Iller Than Theirs

Iller Than Theirs

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Despite their name, Brooklyn's Iller Than Theirs aren't all about proving how much better they are than everyone else. In fact, if anything, they're more interested in showing how normal they are -- and how everyone else isn't nearly as cool as they make themselves out to be. That's not to say there's not a healthy amount of MC braggadocio here: the edgy Atmosphere-esque "Smorg" and the bouncy "Lo-Top Sneakers" both have their fair share of good-natured but confident rhymes ("Bull in a china shop, I'm haphazard/Born under the sign of the Taurus, man/You're holding a map: that's the sign of a tourist," half of the duo, Tone Tank, spits in the latter), but this is only a small part of Iller Than Theirs' repertoire. They don't limit themselves to empty boasts on the self-titled debut. Instead, they tackle ideas like the gentrification and corporatization of Brooklyn (in "The Same," which features a verse from fellow borough native Masta Ace), posturing (in "Razorbumps"), and making the best of what you have ("It Is What It Is"). Sometimes, unfortunately, the rappers' sheer earnestness outweighs their actual MCing skills, like in the well-intentioned but lacking "Good People," where the slowness in both Krayo and Tone Tank's flow only serves to accentuate the extreme simplicity of their lines ("Not everybody's a thug, some people being showing love/Some people are really nice, some people give good advice," the second verse begins). More often than not, however, Iller Than Theirs, with its old-school-flavored, jazz and soul-splashed beats and interesting, just-your-regular-guy rhymes, hits the mark, avoiding the ridiculousness and pretension that has seemed to have overridden much of hip-hop -- both mainstream and underground -- in the early part of the 21st century, making, overall, for a pretty satisfying release.

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