With appearances by Shabazz the Disciple, Lil’ Fame of M.O.P., O.C., Cormega, Q-Unique of The Arsonists and el-p, and production credits including Psycho Les, Large Professor, Pete Rock, DJ Muggs and DJ Premier, the guest list for Ill Bill’s fourth studio album reads like a who’s who of 90s NY hip-hop, which, depending on who you ask, could in 2013 be a positive or a negative. On one hand, many legends have arguably tarnished their legacies by putting forth sub-par efforts in their later years; on the other, several greats — including A.G., Raekwon and Q-Tip among others — have continued to build upon already brilliant discographies with works that live up to, and in some cases surpass, the high standards they previously set for themselves.
Bill’s been recording since the early 1990s, but his formal debut didn’t come until 1999 so he probably shouldn’t be considered a “‘90s rapper.” Still, he’s been around for a while now and many of his recent ventures into rap-metal territory have been… well, at least for me, straight-up unlistenable. So, I was pleasantly surprised to find that The Grimy Awards is not only entertaining, but really, really good, probably Bill’s best work since his days in Non Phixion, possibly even his best to date. This is the maturation of a rapper whose past work focused primarily on government conspiracy, Satanism and drug use. All that’s still present, but both the rhymes and the perspective are refined.
As for the crowded guestlist? Fortunately, it doesn’t bog down the proceedings a bit. If anything, it enhances them. Just about every guest comes correct, on topic and with a style that organically complements Bill’s own. As a result, instead of a compilation disguised as an album, The Grimy Awards sounds like the album William Braunstein, the artist and fan, always wanted to make and hear.