On The Record: Illis It
BY KALANI WILHELM / Special to the Star-Advertiser
Venture beyond the tattooed face of virtuoso hip-hop artist Illis It and you’ll discover a dedicated MC of significant rhyme, reason and purpose.
In a local scene stacked with heavy hitters making moves under the radar, he’s a lyricist who brings much passion and substance. More often than not, however, he is misunderstood before even uttering a word.
‘Illis It Affairs’
With openers Sing the Body, Delayed Resistance, Mano Kane, Super Groupers and Desert Sea
» Where: Crossroads at Hawaiian Brian’s, 1680 Kapiolani Blvd.
“I’m perceived through confusion if that makes sense,” said the artist born Martin Dixon. “Some (people) either assume I’m a punk, criminal (or) ex-convict, and some just assume I do tattoos, which I do.”
First impressions often lead to incomplete assessments of the Kalihi-bred MC, but he’s used to it.
“I have met people so closed-minded that despite how friendly and polite I am, their preconceived notions of who I am, based off how I look, continue to impede their ability to see anything else,” he said. “Not that I care, (but) it’s sad people like that exist.”
Yes, he loves tattoos. From the portrait of his son on his stomach to a lotus flower embellished on his throat (dedicated to his grandmother) and an image of one of his favorite artists, Immortal Technique, that decorates the right side of his torso, he has lost track of the exact number of tattoos he has. His addiction to getting new art stems from a desire to express himself along with feelings of boredom and curiosity.
Originally a solo artist, Illis It has since joined local alternative-conscious rap collective The Super Groupers. He said his rap motives come from his loyalty to hip-hop.
“Hip-hop is my escape,” he explained. “It’s like another world outside of this one where I feel accepted and the most comfortable with being me. But at the same time, it keeps me in touch with reality and content with that reality more than anything else.”
As much as his ink-covered exterior grabs your attention, so does his explosive, almost villainous, flow when he has a microphone in hand. Integrity also plays an intricate part in his music.
“As long as it’s the truth, you’ll find it somewhere in my lyrics,” said Illis It. “Some of the most (messed) up moments in my life were survived only because hip-hop was there.
“I make sure that I can honestly identify with everything I put into my lyrics. If I can’t feel what I’m saying, why would you bother hearing it? I feel music should come from within and if it doesn’t it’s meaningless and purposeless.”
While he is open to just about all expressionary art forms, Illis It also admitted to having a low tolerance threshold for falsehoods in music. The mere thought of fakeness gets under his skin.
“First and foremost, (screw) a genre. Music is music. I prefer not to categorize any further than good music and bad music,” he said. “I am against almost everything mainstream music glorifies, from materialism to misogyny, to just the straight up exploitation of music at the expense of its consumers.”
Penning and performing open-minded songs to tap into the close-minded world has been a healthy source of creative therapy. With a Super Groupers album — on cassette — making the rounds and a new solo album in the works, don’t expect his rhymes to stop flowing anytime soon.
“I don’t have a clean past at all, but I try to not let it reflect on my present and be better than I was then,” he said. “Everyone struggles to an extend through life, rather than letting it (mess) with me the way I used to. I let it build my music.
“I don’t care to be better than anyone or above anyone. I love hip-hop because of how it makes me feel and how it brings people together.”
Kalani Wilhelm covers nightlife and music for the Pulse. Contact him via email or follow him on Twitter.