iLLPHONiCS, a St. Louis staple since 2006, discusses its hip-hop-rock-funk fusion sound | St. Louis Public Radio

iLLPHONiCS, a St. Louis staple since 2006, discusses its hip-hop-rock-funk fusion sound

Nov 21, 2016

Earlier this year, iLLPHONiCS released “Gone With the Trends,” its first album on a new label called The Record Machine. Just a month ago, the group released a music video for one of the album’s flagship songs “96to99.” The hip-hop-funk-rock fusion band has been a staple on the St. Louis music scene since 2006.

This week, the band turns its aspirations outward, hosting a “Formal Affair for Charity,” to support “putting instruments in the hands of disadvantaged children” through the non-profit Music for Lifelong Achievement.

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, two members of the band joined the program to discuss their sound, the future of the band and what music meant to them growing up in the area. Larry Morris, iLLPHONiCS frontman/emcee, and Chaz “CB” Brew, the band’s drummer and vocalist, joined the program.

Larry Morris is iLLPHONiCS' frontman/emcee.
Credit Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

“We set ourselves apart because we genuinely love all types of music,” Morris said. “The thing that makes us work is that when we come together as a group to create, it never just has to be hip-hop — if it is gospel, that’s what we go with, if it is rock, that’s what we grow with. As an emcee, growing up being around so many diverse emcees, I have made it my responsibility to meld to the group and mold myself to them. They’ve done an excellent job of understanding the needs to a vocalist, front man and emcee. That’s what makes us really work.”

iLLPHONiCS writes everything from scratch, a rarity in a world where sampling is as ubiquitous as a stop sign.

“People have these stereotypes of hip-hop music,” Morris said. “And what I say is: a lot of hip-hop songs that I like have samples of rock, jazz, whatnot. The only difference with us is that we don’t sample: we create it ourselves.”

Chaz "CB" Brew is iLLPHONiCS' drummer and vocalist.
Credit Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

In addition to Morris and Brew, the five-piece band also has vocals by Lena Charley, keyboard/vocals by Keith Moore, guitar by Kevin Koehler and bass by Simon Chervitz. University City and Webster University were two communities central to the group’s formation and evolution.

“96to99” is one of the top songs from “Gone With the Trends,” iLLPHONiCS’ most recent album. Morris said it was named because those were the years the members of the group “came to hip-hop.” It is an ode to classic hip-hop.

Brew said that hip-hop has risen to its popularity today due to its message.

“A lot of emcees talk about what’s going on in their community — and that speaks to the youth,” Brew said.

Morris elaborated:

“Hip-hop has been the CNN for the streets,” he said. “A lot of people, if you look at the origins of hip-hop, although it originated in black communities, there’s always been a Latin influence, there’s always been white people doing graffiti. Hip-hop has always been all-inclusive. It has changed over the years because it went mainstream, but if you know the roots, you know it has always been an open door for anybody as long as you respect the culture. When you break that and stop respecting the culture, then you have a problem.”

Related Event

What: Illphonics: A Formal Affair for Charity

When: Friday, November 25 from 8-11 p.m.

Where: Sheldon Concert Hall and Art Galleries, 3648 Washington Blvd., St. Louis, 63108

More information.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.