Illmaculate is a well-renowned MC; you may be more familiar with him through countless battles on a host of leagues around the world, but he’s got a banging discography to go with his clashes. ‘The Red Tape’ is the latest release from the Oregon lyricist, and it finds him partnering with Los Angeles musician Calvin Valentine, who expertly handles Otis Redding samples throughout the project.
The LP gets underway with the storming opener ‘Tell It Like It Is’; crisp, boom bap production backs the Portland MC’s sharp, confident and technical vocal. The unashamed braggadocio is delivered with huge success, and it’s one of the reasons that Illmac is so well equipped to transition from battle rapper to musical artist and back again. ‘Try A Little’ too is another banging cut with intricate rhymes and an encapsulating mic presence.
‘Long Time’ is brilliant. Illmac’s biographical account of his career keeps you hooked on his every line, and the beat is laced with anthemic brass and soulful keys, underpinned by a crunchy kick and beautifully chopped vocals. The picked guitar riff and textured production of ‘Gone Again’ is another track with real commercial, mainstream potential with a really strong hook delivered by Sam Trump and characteristically intricate spitting from Illmaculate resulting in a truly remarkable and memorable tune.
‘New Years’ is another crisp, classy banger, and the soulful, vintage samples across the album result in a sense of continuity and cohesion which makes ‘The Red Tape’ an album well worth checking out. ’10Million’ is packed with sharp punchlines and a witty narrative. It’s a trippy, bouncy joint with a dope, jazzy flavour, and it’s followed up with the flawless posse cut ‘Huffington Post’, which features classic acapella cuts and a crisp, funky beat.
‘The Red Tape’ is a brilliantly executed rap album to start 2017 off correctly. It’s got a traditional vibe to it, but Illmac’s charismatic rhymes and Calvin Valentine’s insanely soulful, punchy production mean that it’s exciting and enjoyable from front to back. With mean punches and a cocky delivery, Illmaculate is an incredibly sharp writer, and Calvin’s chops are also to be fully applauded. This is a great partnership, and Otis would surely be proud of this remarkable, albeit subtle, tribute to the legendary musician.
By Sam Bennett