Illa J is finally fully expressing himself in his latest project ‘No Traffic’

The gifted musician is coming into his own

Illa J is a musical prodigy raised in a family of talented musicians. With a jazz bassist father and a gifted singer mother, it’s no surprise that Illa J was destined for greatness. Best known as the younger brother of hip-hop legend J Dilla, he’s made a name for himself as a former member of Detroit’s iconic hip-hop group Slum Village.

His latest project, No Traffic, is a testament to his boundless talent and versatility, showcasing his singing, production, and rapping abilities on 19 tracks written and produced by Illa J himself.

What led you to create this project?

This album started when we were going to do a beat project. I would do half of the beats and my friend would do the other half. I was going to maybe rhyme on some of the joints and what happened was I just started doing songs and then I was like, “Why don’t we just do two separate projects?” My project is a fully self-produced solo album, and then I have another project with him where he did all the beats that I’ll release later on. I’ve been producing for myself for a long time, but just being realistic, I had the fear of having my production out there with my brother being so known for production. I knew how people would come at me saying it wasn’t hip-hop enough. I feel so good because it’s my first time freely expressing myself unapologetically. This is me. I don’t care if it sounds like my brother’s music because obviously, he and I have similar swings and similar influences coming from the same household, but I feel like my brother’s bounce is more hip-hop, and I’m more of funky vibes, and I have a super eclectic taste in music.

What do you feel this project has done for you?

Not that I started my career the wrong way, but I feel like, in the weirdest way, it’s full circle. It feels like a true new beginning. I was promoted mostly as a rapper at the beginning of my career. I am a rapper at heart, but at the same time, I’m more of a musician than a rapper. I look at rap as something to add to the music. The music always comes first to me because I’m a producer first, but when I’m making a track, it’s more like, “Maybe I should sing or maybe I should rap on it.” I see rapping and singing as an extra instrument, as opposed to just being a rapper. For me, it’s the whole body of music and I’m looking at the big picture, as opposed to just being a rapper or a singer, but I understand where I fit within this hip-hop space and what it’s like since I’m older. I’ve tried to shy away from it, but on this album, I’m rapping on every song on there, and I’m happy I did that.

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