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66%B3 - Good
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Illbliss’ 8 year old marriage was recently blessed with a child for the first time, the veteran MC marked the special moment with a brand new album. Illy Bomaye is Illy’s 5th solo record and also comes roughly 9 months after his last one Illygatti:7057.

Illbliss normally uses his albums to breathe life into his bold alter egos – Oga Boss, Illygatti, Dat Ibo Boy – and this album is no different. Over a solo career spanning 12 years, the ex-Thorobred has introduced us to them one by one but the figures are so identical that there’s a distinction between them without there actually being a difference.   

There’s an unshakable constancy to Illbliss’ music: the type of narcissism that makes Rochas Okorocha look humble, the kind of floss raps that makes Rick Ross sound like a struggling artist. Illy mixes this attitude with masterfully disjointed rhyming schemes and a supreme pride in his Igbo heritage. In past albums, Illy has diluted this mix with glitzy features and crossover records but on Illy Bomaye, the MC is unapologetically himself. With no true A-list features, there’s little to distract you from the synergy between a razor-sharp Illy and his assembly of producers known for supplying Nigerian hip-hop’s grimmer beats.

The album’s title track embodies this intense energy. Over a chilling, barely-present beat from Xyz, Illy barks:

Igbo version of Ricky Ross /

Slight semblance to Biggie, or so they say

No drums, no percussions, “Illy Bomaye” flows ominously like it’s introducing a gruesome murder scene in Killbill. Illy opens up on a number of things, like why he’s not signing artists at the moment, the mistakes he has made in his career and the secret to his longevity. Illbliss adopted the nickname ‘Illy Bomaye’ from Mohammed Ali and the moniker is a nod to his own greatness. In the famous Rumble in the Jungle in 1974, Ali floored George Foreman as 60,000 fans chanted  “Ali, bomaye,” meaning “Ali, kill him” – Illbliss shares that same kill everything attitude on this album

However, without a George Foreman in front of him, the rapper battles his own enemies. He punctuates the expletive-ridden “Fireworks!” with verbalized gunshots – pratatata! – as he introduces yet another alter ego: Illy Banga. Everybody’s getting sprayed on this song, from those who got rich and switched up on him, to those challenging his hip-hop throne. On “Iteriba”, he gets more in-depth on how he intends to manhandle his foes. ThaSuspect’s dingy production darkens the mood, while a foul-mouthed chorus by Cynthia Morgan increases the song’s terror factor significantly.

On “Be Yourself”, Illy shifts his ire to a perpetual foe of his, foolishness in youth culture. Illbliss is Jay-Z-like in that he has positioned himself as an elder statesman who routinely looks down and calls out the things in the culture he disagrees with. Recall 6 years ago on “Anam Achi Kwanu” how he spoke against skinny jeans, dyed hair and bad manners, but it’s 2017 and Illy’s squaring up against newer trends, hard drugs, fake lifestyles and mumble rap. The message is clear, be true to yourself, don’t just follow trends.

Be yourself, motherfucker be yourself

All the fake lifestyle bad for your health

When the veteran MC does put his gloves down, he puts his guard down as well. I might have cringed as he struggled through his proposition to his lady on “Over and Over” but my hardened hip-hop heart melted when I listened to his daughter’s voice introducing “DaddyLuvsYou”, and with that, Illbliss’ 5th and most personal project yet.

On the song that followed, “God Of Wonders”, the rapper narrates how passers-by stare at him and his 5 year old niece, while they move through the same streets in Enugu where he grew up. Her uncle is a rap star now but getting to this position wasn’t easy, Praiz delivers a glorious hook and joins Illy in giving thanks. It’s the most polished, upbeat song on the project, but it is percussion and the rhythm of the beat that moves Nigerian clubs, not horns and songs of praise.

There’s simply nothing to jollificate to on Illy Bomaye, no “Jawon Laya” or “Can’t hear you”. The most you’d be able to do is bob your head to Major Bangz’ raucous production on the slightly dated “Ball in the Net” or sing along to the computerized chorus on “Buba”, an anthem for hustlers. There is also little here for the casual fan, but to his core, to those who have followed his career, Illy shadow-boxing over slapping beats will leave you with a scrunched face –  still – and his new bundle of joy will leave you happy for Illbliss on a human level.

The rapper’s intense adoration for his wife, evident through the music, has crescendoed with the birth of their daughter, and her inclusion on Illy Bomaye. The new dad takes his first assured steps into balancing tough guy rapper and fatherhood, before she begins to take hers.

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