Vocals), Joe Stoner (Keyboards/Backing Vocals), Duane Etienne (Bass/Backing Vocals), have put out an album unlike most modern rap/hiphop records; no skits, no filler. Just pure, raw, unadulterated soulful crossover R&B/hip-hop.
You cannot consider yourself a fan of these genres without this in your collection…
Pop it in, turn off the lights and listen from start to finish if you don’t believe me.
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