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Via Bandcamp – MC Mattic and producer Madwreck, two-thirds of the long disbanded The Others, reunite as Ill Scholars, their latest venture into tried and true hip-hop. The North Carolina natives come with an extensive pedigree in the business; Mattic (now based in France), having worked with many musical luminaries around the world, and Madwreck, a much sought-after producer, building his brand as one-half of The Dirty Art Club and putting his signature sound on various artists’ projects. Their work together on this self-titled debut proves a stylistic accomplishment, combining a healthy influence of jazz and funk with crisp boom-bap grooves.
Mattic’s nimble flow is the product of book-smart knowledge and clever pop-culture references. His rhymes compliment beautifully the production tuned by Madwreck’s dexterous hand and together they create some of the most intelligent hip-hop to hit the speakers in a long time.
The album’s first single, “Magic”, proposes a revival of the golden-age hip-hop duo, channeling such fine examples like Pete Rock & C.L Smooth and Eric B. & Rakim. Numbers like the title-track demonstrate Madwreck’s ingenious design of playing with convention yet finding new ways to open up the rhythms to allow some truly inventive ideas into the production. And the imaginative use of samples, as on the choral-soaked “Move Mountains” (feat. YagoMeans), puts the duo a good mile ahead of the contending packs. There is enough electricity in these numbers to juice a thousand boomboxes. Mattic’s rhymes, meanwhile, flutter and bang about in the mix with his usual swagger, keeping the vibes locked with the grit and luster of true soul.
These here, then, are 15 cuts to remind you how hip-hop sounds when it’s done right – and when it’s done by some of the best in the game.