Review Summary: Crossover appeal abounds, Ill Bill further refines his niche of the New York underground hip-hop scene.
“Ill Bill” Braunstein, besides having the most Jewish last name ever witnessed in hip-hop, has always been the odd man out in New York. Nonetheless, he’s effectively carved his own niche out of the underground, in spite of beginning his career at the end of the Golden Age and the start of the Renaissance. Releasing The Hour of Reprisal
at 36, it’s safe to say that Ill Bill is comfortable with his position in the greater scheme of things. As the introduction to “Babylon” suggests, The Hour of Reprisal
serves as a retrospective of his life, or an alternative autobiography of sorts. Whatever the goal, it is immediately apparent that this isn’t just another shock rap album.
Observation of hood violence and illicit dealings, juxtaposed with participating in the atrocity, has always been Ill Bill’s way. On Reprisal
, for the majority, this is thrown out the window; the final product is equal parts conviction, socio-political commentary, and hood truth. An interesting, modified spoken word flow is the weapon of choice, with hardcore delivery as the ammunition. Although more mature than previous outings, there are still plenty of content issues – especially with respect to the political commentary. There are ignorant people. The US government’s international image isn’t ideal. “Society is brainwashed” (track nine). Immortal Technique would be proud; too bad most of these secret conspiracy theories are fairly run of the mill lyrical-revolutionary doctrine. These discussions could at least use some kind of imagery, simile, or metaphor, not just obvious truths; this is exactly what Technique brings to the table in his featured joint. While Ill Bill is the focus of the album, every guest performance is well-conceived and makes sense.
The most exciting and truly unique component of Reprisal
lies within the brilliantly executed production. Not only enhancing the lyrical and atmospheric delivery throughout, the beats bring a lot to hip-hop and give Ill Bill a place next to El-Producto as an elite NYC production visionary. As explained by “White Ni
gger” his influences are derived not only from Run DMC and the Beastie Boys, but also Slayer, Megadeth, Metallica, and (as per Max Cavalera’s guest performance) metal as a whole. This may sound off-putting to most traditional hip-hop heads, but do not dismiss this album; this is a tasteful mixture of soul-influences and distorted guitar samples. Apocalyptic and frantic at times, funky and futuristic at others, nearly every Ill Bill-devised beat is dope and perfect for every situation (even the near-juvenile attempts at government-criticism). Compared to these compositions, there are high expectations for the guest producers, yet they all deliver, with the surprising exception of DJ Premier. Although it may not fit the atmosphere of the album entirely, “Too Young” features guest producer Darp Malone, who brings an obviously RJD2-influenced sound to the track. A definite highlight to the album, this fits the progression of the album’s theme perfectly.
It’s been a goal of many a Korn-copycat to effect an amalgam of metal and hip-hop for almost two decades now. Unfortunately, most of these groups end up in two different camps - the heavily nu-metal founded rapcore - and certain brands of horrorcore, typified by simplistic metal samples. The Hour of Reprisal
succeeds in his metal-hip-hop alchemy and manages to avoid these post-Beastie Boys conventions, while progressing the genre. Although only above average lyrically, Reprisal
is worth a listen for the production alone and will have crossover appeal to metal fans.