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Music Band: The Ill Funk Ensemble

Music Album: The Duality

Record Label: Self-released

Song Singers/Perfomers Rating
She’s Fearless The Ill Funk Ensemble ★★★★½
Afraid of Heights The Ill Funk Ensemble ★★★★☆
Amazing The Ill Funk Ensemble ★★★★☆
The Streetbeater The Ill Funk Ensemble ★★★½☆
Hot Crazy Good Love The Ill Funk Ensemble ★★★☆☆
Interlude One The Ill Funk Ensemble ★★★★☆
Different Day The Ill Funk Ensemble ★★★★½
Find a Way The Ill Funk Ensemble ★★★½☆
She’s Fearless (Reprise) The Ill Funk Ensemble ★★★★☆
Interlude Two The Ill Funk Ensemble ★★★☆☆
My Gosh The Ill Funk Ensemble ★★★★½
The Duality The Ill Funk Ensemble ★★★★☆

1. She’s Fearless

Once the bass line kicks in, it’s evident that this is going to be a memorable r&b track, and it definitely is. The melodic vocals are stellar, and it’s hard not to smile as you hear him so locked into the beat. The guitars and keys bring some Stevie Wonder to the mix. We’re off to a good start.

2. Afraid of Heights

Highly danceable and with funk to lend to 2 or 3 other bands, this sounds like OutKast meets the Roots. The musicianship of this band is extremely impressive. Enter the socially conscious lyrics on the chorus, and the potency of the track really comes out.

 3. Amazing

Another obvious single. With a strong old school influence, it’s clear that the vocal choices were inspired by 2Pac, but it’s done as a respectful tribute and really makes the song take off.

4. The Streetbeater

A feel-good dance/funk banger with thought provoking lyrics.

 5. Hot Crazy Good Love

A straight r&b track changes the vibe. The vocals are great, although the lyrics leave a bit to be desired considering the quality of the rest of the disc.

 6. Interlude One

One of the funkier interludes you’re likely to hear.

 7. Different Day

Quite a dark track, more somber than almost anything else on “The Duality”. The lyrics dive into the human condition and verse #2 is, to me, the most affecting section of the album. Sad but beautiful.

 8. Find a Way

“Find a Way” is the Ill Funk Ensemble’s answer to “Man in the Mirror” – an inspiring hook.

 9. She’s Fearless (Reprise)

Solid re-imagining of the album opener.

 10. Interlude Two

More rhymes with a loose, De La Soul vibe.

 11. My Gosh

Pop and hip hop really meet well here. The melodic vocals shine even more than on “She’s Fearless”. This is also the best match between singing and rapping on the album. Everything works.

 12. The Duality

Heavy and affecting, the band jam over AWOLNATION’s “Sail”. I like this version better, myself!

Album ★★★★★★★★☆☆

Many people think hip hop has failed, associating it only with mainstream rappers like Lil Wayne, Kanye West and The Game, whose rhymes show them often times as shallow, egotistical and out of touch with the average person. However, positive and intelligent hip hop was around in the inception of the genre and it’s still around today; it’s just not as popular as it’s pseudo gangster competition.

The Ill Funk Ensemble manage to make a club-ready and danceable album that’s full of positive energy, inspiration and food for thought on “The Duality”. That’s a commendable achievement. Here’s hoping that we see a deserving act like this appearing with other brilliant, conscious artists like Mos Def, The Roots and Dead Prez in 2013.

Check out The Ill Funk Ensemble’s websites at:  www.illfunk.com and www.facebook.com/illfunk.