Yancey Boys

Sunset Blvd.

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    8
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Taking the name of his debut album and turning it into a project, Illa J joins with Frank Nitt for the Yancey Boys and their debut release, Sunset Blvd.. Comprised of beats from Illa J's older brother J Dilla, the album doesn't necessarily celebrate the game-changing, Detroit hip-hop producer's life (he passed away in 2006 at the age of 32 from a lupus-like disease), but it does celebrate the vibe his records offered, as Illa and Frank join a smart, street-level series of MCs who swagger and stun over these soulful backing tracks. On the great "Fisherman," reverence is one thing ("Tell 'em like Dilla told em"), but fly kicks are another ("When I feel the beat with all my soul, fill the streets with my songs/Feel my feet on the road, call me Beatles Rubber Soul") as J-Rocc, Vice, and Detroit Serious join the Yancey duo for a vibrant hang session. Then there's the all-star posse of Talib Kweli, Niko Gray, and Rhettmatic, who turn Dilla's beat into what it demands, a seductive bedroom number called "Flowers." Clubs will instantly get cooler once the J-Rocc and Guilty Simpson electro-wonder called "Go and Ask the DJ" hits the speakers, while grown folks who don't get out as much get some serious headphone listening from veteran MCs like De La Soul's Posdanous ("Beautiful") and Common ("Quicksand"). Surprises come when the broken jazz of Dilla's beat meets the Yancey Boys at full steam on the proud and amazing "Without Wings," while the lesser-known J Pinder jumps on the A-list with some supreme macking during "Honk Ya Horn" ("To the Apollonian chick, with the Swisha and a tray/Twistin' the hay, good green like Michigan State"). Fans thinking these rare beats should be handled with more respect are missing the point -- and can seek out the instrumentals, which are available as a bonus or separately -- but those who approach this as fond memories on Friday night will find themselves smiling until the sun comes up on Monday. Good times, great rhymes, and excellent beats.

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