Photo by Chauncia VanLowe.
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Madeleine Byrne is a mellow musician.
Never underestimate the power of a strong referral (no LinkedIn). That’s how Detroit beatmaker/MC Illingsworth wound up with a record deal on Mello Music Group for his forthcoming mostly-instrumental album, You’re No Fun, due out September 28. The recommendation came courtesy of two homegrown Mello Music artists, fellow Michigan-bred MC Chris Orrick and L’Orange.
The album’s first single is “Peeves,” one of the few vocal tracks. Open Mike Eagle aids the float, who Illingsworth was first introduced to via SelfSays. “Since then I’ve continually done work with Mike and got to tour with him a few years back for the Cavanaugh project,” Illingsworth explained, “I consider him a friend so it was pretty easy to get him on the song. I initially sent Mike a bunch of beats and let him pick whatever gave him some sort of inspirational spark.”
The title of the track explains its entire conceit: “Peeves” is an absurdist list of all the things Open Mike Eagle hates, scrolling from a Black Panther reference to McDonalds menus and everything in between. The Illingsworth beat shifts and interacts with Mike’s musings, building various synth sounds to fall back as if it were a conversation between the two.
Illingsworth has been making beats since middle school, using pause tapes back then before moving to computer-based production since 2000/2001. Act Natural from 2017 and I Didn’t Ask For This from 2016 are the two LPs worth checking out to get a sense of what Illingsworth’s music is about.
On these records, you can hear the main producers who shaped him. He ranks the most influential producers on his sound: DJ Premier, Pete Rock, J Dilla, Timbaland, Alchemist, dibiase, Raj Mahal, and Samiyam.
“I really wanted to go for a mood of discomfort but also the feeling of someone working through that discomfort,” Illingsworth says regarding his production aims for You’re No Fun. “There are happy moments and levity throughout the album, but I really wanted to create a journey for the listener.”
We asked the producer about four tracks that stand out within his discography, hoping his explanations would help explain the history behind his sound.
“Everhard,” Worth the Wait, 2016
“It’s been so long since I made this that it’s hard to remember but, I like the idea of sloppily chopping samples to give things more of a random feel.”
“Driving Trance (Before I Go),” Before I Go, 2014
“The video on YouTube is by a guy named GodsConnect who mostly does these videos for people just out of interest and love for the songs. He does them all on his own, most of the time before even getting in contact with the artist. Most of the guys I know that make beats, myself included, take it as an honor when he makes a video with your joint.”
“Kings,” Worth the Wait, 2016
“I made this joint off of a record from the dollar bin. I really just enjoyed how spooky it sounded. I love how it changes up from the A part to the B part and back.”
“Snooze Bar,” Tall Black Guy Presents Tempo Dreams Vol. 1, 2012
“This joint also exists as a song with my group Detroit CYDI, with the same title. We just had this song idea and ran with it. the homie Tall Black Guy reached out to include the beat in a compilation he was curating a while back.”