07 Sep EON MC ETC + ALKALINE TEAM UP TO RELEASE REFINED INDIE HIP-HOP EPIC, THE ILL HE HAD
When a fiery wordsmith joins forces with a dope producer, epic music is minted. At least that’s the case with dream team Eon MC Etc. and Alkaline’s fierce new album, The Ill He Had. The album—which gives a nod to the old school by pairing one emcee with one producer—delivers the sultry sounds and vulnerable vibes of what I can only refer to as refined indie hip-hop. (Yeah, I typed refined. Forget about refreshing your wardrobe this fall + fall in love with hip hop again.)
Fearlessly examining emotional topics as celebrated as self-reflection, friendship, romance, and desire and as complex as identity, slavery, society, and grief, Eon infuses life into each of his lyrics, the majority of which are rooted in personal experience. (You’ll learn more about that in the Q+A.) His voice always rises to the occasion, too—at times with jaw-dropping precision—sounding as sweet as a songbird in “Dream Girl” and as ferocious as a lion in “Freeman.” While there’s something powerful in each of the album’s full-bodied tracks, my absolute favorite is the last. (Listen while you read + pick your favorite.) These lyrics linger long after I hear them and keep me coming back for more:
On a quest to uncover the truth
and the best version of you
It’s a lonely road, the greatest, wish your friends would come through
But I can’t want it for you more than you
Man sharpens man, like I sharpen #2s
Hearken to the blues, walking through the flames
One day you should do the same, mastery before fame
What’s a name to symbol? The will to do the work is essential, kinfolk.
I’ll meet you on the way
If I don’t see you again, then my friend, was it all a waste?
—“Meet You On The Way”
In this interview, you’ll learn: the history behind Eon and Alkaline’s new album The Ill He Had; why Eon sees himself in the midst of his own epic; a little bit about each of the 11 tracks—including which was the *most* difficult for Eon to finish; what this new collection of songs means to him; how his sound and perspective have evolved over the past decade+; which EP is Eon’s favorite release to date; 3 things he wants fans to know about him; which artists he’s been vibin’ lately; and what’s next for Eon and his music.
The conversation from our interview is chronicled below in a pure Q + A format.
Q + A:
It’s been just about a year since we last caught up with you! Tell us how your brand-new album The Ill He Had came to be.
Eon: Ha! It’s a long story…we have to go all the way back to ‘07. I was just finishing up my first LP, A Reckonin’—and I was grinding hard. I had identified what I thought were the 2 dopest local producers at the time. I had reached out to one of ‘em—this cat Cook—about a particular track, and he said, ‘…yea this is the price.’ And I replied, ‘…aww man, that’s a lot.’ LOL. But he still had the tracks a few weeks later, so the price came down and I was actually able to get it. When I met Cook, it was alll business. There was no relationship to be formed. I don’t think he was particularly interested in checking out my music, either. (I think a lot of people were sweating him then.)
The other producer was Alkaline. I really dug the beats of his that I had heard, so I reached out to him. He sent me 3 beats right away. They were pretty dope. I assumed these were throwaways, because a lot of people were sweating him, too. Regardless, I was excited to show him what I could do with the tracks and maybe even build a relationship.
Welp. After a series of unfortunate events, I ended up temporarily leaving the city, and my recording setup stayed in LA. I spent about a year and a half in another state with no way to record. I was sitting on a bunch of unused tracks. And I felt bad about it. But I have this thing: a code, if you will. I feel like if someone gives you a track, that person is trusting you with a piece of their art to bring to life and complete. So, I take it very serious. I don’t care how long it takes or whatever the circumstances are, if I get a track from someone (that I asked for), I will make a song out of it—a good one.
Fast forward to 2014. I put out Recesshine with CMplex and Adduci—and one of the beats we used was one of those beats Alkaline had sent me long ago. Fast forward to earlier this year. Alkaline hits me up on Soundcloud, writing, ‘Yo…that beat on your song “Just Saying”…did I give that to you?’ And I replied, ‘Yea man…way back in ’07,’ but I wasn’t sure if he felt some type of way about it so I also typed, ‘isn’t blah blah blah your email address?’ And Alkaline replied, ‘It’s cool, man—I wasn’t tripping on you. I just have a lot of beats floating around out there, and I didn’t remember.’
After that exchange, we chopped it up a little bit. It was clear he really liked what I did with that song. Then we didn’t talk for a while, but I kept thinking about it. I hit him up and proposed we do a whole project together and go old school: 1 producer, 1 emcee, equal contribution, equal credit. And he was all in. Actually, he started pushing ME, which was refreshing because I’m always the one with the high motor. Initially, I wanted to do 4 tracks, he wanted to do 5. I came back with the first 4, and he sent me 5 MORE. I finished those, and he sent me another, LOL. But we were just vibin’. Sometimes it’s just works, you know? Here I was—13 years later—finally working with this cat for real. And it was all coming together.
Do you see yourself in the midst of your own epic?
Eon: Oh, most definitely. I always feel like I’m in an epic poem. All the twists and turns. I see the hidden messages and nuances in life…the underlying themes, overall contexts, etc. My life is like the Iliad, and the Odyssey in a lot of ways. Hence the Ill He Had, which is obviously a play on the Iliad but with a hip-hop spin. From the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary:
1a: a series of miseries or disastrous events
b: a series of exploits regarded as suitable for an epic
2: a long narrative
especially : an epic in the Homeric tradition
What does this new collection of songs mean to you?
Eon: I give a lot of vulnerability here. More than I’m used to. It’s one of my goals, though: to be able to go further with that. Just being open. I feel like these songs are a big step in that direction. Each one has special significance to me. A lot of it speaks to my life history, victories, defeats, continuing challenges, rebirth, and new ideas. It means a lot.
What sounds + feelings will greet listeners when they hear this album?
Eon: The whole spectrum. Every emotion is here. There are opportunities to laugh, cry, reflect, get mad, get aroused, feel romantic, be melancholy, feel validated, and feel crazy lol. It’s all in there.
Highlight all 11 tracks for us. What can you tell us about each one?
Eon: The “Intro” is pretty straight-forward. It’s a literal introduction.
“Why You Doin it?” encourages people to reflect on their lives and recalibrate. Don’t live a lie or a life you hate. Don’t spend your life neglecting what you actually want out of it.
“Dream Girl” brings a little bit of romance and a little bit of mystery.
I wrote “Requiem” about 3 childhood friends that are no longer with us. It’s a tribute.
“Meditation” reveals a small sample of the ‘crazy’ ideas that flood my mind whenever I take the time to sit down and go wherever my thoughts take me.
“Freeman” talks about liberty and identity. Middle finger to the system.
“Lose Your Mind” flips 2 middle fingers to the system, LOL. I dive into certain aspects of society designed to keep us asleep.
“Kiss Me Diss Me” plays up the ‘cat-and-mouse’ game. Adult flirtation. Seduction.
“I Stand Alone” is an old-school, ‘spit-until-the-beat-is-over’ type of track. Lots of mean bars in there.
“Missed Connection” tells 3 different stories where I didn’t get the girl. The last verse being the first girl I whiffed on in life—my mother. This was the origin of a lot of my eccentricities, which suggests I probably have an Oedipus complex…aaaand now we’re back into Greek mythology. LOL.
“Meet You On The Way” is a really polite way of saying to your friends, ‘I want you to make it. But I won’t drag you along. I gotta focus on me now. Meet me on the way there?’
What do your typical songwriting sessions look like? How do you manage to lace such sharp lyrics together + then deliver them with precision during studio time?
Eon: There is no typical. Truthfully, when I first hear a track, I like to just live with it for a few days/weeks. I let it speak to me. What is it saying? Then it comes to me one day and I begin writing. Sometimes it takes several sessions. Sometimes the song basically falls out of me. Most of these happened the second way.
Looking back, what was the most difficult lyric or verse to get right with this particular album?
Eon: “Requiem” was probably the hardest to actually start. Once I started it was easy. But when I realized what I wanted to do with the beat, every time I thought about it, I got really sad.
Were all 11 tracks recorded at the same studio? What were those sessions like?
Eon: All tracks were recorded in the same spot. The sessions were low key and laid back—but all business. I came in on a mission and knocked out several tracks back to back each time.
Who contributed to the Ill He Had album?
Eon: There’s just me and Alkaline. That’s it. He made all the tracks. I did all the vocals. It was truly an equal enterprise. I sparked the idea, but he drove the action.
Can you reveal any of the inspirations behind the theme in this new album?
Eon: I’ve always liked Greek mythology. And I could tell you a bunch of reasons why it makes sense. But, honestly, just like those songs fell out of me onto the pad and then into the mic, the title was just automatic. There was never a time where I was thinking about it. It came to me right away, and I knew immediately that it was the right one. That’s not normally how that works for me with naming things.
Will you be releasing any music videos or hosting any live performances on social media to celebrate The Ill He Had’s release? + or how can fans help you celebrate?
Eon: In this post-apocalyptic climate, it is hard to know what we will be ‘allowed’ to do. But there will definitely be some visuals coming. Maybe a virtual listening party. There are no definite plans to celebrate yet. But stay tuned.
How has both your sound + perspective evolved since you first began releasing music over a decade ago?
Eon: My perspective evolves all the time. Part of the beauty of being an artist is you’re allowed to change. I would say I’m more refined but less defined. I’m maybe 30 percent out of my shell. When I get to 100 percent, then it will be easier to measure growth. I’d say thus far most of my changes artistically deal more with comfort than anything.
Considering both your own releases as well as your many collaborations with other incredible like-minded indie artists under the United Statements label, what has been your favorite release to date?
Eon: Race Music is probably at the top as far as collabs. Got to work with The Libra, who I am working on the upcoming Race Music vol. 2 with, as well as my late cousin, may he RIP. But they were mostly all fun. I like something different about each release.
Name three things you want your fans to know about you.
Eon: 1. I’m trying. The world is full of talented people. But the world is not full of authentic art. I want to give people something real. Something that touches them in a place where nothing fake can reach. I don’t always hit home runs. But I do try to.
2. This is a collaboration. I listen to all feedback and take it seriously.
3. I appreciate you. This field is thankless sometimes. And you constantly question yourself, your talent, your ability to keep going. So, to anyone who has ever shown me support, I appreciate it and you have no idea how much it has meant. Thank you.
Has the LA music scene still been treating you well? What venue(s) are you looking forward to potentially performing at once bars + clubs open up for live music again?
Eon: Aw man…don’t make me sad. Word on the street is it may be sometime next year before venues have live music here again. I’m just looking forward to that in general.
Which artists have you been really feeling lately? Are there any new or new-to-you artists you think we should listen to?*
Eon: Tom Misch, Thundercat, and CyHi the Prynce is what I’ve been on lately. But it changes every week.
*BONUS: Vibe our exclusive Spotify playlist, MMM: Eon MC Etc., which includes ALL of Eon’s newest tracks plus his current faves. With 4+ hours of energizing beats to sharpen your mind and get your body in motion, it’s the modern musical fuel your ears have been craving.
What’s next for you + your music?
Eon: I’m taking this time to try to tie up all the projects I’ve started but haven’t finished. There are several. We’ll see what gets done first.
Connect with Eon MC Etc.:
Listen to Eon’s new album, The Ill He Had:
iTunes: + Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/us/album/the-ill-he-had/1529774241
Listen to Eon’s music + what Eon Listens to (our exclusive Spotify playlist):
MMM: Eon MC Etc
Read more MMM interviews with Eon MC Etc:
2019: Eon MC Etc And The Libra Drop “Internet Bae For Everyone Crushing On A Stranger:
2019: United Statements Serve Up Razor-Sharp Realism With Debut Album, Truth Hurts:
2018: Eon MC Etc. Releases Music Video For “Thunder Up, Yeah!”, His Spirited Fight Song for The Oklahoma City Thunder:
2017: All About Eon MC Etc.’s Sizzling New EP, Southern L.O.: