I first met Illab (government name Jake Stone) in 2007. I was living with four other people in a complete shithole apartment in the Marcy Park neighborhood during my sophomore year of college. We threw parties three nights a week and let people ash their cigarettes wherever because it didn’t matter/fuck the man/19 year olds are disgusting excuses for human beings. Anyways, two of the people I shared rent with were high school friends of Illab’s. Many a cold winter night we found ourselves drunk off of Karkov and kitchen dancing to the musical stylings of Britney Spears’ “Blackout”. It was fuckin’ magical.
I still remember standing in the kitchen and talking to Illab about what I think was his first ever EP The Ramen Cookbook. My first thought was “that title makes me hungry, what’s 4 dinner” and my second thought was “that’s really cool he makes music”. Years later, Illab has still been stomping ground at rap battles and on his own releases Spare Change and It’s All Been Said Before, the latter of which was produced by Dimitry Killstorm, who’s album Whittier Alliance with Hapduzn was a huge hit in 2013. Illab’s latest album, Good Life, Life’s Good, Worth Living is coming out this year, so I decided I better ask him some fun questions before he gets so famous that Kanye offers to watch his cute ass dog while he’s on a world tour.
1. How long have you been spittin’ mad game and sonically blowin’ up minds?
First of all the way you word these questions amazing. I started rapping when I was 15. It started with just dumb freestyles, and evolved into recording. I actually still record with the first person I ever worked with, my friend Tim Rodine. We recorded on a five dollar mic, and a program my friend stole from a juvenile work house. Over the years we’ve built quite the studio. I also came up in the wake of 8 Mile. My friends still text me to this day when they are watching it. For the record I think Eminem lost to Lotto in the 2nd round. At that time everywhere I would go people wanted to battle. I just happened to be better at it than most of them.
Without getting too off topic I feel I had a very “traditional” introduction to hip hop. Nowadays I feel it’s straight to making videos, and recording which is also making the younger generation more talented, they have access to a lot more outlets. These kids coming out are so damn polished. This will make me feel old but back then it was more [about] who could freestyle, and we would shut whole house parties up while battling.
Long story short, [it’s been] a little over ten years. I’ve only been decent for the past 3 years. Kind of got sidetracked.
2. If a rainforest animal could describe the spirit of your music, which animal would it be and why?
I think 90 percent of rappers would be like “I’m a tiger yo,” then do one of those cute lil rapper noises that makes them appear tough. I’m going to have to go with a Howler Monkey. They are known for their deep calls that they do. I’ve been told that my voice is my strongest attribute musically. I would agree with that. Some people will say I’m dope, some will say average, some may even say I’m weak. One thing thats for sure is you can definitely tell it’s me on a song by my voice. My spirit animal is a Howler monkey. Repping it.
3. You have a new album coming out. Take us on a short stroll through the album.
I do have a album coming out. Fun fact: I actually finished this album a year and a half ago. Then I moved my friend out to LA. We had lunch on the Santa Monica pier where I saw Lenny Hoops, a street corner performer who seemed to be scaring the tourists. But damn, dude was putting his soul into it. No audience, just belting original songs about random topics. Here I was acting bitter about music; it wasn’t fun anymore. I made the decision to scrap my whole album at that moment. Music needs to be something I enjoy otherwise I have no business rapping. Started over [and] Good Life, Life’s Good, Worth Living came from that. In my opinion it’s my best work by far. It’s a taste of projects to come. I got a lot of my friends on the album so that makes me happy.
4. If you were struck by lightning, what song would you want playing during the ambulance ride?
First off when something bad happens I try to make light of it. I wanted to keep it modern, otherwise it would be that one song where they chant “it’s electric”. I dig this song alot though. Good vibes, flashing lights, drugs, and surrounded by strangers. Sounds like plenty of parties I’ve been to.
5. Your dog is so fucking cute. Do you have any plans to sample his bark? If not, can we collab on a song where we sample dog barks and become the coolest people alive?
Can I start this out by saying my dog is the shit. I love that dude, my whole day is planned around making sure he is good. Up until our recent twitter conversation I had no plans to sample his bark. I definitely want to be one of the coolest people on earth. If sampling his bark and doing a song with you will make that happen, let’s run game. We could even ask Existing Trend to get in the mix with his dogs as well. The sky’s the limit really.
6. We met because you used to party at my house in 2007 when all I played was Britney’s “Blackout” album. Who is your favorite female pop star and why?
And for the rest of my life I will always associate Britney and iPod boomboxes with you. I’d give anything to live one of those weekends again. So much fun. Right now I’m really digging Lana Del Rey. That’s probably the cool thing to say, but I love her voice and her slight hint of sarcasm in the songs she writes. If I have to pick from the elite female pop singers it would be Beyonce or Rihanna. They are both amazing performers. It says something about a artist when you can feel their energy through a tv screen. Locally my favorite pop group is yours, DENNIS. Over the years I feel like I’ve watched you find your identity when it comes to music, and it will be fun to watch where it takes you. (editor’s note: thank u and BRB blushing 4 ever)
7. Who is your greatest non-musical inspiration to your art and why?
I can’t pick one so all of my friends and family. By far. I consider myself very fortunate to be surrounded by these people in my life. My siblings all have beautiful familes, I have a wide variety of friends that come from all walks of life. I’ve watched people battle cancer, poverty, troubled childhoods, and still smile. They are a bunch of goddamn soldiers to be honest. Most of these people have no clue how amazing they are. 90 percent of what I write is inspired by them in some way, shape or form. I strive to mirror the company that I keep when speaking about being a good human.