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Formed by Dallas Austin, Illegal immerged as one of a sudden rush of teen rap acts in the early nineties. First came Another Bad Creation, then Kriss Kross and Lil Malik and Jamal came right after. The South Carolina and Philly-raised pair entered the game while East Coast hardcore was running wild to counteract the attention that the West Coast had gained at the time. In order to keep up, the then-14-year-olds were just as rough as the rest, weren't afraid to swear and would actually write their material themselves. Illegal released their one and only album, "The Untold Truth", in 1993.
As mentioned previously, this act followed up a trend of similar names that suddenly popped-up as novelties to the industry. In a response to this, Illegal takes on both Kriss Kross and Da Youngsta's on "Head or Gut" and "We Getz Buzy" respectively. As Dallas Austin put together Another Bad Creation too, it's no surprise that they refrain from taking them and instead turn their attention to other young rhymers. Making a name for yourself simply through disses often leads to longevity in the industry, (only you're 50 Cent) but was able to give them a leg-up to release at least this album and a solo record each once they had grown-up.
By this time in the early nineties the Hit Squad had been split into two. Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith had parted to bring an end to EPMD and the rest of their affiliates took their pick of who they were down with. Due to this, it's no surprise that having E-Double on the beats here led to Illegal recording a track entitled "Ban da Iggidy" (referring to the sewer style Das EFX practiced). They try to replace this with lots of '-oos' at the end of words instead of the '-iggidy", but it clearly never caught on. Sermon isn't the only surprise appearance on this release. Biz Markie and the Diggin' in the Crates Crew's Diamond D, A.G. and Lord Finesse also turn up to offer the act on-trend beats and rhymes to keep up with what was attracting the most attention at the time.
The contents of "Back in the Day" and "Stick 'Em Up" show that the original Gangsta Rap sound certainly had a lot of influence on their music. The former of the songs references Ice Cube's lines on "F**k the Police" and the latter is composed in a manner which was typical of N.W.A general sound. Eazy-E lines are sampled later on and it seems that all of this really helped in giving them a raw, street sound. At a time when all were focused on 'keepin' it real', having youngster such as these try to fit in with the rest of the roughneck Rap game doesn't quite seem right, but this pair certainly put up a display to show that they need their music to be heard.
Through the whole of the album the two of them remain consistent and offer a juvenile version of the type of material heard from Redman, Black Moon, M.O.P. and the many other hardcore heads from around this time. The way they perform the lines is very much of-the-time. Much of the time they borrow from the West Coast drawl and frequently switch from speedy to laid-back delivery. They have the capabilities to compete with all of the big names of the time and although their subject matter may be a little immature, for a cut like "Back in the Day", they show the depth they're able to go to when dealing with darker subject matter related their upbringings.
This album is an underrated one. The Hip Hop world doesn't tend to embrace young talent (go ask Soulja Boy and Lil Wayne how respected they were in their teen years) but these seem to deserve it. Although it's expected that younger artists don't have what's needed to make much of an impression, Lil Malik and Jamal perform well and the latter did a very nice job as the primary writer here. This is a consistent release and it's a shame that they failed to record any subsequent material together (mostly to do with such acts going out of style). It's a great addition to any collection of East Coast Rap of the early nineties.
1. "Back in the Day" **Five Stars**
2. "Illegal Will Rock" **Four Stars**
3. "Head or Gut" **Five Stars**
4. "CrumbSnatcher" **Five Stars**
5. "We Getz Buzy" (feat. Erick Sermon) **Five Stars**
6. "Stick 'Em Up" **Five Stars**
7. "Understand the Flow" **Five Stars**
8. "On da M.I.C." (feat. A.G. and Lord Finesse) **Five Stars**
9. "Ban da Iggidy" **Five Stars**
10. "Lights, Camera, Action" **Five Stars**
12. "If U Want" **Four Stars**
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Back In The Day
2 Illegal Will Rock
3 Head Or Gut
4 Crumb Snatcher
5 We Getz Buzy
6 Stick 'em Up
7 Understand The Flow
8 On Da M.I.C.
9 Ban Da Iggidy
10 Lights, Camera, Action
12 If U Want It