Whether a victim of timing (local rap tastes shifting from suburban white boys to BIPOC celebration) or youth (not having been already entrenched) or lack of drama (god, he won’t even write songs about exes because he “has too much love and respect” for them), Illy’s technical competence overshadows his acclaim.
Slinking effortlessly between styles (peep the winking “I can’t really feel my face” on Weeknd-ish Codes, percussive funk on Last Laugh, anthemic pop-punk via the WAAX collab on Cheap Seats) as different outfits for fractal wordplay, The Space Between shows Illy at his most comfortable and confident.
If anything falls flat, it’s the few moments of critical persecution rap, lamenting The Haters while Illy is… if not the biggest rapper of all time, at least roundly well-liked. But the utility of rap is not its authenticity but its fantasy; Illy might not literally have gone from “not having a pot to piss in to pissing off every Aussie rap critic” but offers you catharsis about the allegorical Aussie rap critics in your own life. All the better, though, when on the somber title track he charts the journey from nobody to somebody, a relatable experience that hews a little closer to truth.
Accessible even while he quietly innovates, if you think you’ve got anyone who could take Illy on so many different grounds, check this out and think again.
The Space Between by Illy is out now via Sony.
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