All the way northwest, in the corner of America where Washington kisses Vancouver, Seattle is standing up for itself. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are white enough to embarrass paper and Raz Simone is the first spitter signed to Lyor Cohen’s new 300 label, but head south, to Tacoma, and you’ll find something better than both of those acts: ILLFIGHTYOU.
It starts with Khris P Kream, the head producer of the ILLFIGHTYOU crew, consisting of Ugly Frank and Evergreen One. In 2012 Khris dropped Yes, his only solo tape to date. It starts with “TrapHouseOnJupiter,” which might or might not be what Khris initially named the beat. Yet that’s a perfect name for the beat. Khris has talked about producing “trap” in the past, but that’s hardly the descriptor that comes to mind when you hear his tape. It’s more vapor-wave than anything, like something Ryan Hemsworth would nut over.
Standouts like “No Limit” and “Casino Royale” illustrate how clean Khris’ mixes are and how different his beats sound compared to every other producer out right now. Drum patterns switch, vocal samples morph into loops, and special attention is paid to what’s happening in the background. He would extend that aesthetic onto last year’s ILLFIGHTYOU debut, which at once embodied the Odd Future ethos and blew it out of the water. It was, by far, one of the best tapes of 2013.
Ugly Frank’s new project, Bobby Hill EP, finds updated Kream Team production (Khris works with sidekick Lou Swang) matched with ILLFIGHTYOU’s best spitter. Clocking in at seven songs, it uses economy to its advantage without running the risk of losing our ever-shortening attention spans. “Frank Truise” pushes rippling synths as Ugly Frank talks about people who get sensitive over Tumblr. His voice sounds a bit like Hodgy Beats and he incorporates shards of style from Rick Ross, Drake, and even PeeWee Longway throughout the tape, but it’s a tasteful borrowing reserved for just the right moments.
Overall, Ugly Frank sounds angry. “90”s sounds like what you play in the whip before committing a drive-by, simultaneously courting violence while also resembling it. “Gummi Worms” is steroids for your speakers and “Left Ova” feels like a mushroom trip. The whole thing is ear candy. Frank accesses a gang of flows and his hooks sound like chants. There probably haven’t been many ILLFIGHTYOU concerts yet because it’ll be pure pandemonium.
To be clear—these kids aren’t Odd Future knockoffs. They took the gritty, group-centric direction of OF and elevated the music. The raps are tigther, the beats bang harder, and the projects they release are cohesive listens. Now we need to hear Kream Team get placements—just listen to Vince Staples destroy “Never.”
The best song is the final track, “PBR.” It reads as Frank’s life story, truncated into details about who his only lifelong friend is and what he sold his soul for. It’s more like his mission statement, equipped with gymnastic flows that make for one of the best rap songs of 2014, so far.
Khris P’s sonics will seep into your sores first, but Ugly Frank’s bars will kick around inside your head after you’ve heard them. The whole crew has staying power, and Bobby Hill EP is a strong sign that the ILLFIGHTYOU crew is here to light shit up.