Eon MC Etc. & Alkaline23 – The Ill He Had – Album Review
As IF that’s not THE BEST album title you’re gonna find this year.
That being said, of course, it’d be crazy not to assume that you’ll get consistent rhymes and intellectual food for thought when it comes to the music of Eon MC Etc. – readers of our pages are well familiar with the name & no doubt there are legions of listeners out there playing his records at maximum volume. A man of quality and a true master of the m-i-c – he’s been at the top of my list for years now when it comes to what’s happening out there in the world of independent Hip-Hop. It’s been radiantly clear from day one that he’s got a way with words and the ability to use’em to full effect. This time around he’s back in action with Alkaline23 in the highly anticipated, long awaited follow-up to the last groundbreaking record by Eon MC Etc. released in 2017 called Southern L.O. – dude’s rocked a couple singles here & there between then and now…but like Lays potato chips, just one track ain’t gonna cut it. Not for me anyway…it’ll tide me over for a bit, but I’m here for the full-meal-deal when it comes to the music of Eon MC Etc. – even if was only two weeks between his records it’d still feel like far too long.
It definitely has been a minute since we’ve had the man up on our pages…so much has changed in between 2017 and now, even though many things have of course, all-too-predictably stayed the same when it comes to this world we’re living in. But hold up a minute here…what is that sound? I feel like I remember it from somewhere…as the “Intro” began I could hear…man…what IS that? Sounds like nostalgia at the moment y’all – it’s the sound of applause and crowd-noise – where did you go & get that from in the middle of all this Rona goin’ on Eon MC Etc. & Alkaline23? Man I miss that sound.
Snapping into place, the “Intro” leads you right into the bass-line groove & stylistic vibes of “Why You Doin It?” as these emcees begin to display all the reasons you should be listening to this record right of the drop. The Ill He Had gets movin’ quickly, shifting into the personal details & storyline narratives with impeccable professionalism and precision that should verifiably blow your mind – I tell ya like it IS y’all. Love cuts like this that get the bass-lines kickin’ and give you words to really think about – “Why You Doin It?” should have you examining your every move from the moment you get outta bed to the moment you call it quits for the night & head to dream-land. It’s about passion, delivered with passion – you gotta dig that. Brilliantly flexing rhythmic lines that connect with intellectual observations as on-point as they get, and quite often digging into their own personal tales to highlight the point & how looking inward has sparked their own fire of inspiration into fuel to create a full-on blaze – if you’re listening close, they’re laying down the blueprint from moment one. Honestly – these are words to live by – & more importantly, they’re asking the right question to make you consider whether or not you do.
As the sunshine sound of the uplifting design of “Dream Girl” hits you within seconds, you know it, I know it – that’s the definition of single-worthy right there…and if I were these two homies, I’d be looking hard at gettin’ the video goin’ for this one in full support…this would make an incredible gateway into the record for the listeners out there. What a beat! What lyricism! What a refreshing vibe they’ve created from beginning to end! Sometimes I think the best way to describe a cut with the strengths that “Dream Girl” is to simply say next to nothing at all & let the music speak for itself. I’ll put it to you this way…there are songs out there in this world that can sure use a few words of support to back’em up & generate some interest in what’s goin’ on…and then there are songs like “Dream Girl” that are so radiantly alluring on their own, that little needs to be said when everyone can hear the magic so clearly & obviously for themselves. For real y’all…if there’s a knock to be made against “Dream Girl” it would simply be that’s it’s 2:37 in length & you’ll easily want another ten minutes of this love-infused vibe…but that’s on us, not on them. Eon MC Etc. & Alkaline23 find the perfect sound to work with on this cut & the results of that discovery lead them in all the right directions with the music at their side – every set of ears will hear the stunning level of accessibility this song has, it’s undeniable. Here’s where things get twisted though – and this is essentially what separates the wheat from the chaff when it comes to listening to “Dream Girl” – make sure you’re paying attention right to the very end and how this story goes; what sounds like straight-up chill vibes & good times might not bring about the happy ending you’d expect. Infatuation, love, intense emotions…careful what you’re wishin’ for homeboys – a “Dream Girl” could lead to the defining moments of your life, but therein exists the power to break you apart forever too. All I know is that if it all somehow sounds like this, I’m in, for better or for worse. Give’em real credit though – that’s the kind of writing that should get noticed – as I’ve been saying from the drop, this cut doesn’t need my advocacy, I just wanna supply it anyway, cause there’s rad stuff here.
“Requiem” starts with a low-key piano melody and a powerful sample that immediately draws you in. Would I have had it as a completely different track on the record, instead of switching it up to the next part? Probably…the hit of that switch is pretty hard & defined…but…it’s not like people won’t love what they find when they make that transition after the intro has finished spinning. It’s the tiny details I gotta observe, that’s all they leave me with! Eon MC Etc. & Alkaline23 keep their music pretty damn locked down for the vast majority…so all I’ve got left is the most miniscule observations on how things might improve, and it’s basically me completely splitting hairs. “Requiem” is as rock-solid as any other cut on the record…the sample in between “Dream Girl” is also an extremely good idea to create the separation of sound in the set-list and allow for a different vibe to take over – so all things considered, even though I might have liked more of a crossfade slide on into the main meat of “Requiem,” as opposed to the jolt back into the beats & rhymes we find, don’t mistake an observation for any kind of complaint, cause it ain’t one. When it comes to the actual substance of what’s goin’ on in “Requiem” and how everything ties together…they can’t be beat. This cut should really hit ya, make you literally stop in place for a moment or two to consider these words they’re spittin’ and why it’s important to create a track like this. “Requiem” is a tribute to the fallen, and it makes time to highlight the gritty details of how a cut like this ends up getting made through the experiences they share over the mic. Based on a steady stream of good times & hard knocks – “Requiem” is like what you’d assume life would have been like for the Fresh Prince if he never moved to the safety Bel Air; sure there’s beautiful nostalgia in the mix and a great vibe to groove on – but damn…when it comes to these words, this is tougher-than-tough subject matter to tackle, and props to Alkaline23 & Eon MC Etc. for diving deep into the personal to be real with us all. They lay out the grim reality, they provide you the highlights of what life was like prior to the passing of their friends…and importantly, they explain the impact on them personally too, which makes it connect to us; it’s a harsh glimpse into the darkness of society, but it also pays full respect to their homies, 100%.
I think…hmmm…I think they’ve covered it all with “Meditation” really. I’m pretty sure they’ve asked just about every question under the sun, and for all the things we think we’ve got the answers to in life already, they’ve ensured we’ll question the rest from here on out. To know the music of Eon MC Etc. and the man behind the mic is to know that questioning information, where it comes from, what it means, who the source is, and how it affects us all from a personal AND societal angle…is always extremely important – can you say that you blame him with the state of the world today? Clearly Alkaline23 is onboard and feels where Eon’s comin’ from – and when you hear how they glide these words & thoughts together with such natural flow & professional precision…I mean, some things just sound like they’re meant to be, know what I mean? “Meditation” provides that brilliantly hypnotic & captivating vibe that comes along with the very definition of the title & the calm it implies; sure there’s a ton of thoughts comin’ atcha quickly, but we’re having serious rational discussions on things that matter here yo! Listen to the sample at the very beginning of the cut…because it’ll give you important insight into the lyricism & thought-provoking words to follow. Listen to moments like how they question reality itself from the ground under our feet to the stars above! Listen to the incredibly insightful commentary on the very concept of race in our culture and how crystal-clear it is that the thought, effort, details, and care you wanna hear in their words show the effort & example as one; they’re not just preaching about questioning information – they’re literally displaying the process in action as they rap their way through “Meditation.” Make no mistake y’all – they don’t just talk about these concepts, they ARE about’em. Right down to the fact that you can hear them flippin’ the pages of their paper as they rap out the words, they’re fully authentic & real in their observations and how they choose to present’em all to us.
This ride…believe it or not…still feels like they’ve just been getting warmed up all along when you hear them fire up the energy and start rippin’ rhymes throughout the flow of “Freeman.” Awesome contrast in this cut…I would totally understand it if listeners out there heard the hook/sample as either fascinatingly beautiful or entirely haunting and in either case, it’d make complete sense to me. “Live for the now, don’t wait for the future to figure it out” – again, words to live by. “Freeman” is 100% solid from beginning to end…musically it’s like it came straight outta DJ Shadow’s deck, which is more than A-OK with me – and vocally, they take you straight into the history while they encourage you to be in the present. I’m all about this cut…and I certainly feel like they’ve put every reason between the lefts & rights to believe that I’m not gonna be alone in that. The flow is phenomenal, the content is equally high-caliber – you can hear every single word, you absorb the history & how it relates to the right here & now, and if you’re rollin’ with Eon MC Etc. & Alkaline23, you definitely understand the concept of the roots of freedom and how important it is to not just maintain, but actively fight for on the daily. “Freeman” has them sounding at their best without question – this is a gripping cut from start to finish, stocked full of the insightful wisdom they’re shown us they’re relentlessly capable of providing and a beat that is hype AF, packing in wild doses of radiant audio-entertainment that soars & flows throughout the music surrounding them as the duo raps their way through this cut like their very lives depend on it. Sonically, sure it sounds much more serious than a track like “Dream Girl” does towards the beginning of The Ill He Had, but let’s be real here folks – “Freeman” is every bit as much of a single-worthy cut, believe it – check it out for yourself below!
Good lord y’all…be prepared to ”Lose Your Mind!” I mean…look…it’s clear that it’s been impossible not to enjoy yourself listening throughout this record from the moment you push play, but LISTEN to the tried, tested, and true methods being applied to “Lose Your Mind” and the roots of real Hip-Hop break through so clearly. Damn near treading straight into the classic sound & style of something akin to Digable Planets – “Lose Your Mind” instantly makes an impact with its impressively jazzy vibes and relentlessly smooth onslaught of words to consider. Together, they dive right into the nitty gritty of what’s real & what’s not – they take on spirituality, society, politics, economics – our civilization and the system we’re all stuck within – and in the main hook of the chorus, they effectively communicate how tough it actually can be to be aware. The burden of knowledge, as they say…it ain’t always easy being able to read between the lines of what’s actually happening out there in the world…”Lose Your Mind” gets to the heart of all that & more. “If you a real person, who the fuck can you relate to?” Not remotely puttin’ in the hyperbole into this article by saying we’d all be here reading this review until next week if I pulled all the amazing quotes I love throughout “Lose Your Mind” for you – this track is fully loaded with next-level lyricism, insightful observations that stick to their verbal mission of encouraging us all to THINK, QUESTION, and CONSIDER. What makes a record like this as incredible as it is though, is that while a ton of, if not ALL of, what Eon MC Etc. and Alkaline23 have to say is intellectually based or at the very least structured with impressively complexity in their lyrical flow – the way they approach communicating their ideas to us is all extremely grounded, human, and relatable. I’m being intentionally wordy here where it’s not required to show the contrast of what I mean – these two don’t rap over anyone’s heads if you’re really listening – they’re coming straight atcha like men, pointing out many of the things we should all be considering – and they do it all with surgical precision. They take on society, education, institutionalism, fake news and real news alike, and scorch the systemic failures we’re subjected to with fearless confidence and a verifiable onslaught of insightful commentary. The realer you get, the weirder the design of this entire planet seems to be…”your country’s a corporation” – “society’s just a front for a criminal operation” – if I felt like they were wrong, I’d tell ya.
These two come out sounding so impressive in this collaboration overall that it’s easy for a verse to outshine a hook & vice-versa at any given moment you’ll find flowing throughout the savage balance of strengths running through this album. In the case of “Kiss Me Diss Me,” we’ve definitely got a case of the verse leading the way for what generates the appeal…the music as well. In terms of the chorus…I ain’t gonna lie…it’s not my favorite hook on this record by a fair margin, and I’d be interested to see how both Eon MC Etc. & Alkaline23 end up feeling about this track over the years to follow. No lie…I get it – whenever “Kiss Me Diss Me” started up again on my repeat tours through The Ill He Had, that initial hit of straight-up smoothness is undeniable perfection…the way they slide into this track is as good as it gets. That first reveal of the hook, in more of a spoken-word approach…I dunno…maybe a bit on the awkward-side in terms of how it feels in the fit of the flow – BUT…the subsequent sung-out version of it that comes in afterwards seems to put it back on-point, or at least closer to the vibe that suits the song. It’s a hard call…and I’ve experienced similar ideas like these before where what sounds like a nursery rhyme gets threaded into the melody…I somewhat understand the appeal & understand why it would be an interesting idea to work with in that respect, but I’m not always fully convinced that it works as effectively as the intention may lead artists to believe. But like I said, I get it – there’s SO MUCH surrounding the only remote moment you’d even think to question on this record that it’s 100% easy to forgive…and keep in mind, these emcees aren’t seeking our forgiveness to begin with. If we get it & we vibe with it, great…if not, I’m sure they’ve got no problem with that either – they do what they do without compromise, and as always, I just call it like I hear it. I can tell ya with certainty that as artists, we’re all bound to try things that are on the fringe – hell, we’re BETTER for doing it – and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, it’s as simple as that; but when you hear the immaculate smoothness in “Kiss Me Diss Me” that flows throughout the verses, don’t even try to tell me you wouldn’t keep this cut on your own damn record, cause you know you would. Eon MC Etc. & Alkaline23 aren’t exactly competing with the rest out there in their rearview, you feel me? It’s only by comparison to the rest of their own material that you might find a track like “Kiss Me Diss Me” is just a bit short of their ambitions.
But come ON now…
…like…I’m damn near speechless! If you’re not impressed by the words, design, and performance you’ll find on “I Stand Alone,” then I’ve got nothing for ya…because this is how you get it done RIGHT on the microphone folks. From the first verse alone, if you’ve got a writer’s bone in your body, listen to the way these words are constructed & how they fall into place so precisely within such a uniquely designed & defined structural concept. Using specific lyricism that boldly highlights the strength of the instincts & creativity in the ideas you’ll find in this collaboration – “I Stand Alone” basically proves the theory that the pen is mightier than the sword 100% correct, full-stop. This is the very art of the wordsmith on display, written with an insane degree of ambition and delivered with sheer perfection in the studio booth. I see it like this…Eon MC Etc. & Alkaline23 have proved time & time again, track after track, that when it comes to the rhythm & flow of their vocals, and the wisdom you’ll find in their words – they’re 100% on-point & they’ll never let you down from start to finish when it comes to this record. BUT – if we’re talking about the CRAFT itself y’all…”I Stand Alone” is a genius example of what it takes to have the foresight of knowing where the space exists for these two to thrive in music today. Overall, the vibe of “I Stand Alone” has serious edge, but astoundingly professional control on how loose it all is too – they’re not standing up as high on their soapbox message-wise on this cut so much as revealing the blueprint on how to make a true impact through their songwriting & performance. That’s more than cool with me…I dig their dedicated serious-side, but I’m certainly not opposed to hearing them take the dictionary for a ride and flex stylistically for a minute or two – “I Stand Alone” comes out scorching hot.
“Missed Connection” – mannnnnnnnn! No lie, you hear the words and you feel like we’re all missing out – nights like these ones being described are the ones that make life worth living & have us feeling alive. That being said…if you end up with a “Missed Connection” and you know how good things WOULD have been…damn…that hurts – and you’ll get a lot of that side of this storyline & narrative coming through as well. Sometimes a “Missed Connection” is about missing that opportunity in life when it came atcha, and this cut goes into that too. Verses are rock-solid & tight, the hooks are wild & loose, and the music backing them up is easily some of the finest you’ll find on this record without question. The melody is like, created with bells & a beat, which already has it sounding vibrantly different from so much is out there – and then they go and add that extra amazing sauce on it via the violin? Please homies! Your ears can’t help but catch onto a vibe like this and the depth it has…from the words to the music, these two keep their cuts on The Ill He Had relentlessly entertaining by keeping it all genuinely interesting. Right from the drop y’all – listen to the way these words come out and the storyline kickin’ throughout “Missed Connection” – everything from the word selection itself to the stylistic way they’re rappin’ stands out for all the right reasons. Hella unique and completely satisfying – you just can’t beat a composition that’s as outstanding as this is…the mix is incredible, the movement is brilliant, the music is mesmerizing, and the vocals give the story all the character & charisma that your speakers can handle. They’ve told a library & lifetime’s worth of tales throughout this record – “Missed Connection” is yet another in a long line throughout this set-list that proves they can keep you captivated with the very best in the game – it’s just flat-out undeniable how much effort & focus has been put into this album.
The Ill He Had ends on one of their subtlest, but strongest cuts. Listening to these verses and the way they relate the mission they’re on with their conscious Hip-Hop music is sheer brilliance – though admittedly, “Meet You On The Way” could be about many things & the many people we run into in life. To me, this was about so much of what I’ve pointed out through this review – a summing up of the fact that Alkaline23 & Eon MC Etc. have put in an insane amount of work, heart, and passion into the CRAFT itself…and that’s exactly what makes this whole tight lineup of tunes stand out just as they should. Because far too many people out there when it comes to the Rap/Hip-Hop game…any genre really…tend to phone it in after a certain point…the focus is so sharp throughout this album that it literally exposes their strengths at all times. They’re rebelling hard against the flash & dazzle of commercialized crapola in the way their approach their material with such precision, professionalism, insight, and care – and it makes all the difference in the world as to why an album like The Ill He Had will hold up strong years & years later down the road, likely being every bit as relevant, if not even more so, in the future to follow. “Nobody want to learn the craft, they only want to shine” might pass by quickly as one line of many that are worth quoting throughout “Meet You On The Way,” but it’s one that stuck with me & resonated hard – because that’s about as truthful as truth can be spit, and the direct issue with most art & music being made out there in today’s world. Do it for the love of the game, do it for yourself, do it all because it’s sincerely what you WANT to do; if you’re doin’ it for the likes, thumbs-up, follows, hits, and subscriptions…I can fully guarantee you’ll find yourself in the rearview of players like Eon MC Etc. and Alkaline23 for the rest of time. What you SHOULD follow, is the example they’re setting – stay true to yourself, who you are, and your vision as an artist – this album proves that natural instincts lead to spectacular results, and art & music that’ll engage you on several levels. Immaculate record – well done.
Find more music by Eon MC Etc. at the official page at Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/artist/1KNplqCyyhgGUTa9fQlQdZ
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