Atlanta, Georgia has served as the stomping ground for iconic civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Andrew Young, Julian Bond, John Lewis, and Hosea Williams. Selma, Alabama was the site of the historic 1965 Voting Rights Movement march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Both locations played significant roles in the eventual dismantling of the racist segregation laws known as Jim Crow.
Selma and Atlanta also happen to be the respective hometowns of the parents of Hip Hop brother tandem ILLClinton. It’s from that lineage emcee/producer Brennan and producer Blake draw a sense of responsibility to use their art as a mouthpiece for a modern-day movement against injustice.
“My mom’s from Norcross, Georgia. My father’s from Selma. He grew up during the Civil Rights Movement. He was marching out there as a kid,” Brennan reveals to AllHipHop.com. “It definitely inspired my everyday life. More so than just music.”
Being the child of a man that witnessed law enforcement’s atrocities against peaceful protesters on Selma’s “Bloody Sunday” is sure to impact the worldview of a young Black man in America. Especially, in the wake of repeated high-profile incidents of unarmed African-Americans being killed by cops over the last year.
“Growing up hearing stories from my father brought awareness to what has been happening for a very long time. And it’s still continuing to happen,” says Blake. “My dad will tell stories of coming to church and seeing people bruised from the hands of the police. Not much has changed in my eyes. So we want to keep spreading the awareness of that.”
ILLClinton embedded that message of fighting for social justice into tunes such as “The People,” “Alive (Don’t Shoot),” and “Free.” Earlier this year, the North Atlanta natives kept their growing fan base fed with weekly releases as part of #ILLClintonTuesdays, but the two Hip Hop artists have since implemented a self-imposed hiatus from dropping more cuts on the internet.
“We took some time off from putting a lot of music out. We honed our craft a little more, and I feel like you’re going to be able to hear it instantly,” states Brennan. “We’re a whole lot better than we were.”
While they paused their output in recent months, Brennan and Blake have not stopped creating music. The siblings are excited about their forthcoming full project ILLClinton Era. The new collection follows the ILLANTA and ILLANTA II mixtapes as well as the Scion AV hosted The ILL Experiment EP.
“It’s dynamic. We really go a lot of different ways with it – ranging from traditional boom bap all the way to more eclectic sounding stuff. It’s kind of funky,” says Brennan about their next project.
Blake adds, “The sound of this project is very diverse. We have your traditional Hip Hop stuff with a wide variety of different sounds. It’s like a melting pot of music.”
The diverse palette of ILLClinton’s next work does not come as a surprise. Their younger days were spent performing as instrumentalists. The rapper specialized in playing percussion, and his older brother was a top cellist. The experience in concert band for Brennan and orchestra for Blake shapes how they construct their musical expression through Hip Hop today.
“Coming from a background where I played big sounding music, I can incorporate that into our duo,” explains Blake.
“I was a snare drummer in the concert band, so it really helped my rhythm and flow patterns. It really transitioned to my cadence,” says Brennan.
Besides having formal training in symphonic production, ILLClinton also schooled themselves on Atlanta area rap music. ATL legends like OutKast, Jeezy, T.I., and Ludacris were favorites of Brennan and Blake during their high school years. Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz, Young Dro, and Yung L.A. were also part of the pair’s regular playlists.
Acts from other regions inspired the two Southerners as well. Brennan and Blake name Chicago’s Kanye West, New York City’s Jay Z, and Los Angeles’ The Pharcyde as musical influences.
Concerts in NYC, Philadelphia, and Rhode Island proved East Coast fans are just as open to ILLClinton. Surprisingly, it took time for the brothers to actually get recognized by promoters around The Perimeter.
“I feel like I should be at the biggest shows in the underground part of Atlanta. It’s really just a lot of DJs are playing the same club records and Trap sh*t,” Brennan expressed. “I’m all for it, but there’s so much more to Atlanta, it’s kind of sad you would overlook some great talent in the city. It’s changing though. It’ll all come full circle.”
The two-man group that began as a teenage production team called The Elite is now on the road to becoming a major force in Atlanta’s next era of rap stars. ILLClinton assures they will not abandon their aim of reminding the world Black Lives Matter.
“I’ve been to marches, but it doesn’t seem to change anything,” conveys Brennan. “I feel like we all need to come together to figure out how to make a positive change in the community. Right now, I’m trying to put out music with that type of message, because it’s needed in the culture.”
Blake and Brennan have only been professional performers since 2012, but the product and vision presented thus far suggest the Hip Hop unit has a long career ahead. One member recommends it is the perfect time to jump on the rising ILLClinton wave.
Brennan offers, “If you’re not listening to ILLClinton, you should start listening now. We got a lot of good stuff on the way.”
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Download ILLClinton’s previous mixtapes on datpiff.com.