By name alone, The Boy Illinois proudly represents his home state. His flow, attire and lyrical content also embody the style of the region. In fact, only a few plays of the Chicago MC’s numerous songs are likely to conjure comparisons to other rappers from the Second City. His lyricism isn’t too far off from the wittiness of Lupe Fiasco, an artist that The Boy Illinois has listed as one of his major influences. Even the way he dresses— see the video for “Cardigan Sweater” above— is similar to the roster for G.O.O.D. Music, which hosts a wealth of Midwest talent including John Legend, Common, Kid Cudi and Big Sean. The Boy Illinois deserves further comparison to the founder of that label, fellow Chicago native Kanye West, as both rappers began their careers (perhaps Kanye more extensively) on the basis that they were college dropouts.
The Boy Illinois, in fact, dropped out of the school based in my hometown, Champaign, IL. That college, unsurprising given The Boy Illinois’s seemingly profound love and respect for his home state, is The University of Illinois. But even though The Boy didn’t earn his degree, it’s apparent that he payed attention in class, as intelligence is abundant throughout the rapper’s witty wordplay. For a sample of that cleverness, see his extended basketball metaphor on “I Quit,” (video posted below): “Beggers can’t be choosers and winners can’t be losers / so why pass when you’re destined to be a shooter? / So I catch ‘em off guard playing off guard off a double screen right into a double team / should I pass to somebody else / I’ll take this one on myself.” Perhaps, based on that verse, The Boy spent a little too much time watching Deron Williams and Dee Brown take Fighting Illini basketball to the NCAA championship during his time in Champaign.
No matter what he was doing during his university days, The Boy’s efforts in the recording studio have definitely been paying off. With a likeminded crop of MCs rising to the top recently, The Boy Illinois seems poised to blow up. The great thing about the rapper, however, is that he’s not simply a copy of those similarly educated and well-dressed rappers dominating the scene these days. He offers something else. His beats and words are catchy without comprimising compelling content. The Boy Illinois brings a unique sensibility to the rap game, and I would highly recommend putting him on your radar as one of the next artists to make headlines (and heads nod) around the hip-hop community. Talent and work ethic are necessary elements for that type of success, and although The Boy Illinois didn’t quite endure his post-secondary education, his skills are sure to lead him to greatness in a whole different manner.
Like The Boy Illinois is proud of The Land Of Lincoln, I’m proud that you can listen to him and a host of other great MCs on Earbits Hip-Hop Radio.