Gods’Illa – Up and Up Presents Gods’Illa: The Album
UAU Music: 2010
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The reemerging Hip Hop scene in the Washington metropolitan area, typically referred to as the DMV (short for the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia), owes a great debt to the high profiles of artists such as Wale and the potent trio Diamond District. However, an entire crop of unknowns possessed of their own signature and polished styles bubble quietly under the surface. Of the many acts who have yet to crack the first ballot, the trio of physical brothers Truth, Acem and Powerful – known collectively as Gods’Illa – deserve much attention. Their debut album, Up and Up Presents Gods’Illa: The Album, is a refreshing throwback to when the flow of an album still mattered and that message driven Hip Hop could be entertaining without being overbearingly preachy.
The album begins with a brief intro produced by frequent collaborator Joe D. (who produces all but six tracks on the album). Setting the tone well, the LP launches into action with “Glory” and Joe D.’s excellent track is elevated by confident rhymes from the brothers. This early highlight captures much of the LP’s aim and serves as a perfect introduction to their varied vocal styles. “Who Is…” is another incredible Joe. D track featuring Acem, who delivers a strong verse with hints of frustration of not being lauded or well known amongst the throng. The track is far too short and Joe D.’s versatility impresses. The track “Stuck” is a welcome, smooth switch of the LP’s direction. The mellow production from Beggah Ooh (and co-production from Def.nition) boosts the relationship theme and Acem’s well-placed hook is stellar. “Another Day” ventures into grittier territory with the MCs’ graphic depiction of the streets matching well with AOF Music’s driving beat. The track “Protect It” continues the string of Acem’s excellent hooks, Powerful’s distinctive style and Truth’s bare honesty. Acem wisely allows his brothers to carry the bulk of the record and the beat from 8Trix Music is perhaps the strongest of the disc thus far.
The LP thankfully has very few dull moments. The well-meaning “Times Is Hard” is evidence of this fact. The song, while not entirely terrible, drags the energy down to a snail’s pace. Producer Algorythm offers heaping doses of smoothness and the positive rhymes from the brothers are thoughtful. However, the track just doesn’t fit with any of the others preceding it. “Helping Hand”, which features Substantial, corrects things quickly and Joe D.’s track adds another superb melding of beats and rhymes; the theme of unity and collaboration resonate well within the track. “Decisions” is another track that threatens to derail the LP’s momentum. The production from Chris Wright is decent enough but the rhymes from the brothers (and the features from Diggz and Tre of the Go-Go band UCB) are unmemorable.
The last full track, “Run On”, features Joe D. and Black Boo of the Go-Go Band Mambo Sauce. Saving the best for last, Joe D.’s horn-laced track is just busy enough in the background to give the MCs and vocalist space to work. As throughout most of the LP, the recurring themes of positivity and accomplishment over struggle are at the core of this track. The MCs of Gods’Illa do an excellent job of matching strong messages within their rhymes that never stray far from their Nation of Gods and Earths influence. However, it never feels misplaced or unnecessary. With one of the stronger debut LPs to be released in recent time, Gods’Illa appears ready to take their place as one of the DMV’s most talented acts.