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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Ill Ruckus

The culture of Rap and Hip-Hop has expanded over the years in both positive and negative ways. To its credit, it has provided a voice to the downtrodden and disenfranchised, allowing people to share their struggles and triumphs.  Others, however, have used the art form to glorify violence and materialism. Styles vary wildly but for the men of Ill Ruckus, their beats, rhymes, and wordplay are all about bringing the positive vibes back to Hip-Hop, one song at a time.

Ill Ruckus got its start before it even knew it existed as its core members were friends since childhood.  Though the number of people in the group has fluctuated since it was officially founded in 1999, it’s presently working comfortably as a trio.  Sidd, Mr. Smiff, and Valdeast have enough years and shared experiences behind themselves that they don’t just consider themselves a musical trio; they’re a family.  Growing up in and still based out of Lexington Park, Maryland, the area itself is known for its long-standing cultural roots and strong military presence.  It’s the kind of place that can instill strong, humble values into you while still exposing you to some of life’s harsh struggles.

It’s these struggles though that have pushed Ill Ruckus together and made them one of the hottest up and coming groups in the area.  It helps that all three of the members have their own individual style that’s been cultivated over years of living life and writing about it.  Sidd brings to the table his musical studies, being an accomplished saxophonist and pianist. Though he’s normally a quiet person, music allows him to express himself.  Mr. Smiff also brings with him his own musically gifted ear, combined with a good deal of life experience from his strong community roots.  Valdeast has the benefit of being a devoted family man, one who’s as humble and loyal as he is passionate about music.  That family devotion helps serve as a constant reminder to Ill Ruckus of the positive impact music can have, and the audience that needs empowering music in their lives.

Given their distinct personalities and tastes, it’s no surprise that the trio would be inspired by a  number of different Rap & Hip-Hop acts including such legendary East Coast rappers as Biggie Smalls, Wu-Tang Clan, Redman, Mobb Deep, and Nas, along with the massively influential West Coaster Tupac and the also highly respected, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony.  It’s because of all these styles and interests coming together, that even though Ill Ruckus can be compared to some of their influences like the Wu-Tang Clan, they’ve also drawn comparisons to the late great Big L, Styles P, G-Unit, and Boot Camp Clik.

Through years of tremendous hard work and dedication both in and out of the recording studio, Ill Ruckus is finally starting to make waves in the industry.  Their debut EP has been a long time coming, but they’ve already landed featured placements on several Coast 2 Coast Mixtapes including Next Up  Vol. 200 & 206as well as Hottest In Maryland: Mixtape Vol. 2.  Their homegrown website, www.seasonedvetts.com is home to two of the completed tracks, “I’m Sick” and “Spazz On ‘Em” which is complete with its own music video.  Combined with their successful live performances, Ill Ruckus’ music is speaking for itself in terms of its quality and message.

This is just a small step towards bigger things for Ill Ruckus as the trio continues to build its reputation amongst fans and other musicians alike.  Sidd, Valdeast, and Mr. Smiff are entertainers in the truest sense in that they feel it’s their job and goal to use their God-given talents and abilities to positively affect the lives of others.  Their music is independent in every way; it comes directly from them and they’re taking every effort they can to push their music forward from Maryland to the rest of the world.  The only reason their music exists as it is right now is because they’ve never given up on it or their prospective audience.  Their performances and recordings continue to grow better as a means to bring better music to the people willing to love and support independent artists.

 

Being entrepreneurs as well as entertainers, Ill Ruckus has big plans for the future.  As their music continues to take hold amongst audiences they plan to use those sales to create their own studio.  This would allow them to continue to be completely independent but utilize even better equipment and create even stronger sounding releases.  This would be an exciting addition to the already growing list of responsibilities the trio handles for themselves.  Not only do they craft their own songs but they also handle the production, promotion, event planning and networking with other bands and area businesses for gigs.  It’s not an easy list of jobs, but it’s all in the name of music and all for trying to bring something positive and wonderful to audiences.

 

Ill Ruckus won’t rest until their music can reach the ears of the world and bring to them the positive vibes of struggle and triumph that Rap and Hip-Hop can convey so well.  Through years of hard living, raising families, and perfecting their musical craft, Sidd, Valdeast, and Mr. Smiff are in the best position yet to accomplish their goals.  Behind the strength of material like “I’m Sick” and “Spazz On ‘Em” Ill Ruckus has big things on the way and it’s their hope that their music can find a way to entertain and empower you.

INTERVIEW

What first drew you towards making music and who were some of your early influences? 

SIDD – The furthest childhood memory probably dates back to when I was 3 or 4 years old.  I remember my mom and dad had a Jukebox that changed colors.  I would listen to the music and I was intrigued by the lights from the jukebox.  I also remember taking car rides with my parents and as I sat in the back seat I would just listen to the music and look out the window.  My favorite time to travel was night time because that’s when they would play all the hits nonstop with no radio breaks.  I’m talking about Anita Baker, Freddie Jackson, Isacc Hayes, Barry White, Sade, Lionel Richie.  Them old school love songs was my favorite.  Quite Storm by Smokey Robinson is one of my favorite songs.  I started to play the alto saxophone in 4th grade and I also took piano lessons for a while when my parents could afford it.  I played the sax in middle school and high school.  I was in the classical band, jazz band, and marching band.  I also won second place at our tri-county.  That was a big accomplishment considering I was competing with the best of the best.  I even auditioned for the Southern University Jaguars Marching Band under the Legendary band director Dr. Isacc Greggs.  My father set that audition up for me since he’s an alumni from Southern University graduating with his Degree in Architecture and Engineering.  Music has been around me all my life.  However, hip hop was just something I lived.  When I was about 5 years old, I had a fisher price radio when I was younger.  Long story short I learned how to record my voice on that fisher price radio and that’s when I began my rap career.  Lol!  Early influences of rap to me were LL Cool J, Will Smith (Yes! Will Smith was the man way before “Getting’ Jiggy with it”).  That’s when I was little, but as I grew older I was inspired by Wu-Tang.  No if, ands, or but’s about it.  Wu-Tang was my biggest influence.  It was so many of them and each of them had a different style.  I love all the Wu-Tang member the original 9 and all the Wu Killa Bees.  Wu-Tang Forever! I was just a freestyler, but I started writing my own rhymes in high school. I wrote poetry before I started to write song lyrics.

 

Do you think that where you grew up playing an important part in the kind of music that you make now?

Of course where I grew up plays an important part in the kind of music that I make now.  I’m from down south so bouncing is already in my blood.  See in Baton Rouge, we call it Jiggin’.  That’s where it started.  I combine my southern flavor with the east coast flavor that I’ve adapted to.  To be honest, it’s a deadly combination.  People can’t fuck with my style.  I lived a life in school, in the streets, and in jail. Often in my lyrics I mention these things.  We live in a strange community in Lexington Park, Maryland.  It’s not a big city, but we have the same problems as the big city.  The cost of living in this area is high and the jobs don’t pay much.  Many of us are forced to do crime just to feed our families.  It’s definitely a rough area.  Drugs, violence, poverty, etc. lives here.  We hope we can make a difference and give people hope through our music.  I have a song called “I’m Sick” that relates to exactly what I’m talking about.  Make sure you check that song out!

How would you describe your own style?

I would describe my own style as versatile.  I can jump on any beat, but just because I can jump on any beat doesn’t mean I’ma jump on any beat.  That sounds like a tongue twister, but it’s true.  Another thing about my style is that you can hear exactly what I say word for word.  I think that is important.  I remember listening to songs when I have to rewind the track because I couldn’t understand what the artists were saying.  I think that’s lazy.  If you can’t understand what an artist is saying, what the hell are you listening to?  And artists listen to their music before it goes to finalization so they should correct those errors too.  I know I get on my producers and engineers nerves, but I can’t release something that isn’t good quality.  Quality is very important now.

Top 5 Hip Hop artists? 

Is this a trick question?  I’ll give you my top 5 past and my top 5 current favorite hip hop artists.  I can’t compare my old favs to the new favs.

Old top 5: Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep, Redman, Sean Price, Nas

New top 5: ILL Ruckus, 21 Savage, Kodak Black, 808 Mafia, Lil baby

What do you think of the hip-hop scene in Maryland?

Man this is the DMV.  It’s not Maryland it’s the DMV.  D.C, Maryland, and Virginia.  This is one of the best areas on the globe that people sleep on.  We got the city, the beach, and the most beautiful landscapes out here.  This is a place where you can ride to the beach, the city, and the country and one day while discovering some very interesting history.  The hip-hop scene in the DMV is huge.  We got hip-hop/R&B artists everywhere.  Most importantly, it’s a lot of talent out here.  A lot of artists out here have been putting in the work and deserve their chance to shine now.  The entire industry however is over saturated with artists.  You have artists that take the game serious and you have others who do it for the love.  We are professionals.  We take our craft very serious.  We’ve invested a lot into our career.  Not just money, but time and effort.  We think now is the time to start getting noticed and expand our brand.

In what ways has your newest music changed from when you officially founded in 1999?

This is a very easy question to answer.  The biggest change we’ve had since 1999 is our production.  Our entire sound quality has improved.  Our delivery is sharper and our thoughts are more mature.  We make music that people can enjoy of all ages.  I’ll be honest some old heads might not like some of our newer material because it’s targeted to a younger demographic, but we still got some hot tracks the old heads can enjoy as well.  We didn’t forget about them.  We have a range of songs that you can smoke to, ride to, dance to, sing to, and make love to.  That’s part of our plan.  When you listen to our music on all streaming platforms, you will definitely love what you hear.  We are very versatile.  Please follow, share, save, and add ILL Ruckus to all of your playlists.

What are the main inspirations for the lyrics you write?

When I write my lyrics, I’m always in a deep thought process.  I zone out.  I’m imagining things, visioning things in my mind.  Playing with words seeing how they fit in my bars.  I’m not big on metaphors, I’m more direct with rhymes and straight to the point.  That’s one of the reasons you can understand what I’m saying word for word.  I don’t confuse my listeners.  However, sometimes when I write, I’m writing straight emotions.  I have a song called “Personal” that will be dropping as one of my singles.  When I wrote that song I was in tears because of how real it is.  The song is about my early stages of fatherhood.  I had my first son Cameron when I was 19.  Of course I wasn’t ready to be a father and unfortunately his mother and I’s relationship didn’t last.  I wasn’t in his life because I was out running the streets, selling drugs, partying and shit and when I finally realized that I as supposed to be there for my family, it was too late.  Then shit just got worse from there, eventually I overcame the drama and started to make better decisions in my life.  I also highlight those things in my rhymes.  Family is important to me.  I wish I never messed that up, but God always has a plan.

What would be your dream venue in which to perform?

Dream Venue?  I want to perform at the BET Awards and for the Grammy’s.  That would be a dream come true.  Also, I want to go on a big ass tour.  I want to tour the United States and then take this shit overseas.  I ain’t playing, I’m ready for this.

What experiences inspired your last record?

I think I was horny or I had just finished having sex when I wrote the hook to my last record “Sex All Over Me”.  I can’t really remember how I came up with that hook, but when I sang it, everybody loved it.  Next thing you know, me and Mr. Smith were in the booth recording our verses.  And I must say, this is the new hot summer jam.  It’s been approved by all my lady friends and it’s definitely got a positive vibe to it.  So go check out our new single “Sex All Over Me” provided to you by ILL Ruckus.  We Love Ya’ll!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/love-all-over-me-single/1388116709

P.S. – Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.  Just type in ILL Ruckus we ain’t hard to find.  Peace!

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