In this hiphop game there are many who begin with a humble hunger but once success starts to become more familiar and less of a stranger they morph into some cocky sons of a gun. They become unapproachable and often forget that there’s so much more to hiphop than the mic. I’m glad to say that there is one artist out the few who is the pure opposite. With major achievements under his belt he would have every right to brag or even feel A-List when around those aspiring to even get a taste of where he’s been. He’s traveled around the country and had the pleasure to be in the midst of hiphopian greats such as Mos Def and Kendrick Lamar. So who is this artist that took bars and annihilated opposing spitters since junior high making him the man by his freshman year of high school? Who has the smarts and discovered the true way to be relevant when the mic one day gets taken out of a retiring hand? Or went from being front row at Rock the Bells to rocking his own stage there the very next year? Who is this man who has revived battle rap and still believes in supporting people with dreams? The incredible being is Madd Illlz. In a face-to-face interview filled with humor, real talk, and touches of inspiration he shared pieces of himself. Get ready to put them together. Shall we begin? Let us. . .
In person Madd Illz is very down to earth. This wouldn’t be a typical description for a man of his status in the game. A person can easily step up to him in awe and instead of treating them like they have a disease he speaks, takes pictures, and might even chop it up. This is rare behavior. When you consider that he’s the founder and CEO of the first and most popular rap battle league with over 100+ million views it makes it even more surreal. Yet, if you look into his past this wouldn’t be surprising at all. Beginning his roots from his older cousin who indulged in rap Illz would put his ear to the door and listen to the music but the true hook that grabbed him was battling.
“There was a time in my life I was getting picked on. People would crack on each other and tear each other down. I remember trying to rhyme in a cypher and people were just immediately shutting me down. And I came back the next day with battle raps. . .and immediately I knew I was good at battling.”
After shredding his opponent a respect came from his peers that he was vocal force to be reckoned with. Thus began a part of his life that would take him to places he never saw coming. But one question arises as it rightly should. Where did he get the name? Carrying both slang terms ‘madd’ and ‘ill’ deems him to be amazingly great when he opens his mouth to drop bars. He was christened with his dope name from a guy hearing him spit. With the simple words, “Yo, you’re mad ill! We should call you Madd Illz.” came what he would go by, not once changing it to something else. To make it a bigger win his name can be seen as more universal in what he does. Considering himself to be an artist and not just an emcee one could say that perhaps he’s not just sick with the mic but indeed “madd ill” in all things he does. Looking at his record that seems to the case.
With so many accolades it would be easy to assume that Illz would never mention any type of malfunction in his career. Weighing his massive battle wins, being successful with his rap battle league Grind Time Now, having faithful viewers, even more faithful fans, plus having one in a lifetime opportunities it would seem that any type of loss would seem like an unimportant scratch on his champion belt of life. On the contrary. Though GTN might be his biggest triumph it has also been his biggest failure. As any genius idea the league was created out of a great place and grew unexpectedly. “It was a dream come true. It’s that story where it’s just like we were putting stuff out and all of a sudden it blew up.” With positive responses from the hiphop community success quickly found Illz, his co-founder, and other counterpart. Both also happened to be his best friend. As they continued on this unknown path and refreshed a part of hiphop that had been dying they soon found themselves disagreeing on the vision of what GTN was to be. “I guess how young I was mentally when setting up Grind Time I didn’t look at it from a business aspect. I looked at it as this is culture and these are my best friends. I went into business with my best friends and it started turning horrible.” Eventually a split happened and Madd Illz kept Grind Time Now rolling despite losing his closest friends. The issues that came with it were tough enough, but for him he sacrificed a lot more than just camaraderie. Being married and having a baby girl on the way he had different responsibilities but putting the league first cost him his family in the process. With broken pieces splayed in front him Madd Illz made a choice to overcome the obstacles. Enriched with life lessons one can see his wisdom in his business handling and the results of those hard times are testified in his current achievements. Way to make a comeback, right?
Madd Illz is seen as a serious off-the-dome threat but one thing many people would never guess is that he’s a gamer. One of his favorite ways to knock off tension is through that and of course writing. As most of us out there he enjoys killing off people in Grand Theft Auto but he also likes to go back to his soothing therapy of the traditional pad and pen. You may not find a journal full of deep dark secrets but as a creative mind he lets the ink bleed however he feels in times of stress. Being a battler he has taken it upon himself to go beyond the mic and started to learn the actual business. From knowing how to throw shows to being on stage he has strived to learn it all. With having an inspiration in Tech N9ne, who has a well ran label and solid music career, Illz never wants to settle out with being know for just his mic skills and offer more than the typical. There is, however, something more intriguing about him on a personal note that most couldn’t hypothesize if they tried. “I tend to fall in love with things too quickly. That can lead me to being hurt but it can also lead to learning a lot quicker from those things.” Don’t get it twisted, Madd Illz is no pansy but as any strong person a sensitive side must thrive somewhere for the balance. If you pinpoint the softest part of his heart it would indefinitely be his daughter. Naming her as his biggest motivation you could feel his love for her when he speaks. In a society where men are known for abandoning their own Illz takes the responsibility of “another person depending on you” serious and finds her to be the reason he grinds as hard as he does. That deserves applause. In addition, he lives his life unbolted and without problem expresses how he currently feels. With nothing to hide Madd Illz doesn’t live as a mystery man but instead has open arms for people to know who he is. Quite impressive.
Not identifying with just one scene or sound of hiphop has allowed Madd Illz to transcend the expected bounds. As some artists may want their people to know about love or to be themselves he has a message of revelation and unity. Illz wants the hiphop community to realize that despite the competitive quality that has always been around and forever will there’s a much bigger picture being missed. “I just want people to know that these systems are there. And they’re there to put us against each other.” Some might view this as a “Matrix message” but that’s not quite the idea. Instead of people coming together Madd Illz has noticed, especially in the battle league, that when a group is successful and another one is as well one would be influenced by another source to pit themselves against their budding brother instead of feeding off them in a positive way. In such a hustled arena giving a hand expands everyone but tearing down hurts everybody. Illz makes this problem a part of his mission and can often be seen helping and giving opportunities to others as well as finding a way to bring differing people together so everyone can ultimately succeed. Only a great can put the world on his shoulders, but it takes an amazing person to get everyone to share the load. Let us be grateful he is the latter because in that is peace and within peace is a better future. Salute him.
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