The Ill Funk Ensemble
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The Ill Funk Ensemble

Albany, New York, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2005 | INDIE

Albany, New York, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2005
Band R&B Hip Hop




"A Record That Needs No Trickery"

Rated 7 out of 10
Key Track: Afraid Of Heights

In this ever changing musical climate there’s nothing quite as reassuring as hearing and witnessing a finely tuned live band.

The celebrity grandstanding and overreliance on studio trickery of today’s RnB and hip hop in particular makes any organic elements such as live instrumentation a breath of fresh air.

Hailing from New York, The Ill Funk Ensemble clearly has that chemistry and each member of this five piece has a musical pulse running through their bodies. Together since 2006, second album The Duality is the culmination of countless road trips, live shows, and recording sessions.

Their approach of combining traditional elements with modern sounds is typified by opening track ‘She’s Fearless’, which finds vocalist Jermaine Wells crooning over heavy drums and somewhat ominous synthesiser.

The social commentary of ‘Different Day’ is complimented by a sound normally associated with southern rap, which is reworked here with live instrumentation. Guest vocalist Michael Gaydusek drives the subject matter home with his forceful rapping.

The tempo picks up on ‘Find A Way’, which despite some heavy handed sentiments about society benefits from the thumping percussion, orchestral strains and vocals from guest Steven Atkinson.

There are times where The Duality can linger into dry mundane territory, while there are also more than enough thrilling moments from The Ill Funk Ensemble that ultimately delivers something familiar yet fresh that rocks the mind and body. - Tone Deaf Magazine (Australia)

"Ill Funk "The Duality""

Rapper Jermaine Wells is known to be a smiley sort who sends nothing but good vibes towards anyone he meets. Much the same can be said for the fresh, yet old school sounds of Ill Funk. This album is brimming over with warmth and a genuinely welcoming flavour, as if Jermaine is saying. “Hey there! Come on in! Grab a seat, man! I’ve got something to show you! No pressure, though!”

This is a very playful album, chock full of catchy grooves, brilliant rapping from Jermaine and talented singing from BJ FitzGerald (who also plays guitar and produces). The rhymes bring me back to the days of Young MC, or even Kool and the Gang.

The samples are well-used; some reminded me of theme music to old sitcoms from the seventies and eighties. I can tell that this Albany-based group has a love for the good old days. This makes sense, because those old school styles would have been somewhat mainstream when Jermaine and the boys were tots or teens.

There’s a huge focus on the message of harmony in this album. The members are clearly family-oriented people, and respect is paid to immediate family through some of the lyrics.

I personally connected to the song “Find A Way.” It’s very inspiring and encouraging, instilling in me the hope that more artists like this could wiggle their way into the mainstream. This reviewer believes that the world is in dire need of some harmony and unity. A band like Ill Funk could surely set those wheels in motion.

Another memorable track was the uplifting “Fearless.” This song has a very relaxed feel with great transitions from verse to chorus. Ill Funk’s lyrics are sometimes simple, but often memorable: “She was fearless. Rest in peace, Mama. She kept her boys safe. Sarah Connor. Just knowing you, it was an honor. Now I’m cutting up these tracks like a katana.” There’s a simplicity to the writing, because there is nothing esoteric about such subject matter. It’s straight to the point.

“My Gosh.” is a soul-searching tune about personal struggle, working for the man and barely getting by, but growing from such experiences. Seriously, how many freaking rappers share such a positive message on TV? They don’t, because they don’t rap about real life. Real life is not a mattress made of hundred dollar bills, with plenty of room for a variety of “ho”s.

The title track kind of shocked me, for one specific reason. Some of the music is almost identical to “Sail” by AWOL Nation. Is there some plagiarism at work here? And if so, from what side? I don’t know. As far as I’m concerned, Ill Funk used this sample more effectively. It served as a great compliment to their rhymes.

In summing up, I can gladly sing the praises of Ill Funk. This record has so much heart, it makes me wonder where all the other artists of this nature are hiding, and why nobody will sign them?

GREAT album. Almost all the tracks are standout tracks. Ill Funk’s “The Duality” is well worth the money.


Overall Score: 90
- The Signal Magazine

"Artist Feature- The Ill Funk Ensemble -”The Duality”"

Described by reviewers as “a kind of 21st century mash-up of Kool & the Gang and the Isley Brothers” and “all hot sand and asphalt”, Ill Funk takes hip-hop and R&B in a different, yet oddly familiar direction. Ill Funk has performed live with Grammy-winner Mr. Cheeks of the Lost Boyz, opened for Naughty by Nature, Shontelle and Young MC and placed forth in a national competition to perform at Royal Family Affair with Soulive in 2011. Their unique sound will remind listeners of a cross between rapper Common and The Roots, a mixture I certainly enjoy.

Today we are taking a look at their album, “The Duality.” The album starts off with “She’s Fearless” which blends hip-hop elements with a very jazzy baseline. Singer Jermaine Wells then adds his soulful R&B tones into the mix, creating a track that has several different dynamics. “Amazing” is the next track that stood out to me, as the track has a very “pop” vibe to it, with a slightly autotuned chorus that reminds me of Ghost Face Killah’s Ghostdini: Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City.

Overall the album is well done, with “Hot, Crazy Good Love” and “Different Day” being my other favorites on the disc. Look for a second studio album to be in the works, and in the mean time, stay up to date with their latest releases by checking out their social media below: - The Brocastinator

"The Ill Funk Ensemble- The Duality"

The Ill Funk Ensemble's singer/producer BJ FitzGerald and rapper/freestyle extraordinaire Jermaine Wells are sitting on something really special.

“The Duality” is the title of Ill Funk's esteemed album and it will satisfy you to the core. This is the kind of album that I would show to somebody who doesn't normally listen to rap because this isn't just a rap album. This is a forray into a wide range of styles that are cleverly utilized by this Albany-based unit.

“Afraid of Heights” is a punchy, phat track that will have you bouncing your head and up and down, whether you want to or not. It's so catchy it's ridiculous; which funky guitar chords, some wicked solo work, and Jermaine's signature smooth rapping style; which has a rapid fire progression that wil leave you marvelling over his talent. You'll find yourself repeating this track more than once, it's just that good.

“The Streetbeater” also has this same kind of flair; upbeat with resonant hi hats punctuating the catchy beats. It also contains a sample that some fans of seventies shows will recognize immediately.

“Hot Crazy Good Love” is a sultry bit, churning with elements of smooth nineties hip hop with some great singing that reminded of Boyz 2 Men. It's relaxing to listen to and further concretes Ill Funk's stature of being very talented musicians, not just rap artists.

“Find A Way” is a very uplifting track with a great message. This is the kind of song to listen to when you've had a bad day at the office, or a bad break-up, or simply lost the will to push forward. I love songs like this, because they're so few and far between in an industry that favours hatred, greed, lust and money. I would like to personally thank the Ill Funk Ensemble for not conforming to such a burdensome norm.

“She's Fearless” is a great track about simply respecting our parents; the ones who brought us into this world and helped us find our strengths so we can become better individuals. The rhyming is fairly simple, but the mood and flavour of the track is what really counts.

You'll find that most of the songs in this record are of a positive nature; with themes like self awareness, personal growth, respect and appreciation. To me, these are crucial elements to delve into, as where would most artists be if they couldn't appreciate the people and experiences that made them who they are today?

The beats and music are top notch. Great sample usage truly accentuates Jermaine's sometimes astonishing rhyme and structure. The title track, “The Duality,” Is dark, yet hopeful, with an epic sample that many mainstream fans should recognize immediately. I loved this track, and listened to it three times before sitting down to write this review.

The Ill Funk Ensemble has cemented my desire to seek out more rap artists that expand their horizons and shun musical boundaries. I think that's the only way musicians can grow; and I'm pretty sure that Ill Funk stands tall and will continue to do so. Buy this album and support a truly talented unit. You won't be disappointed. - The Real Musician

"The Duality- The Ill Funk Ensemble"

3 out of 4
Lyrics – 3.0 || Music – 3.0 || Vocals – 3.0
Location: Albany, NY
Genre: Hip-hop/R&B/Soul
Key Track: Amazing

The Ill Funk Ensemble (IFE) are a blast from hip-hop past. On their new album release, THE DUALITY, this old school hip-hop group offers up a hefty serving of beats, rhymes, soulful melodies, with a hint of pop edge. Having shared the stage with hip-hop legends like Naughty By Nature, Ill Funk Ensemble have helped keep hip-hop at the forefront of
the music world.

What also makes IFE unique is the fact that they are a band. While the album doesn’t really showcase the band’s play, since majority of the production is programmed, they play live in their performance sets similar to The Roots.

Taking the high road of delivering serious boom bap has proven to be a great lane for IFE and its going to pay off big for them if they have the right marketing push for this new release. THE DUALITY mixes things up a bit by fusing that old school rap flows with r&b vocals and funk driven tracks, which is what you’d expect from a New York based hip-hop crew.

Overall, Ill Funk Ensemble makes a strong showing on THE DUALITY, and I’d like to see how well the project is received. I encourage those who enjoy groups like The Roots to check out IFE’s new release and download it to support independent hip-hop artists. - I Am Entertainment Magazine

"The Ill Funk Ensemble ::: Review"

4/5 Stars

The Ill Funk Ensemble is a band from Albany, in New York. They are an energetic, soulful hip-hop group that have been leaving live audiences stunned in New York on a weekly basis since 2006.

The band have humble enough roots, “walking on sticky floors” and playing on stages “too small for their swagger”, but nevertheless, the Albany based band have real ambition. It seems to me that The Ill Funk Ensemble would keep doing what they’re doing regardless of recognition, fame or money. They are determined to express their feelings in musical terms. There is a sense of determination when they rap, and throughout ‘The Duality’.

They have been described as “a kind of 21st century mash up of Kool and the Gang and the Isley brothers”. One way they are similar to both artists is in the energy that they put into their music. They have clearly been influenced by old school hip-hop, but have taken it into the 21st century, and subsequently created their own sound.

They start as they mean to go on with ‘She’s Fearless’. The track starts off with heavy base and hip-hop beats, then we are introduced to some smooth vocals, and some synth. The chorus is almost shouted, with a real sense of purpose. It’s catchy and will stick with you all day.

Perhaps, the best thing about The Ill Funk Ensemble is that they are a band. This translates well on to the album, as we get a feel for the band, Jermaine Wells and BJ FitzGerald on the main vocal, Dennis Brooks on drums, Joe Stoner on keyboard and Duane Etienne on Bass and backing vocals.

The band effectively uses samples. The theme tune to Sandford and Son heard on ‘Bringin the Heat’ fits in perfectly with the old school hip-hop beats that make up the album. They make use of auto tune in ‘Amazing’. There is a flow in this song that hip-hop fans may find similar to a Tupac flow. There is even reference to a Tupac’s ‘Hail Mary’ in the song, ‘ride or die’.

‘She’s Fearless (Reprise)’ picks up where ‘She’s Fearless’ left off. The subject of the song, who they treated with love and respect, appears to have meant a great deal to the band. ‘she was fearless, rest in peace mama’. These lyrics change the whole complexion of the opening track. It now has real meaning.

The title track ‘The Duality’ reinforces the bands determination to express themselves. Its slow heavy bass line and deep lyrics help portray their feelings ‘born alone, die alone, what about the time in between? You gonna be a king, or be suffering, what it take to live out your dream?’ The Ill Funk Ensemble are definitely determined to live out their dreams. - Music Review Unsigned Magazine

"The Ill Funk Ensemble: Soul For The Masses"

They are a refreshing mix of the rhythmic Motown soul and modernly refined hip-hop. My favorite song is probably "She's Fearless" because it really speaks to me. It's an ode to the woman who knows her worth and if a man is worthy of her time and attention. She's beautiful and doesn't settle for just anyone. The Ill Funk Ensemble's music strives for perfection- just like her. -

"The Ill Funk Ensemble “The Duality” Review"

The Ill Funk Ensemble are a modern pop/soul/hip hop band from Albany, New York. They have just released their new album called ‘The Duality’.

Going strong since 2006 they have previously been described as “a kind of 21st century mash up of Kool & The Gang and The Isley Brothers.

Their music is smooth and refreshing. The way they mix samples in to tracks is very interesting such as a well known theme tune fits in to ‘Bringing the Heat’ perfectly.

The lyrics and the tone used in the vocals are not derogatory or powerful, but instead emotional and at times – pretty nice – this helps them fit in to an image really well and can see them doing well because of this. They really have created a good sound, which is modern and should prove to be pretty popular.

The Ill Funk Ensemble use a good mix of catchy lyrics (without overdoing the cheese), changes of pace in rapping, intelligent rhyming, and as said before some great samples mixed in along the way. ‘Different Day’ which features Michael Gaydusek is a very catchy number and will surely be one to help them gain more fans.

Title track ‘The Duality’ is a little more aggressive and helps finish off the album in style. Not too many albums nowadays finish off with their title track, but it works well in this case. With a little more refining The Ill Funk Ensemble could be on your radios next month, they are up their with similar top artists in their genre and if they continue to make contacts and create a few more tracks featuring slightly well known singers they will explode on to the scene.

If you’re a fan of hip-hop, The Music Mag strongly recommends The Ill Funk Ensemble. - The Music Mag

"Interview With The Ill Funk Ensemble"

OTH: Please introduce yourselves to our readers. Who are The Ill Funk Ensemble ?
ILL: The Ill Funk Ensemble is a live hip-hop/R&B/soul outfit out of New York- Jermaine Wells: lead vocals and freestyle, BJ FitzGerald: guitar and vocals, Duane Etienne: bass and backing vocals, Joe Stoner: keyboards and backing vocals, Dennis Brooks: drums.

OTH: How did you guys come together to form a band? What gave you the name “The Ill Funk Ensemble”?
ILL: About seven years ago, the band’s guitarist, BJ FitzGerald, had a dream to put together a band that would reside in a niche that was sorely lacking in the local New York scene: live hip-hop and R&B. It needed to be authentic, so the crew that he put together needed to be legit musicians as well as easy going, professional guys so that the gigs would be easy to come by. The band that came together has over 80 years combined performance experience; Jermaine Wells, a native of the Bronx, handles the lead vocals and freestyle duties, BJ FitzGerald adds a bluesy, funk quality with his guitar and handles some lead vocals as well, Duane Etienne, a monster on the bass with a bass voice to match, Joe Stoner brings it on the keyboards and backing vocals and Dennis Brooks is the solid spine of the band with the tightest beats in the state of New York. As for the name- it came about because we bridge funk and hip-hop in ways most other bands couldn’t dream of, and it just made sense to have a name that would lay it all out.

OTH: How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard of you before?
ILL: An uncompromising blend of hip-hop, soul and R&B that bridges genres and generations.

OTH: When writing a song what comes first the lyrics or the melody?
ILL: Generally, the music comes first; a beat, a riff or a chord progression starts the process – sometimes, it’s merely a vibe we’re trying to convey. Somehow, Jermaine always seems to come up with lyrics that fit that vibe and bring out the real meaning behind the track.

OTH: Tell us more about your second album that’s dropping soon.
ILL: The Duality is Ill Funk’s second album, and we feel it’s our best work to date. We bring slick rhymes, lush vocal harmonies, tight beats, and some unique sounds to the table- we’ve even been approved to use a re-recorded sample of Quincy Jones’ The Streetbeater (the theme from Sanford and Son) on our song, Bringin’ the Heat. We introduce a couple of great voices on the album, too- Steven Atkinson, who’s a gospel singer from NY is featured on the chorus of ‘Find a Way’ and a good friend out of LA, Michael Gaydusek, spits on ‘Different Day’. You can listen to the entire album- it’s streaming on Bandcamp and Soundcloud through the links below.

OTH: What are your goals before Summer ends?
ILL: Dropping The Duality is our highest priority- but spreading our word to as many people as possible is huge, too. With a heavy gig schedule throughout the Northeast, so we’ve got our hands full!

OTH: Where do you see yourselves in 2 years?
ILL: Still hustling and grinding- music is one of those endeavors that you can’t truly take breaks from. If you do, you lose that edge- we intentionally perform 70-80 dates per year to keep us tight and focused.

OTH: If you guys can switch places with one another who would it be and why?
ILL: Jermaine: “Dennis ‘Thunder Arms’ Brooks because he’s low-key, cool as hell and lays down the funky beats”.
BJ: “Duane ‘Big Dog’ Etienne because he’s our resident honey badger. No one doesn’t give a shit as hard as Dog”.
Dennis: “Big Dog- because who doesn’t want to play the bass?”
Joe: ” I’d swap with Jermaine because he only needs a microphone- much easier than carrying a couple of keyboards!”
Duane: “I wouldn’t want to be nobody but ME”

OTH: What’s your advice to people who want to be musicians?
ILL: HUSTLE. Don’t sit by and wait for gigs to materialize, don’t expect anyone to help you except yourself and treat your band and your music as a business. We live in a world of a whole lot of bands and musicians, so set yourself apart by being more professional, more prepared and more driven than the person next to you.

OTH: Lastly, how can our readers keep in touch with you?
ILL: There are a ton of ways for people to keep up with us- and we always interact with our fans through Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and our official website. - Officially The Hottest

"The Ill Funk Ensemble "Catching Wreck""

Capturing the energy and chemistry of live performances onto a studio recording is a difficult task for any band, even talented ones. Fronted by lead MC/vocalist Jermaine Wells, Albany, NY-based band Ill Funk Ensemble runs up against this contradiction with their independently released debut album, Catching Wreck. This five-man outfit is known in the local club scene for their creative set of cover songs, performing classics from Notorious B.I.G., the Jackson 5, and others.

Absorbing elements of rap-rock, contemporary R&B, the blues, and jazz, Catching Wreck is definitely feel-good music. Block party-type themes of having a good time and women, plus some good old hip-hop braggadocio dominate the LP, save for a few more substantive, albeit abstract, tracks, like “Troubleman” and “Damned If You Do.” But with this very popular subject matter, Wells and co. seem to just rehash early-‘90s R&B riffs and late-‘90s pop-rock melodies. More than a few times throughout “Summertime,” the band appears to borrow from Warren G, Mint Condition, and perhaps even ‘N Sync, which would not be as bad if it didn’t sound all too familiar. And, of course, it doesn’t help when there are some well below-par verses and poorly conceived hooks (“You’re so sexy, we be gettin’ sexy/It’s so sexy… So sexy, sexy, sexy” on “Sexy”).

Interestingly enough, some of the album’s faults point to the impressive, versatile abilities of the instrumentalists, namely BJ Fitzgerald (guitar/vocals), Duane Etienne (bass/vocals), Joe Stoner (keys/vocals), and Dennis Brooks (drums/vocals). When the verses finish on tracks like “Get Down” or the title track, the band likes to kick into free-for-all jam sessions. On the former, the horn player’s lively and piercing solo gives the band a chance to show off its jazz-funk chops and rhythm-backing capabilities; but, the latter features Fitzgerald as the show-stealer, ending “Catching Wreck” with a deft, blues- rock improvisation.

All criticisms aside, Catching Wreck is far from a horrible listen. Having the expertise of professional musicians at the group’s exposal will cause expectations, especially among hip-hop listeners, for inventive ideas to be much higher. It’s fairly clear that Ill Funk targets the pop-rock crowd more than, say, long-time fans of the Roots, but they still need to devise their own artistic lane to stand out.

- Cyril Cordor -

"Hip Hop/Funk To Change Your Opinion About The Genre"

One thing that I do not like about the hip hop and rap music scenes is that most artists think their voice is the only instrument and never learn how to play a real musical instrument. When I see a full band playing the music that a lot of their competitors just use preprogrammed backing tracks for it really turns my head. One such band that I was introduced to recently is The Ill Funk Ensemble.

The Albany, NY based collective is 5 members that can truly handle their instruments in a genre known for the opposite. Their fast and fun beats stand out even with amazing flow and lyrics that are touching and not just screamed at the listener. They tell me they have shocked audiences when they set up all their equipment in a dim club with sticky floors and then explode their full sound on the unsuspecting crowd. I can only imagine watching the jaws drop.

Their music is also quite different than a lot of the genre while remaining similar enough to draw fans from many different sub-genres of the hip hop scene. The Ill Funk Ensemble is set to release their full length album The Duality on August 24th. The record is a 12 song collection of sweet and happy rap/funk songs that sets them ahead of competitors by a mile. The opener ‘She’s Fearless’ sets you up for what is to come with a funky drum beat, vocals reminiscent of Adam Levine from Maroon 5, and a strong chorus celebrating female power. The next song ‘Afraid of Heights’ switches gears to a full on freestyle flow that is amazing. The lyrics mixed with an almost creepy keyboard line create a song that is sure to turn heads. There is even an impressive guitar solo in there. The ill Funk Ensemble is breaking molds here. The band is not embarrassed to show their love for the ladies in sweet songs such as ‘Amazing’ and ‘Hot Crazy Good Love’ as well.

Bottom Line: The Ill Funk Ensemble is about to change the face of hip hop music with their genre mashup that will separate them from the pretenders in the scene as soon as people hear it. Go be the first of your friends to hear it. - Indie Band Guru

"Nippertown Album Review"

Let’s face it, contemporary hip-hop is a producer’s game. So, the concept of whippin’ up some crack hip-hop with a live band is seriously tricky business. If you’ve ever seen them doing their thing live, however, you know that Nippertown’s Ill Funk Ensemble can bring it on the bandstand.

But whether they could successfully translate that same live excitement to a track-free studio recording was anybody’s guess, though. Until now.

With their debut full-lengther, “Catching Wreck,” they’ve managed to brush those doubts aside with a deft hand. Most of the credit goes to the band’s guitarist BJ FitzGerald, who handled the album’s engineering, producing, mixing and mastering at Accidental Studios in Delmar. The fact that FitzGerald also splits his stagetime playing with the brass-fueled country band, the Hillbilly Horns, only underscores his versatility and big ears.

There ain’t even a hint of twang here, however. Ill Funk is pumping out a soulful urban sound, a custom-made brand of now-funk that’s undeniably steamy.

Local music scene vet Jermaine Wells handles the microphone with aplomb, dishing up the sublime rhymes with an undeniable sense of style. There’s no hardcore gansta-rap posturing and the brash bravado is kept to a minimum. This ain’t underground stuff – not by a long shot.
But the beauty of the Ill Funk flow is their gen re-busting, generation-bridging mix of rap and soul. They dip into rap-rock fusion with some distorted, buzzsaw guitar on the thumpin’ title track and the disc-closing “Infinity,” but much of the album’s strength lies in the old-school ’70s-style rhythm guitar work that keeps the dance floor hoppin’.

In fact, part of Ill Funk’s charm is that they seem capable of channeling a kind of 21st century mash-up of Kool & the Gang and the Isley Brothers. They bring the horns to the table for the churning, party-hearty “Get Down,” and they pare it all back with a minimalist “Troubleman.” And the best song of the batch, “Damned If You Do,” is rooted deep in the blues. And the grooves are in the pocket thanks to the rhythm section of keyboardist Joe Stoner, drummer Dennis Brooks and the poppin’ bass of Duanne Etienne.

This album is made for summer. Grab a copy and blast it. It’s all hot sand and asphalt, a big sizzle readymade for downtown and/or the beach. You can smell the sunscreen and the gin ‘n’ juice. -

"New Release Rack: The Ill Funk Ensemble"

The Ill Funk Ensemble is gearing up for the official release of their sophomore album, “The Duality.” The follow-up to their debut “Catching Wreck” is scheduled to drop on Friday (August 24), and the band will be celebrating with a CD release party at the Icehouse in Saratoga Springs at 9pm on Friday, which just happens to be Travers Eve.

But you don’t have to wait til Friday to soak up the sounds of “The Duality.” The album is currently available for pre-release streaming here. With versatile vocalist-freestyler Jermaine Wells leading the way, the new, 12-track album is a sizzling blend of old-school funk, neo-soul and hip-hop. Their genre-fusing, pop culture-populated style is highlighted by “Beatin’ the Heat” (which deftly employs a sample of Quincy Jones’ theme from the old Redd Foxx sit-com, “Sanford & Son,” otherwise known as “The Streetbeater”) and “She’s Fearless (Reprise)” (which offers a tip of the hat to Sarah Connor of “Terminator” fame).

In addition to Friday’s celebration, you can also catch the Ill Funk Ensemble in action at the Sport Island Pub in Northville at 9pm on Saturday (August 25), and you can bet that the party will still be kickin’… -

"“The Duality” Soulful Crossover R&B/Hip-Hop"

The Ill Funk Ensemble, are based in Albany and have been stepping on stages since 2006. They’ve even been blessed to perform live with Grammy-winner Mr. Cheeks of the Lost Boyz, Naughty by Nature and Young MC and placed forth in a national competition to perform at Royal Family Affair with Soulive in 2011. They have also had a placement on the show “Road Trip Nation” and had an honorable mention in the John Lennon song-writing competition.

While most of you try to dichotomize terms like hip hop and rap, I just listen to the music now. This album, to put it simply, is off the chain. Unlike mainstream rap today, where the same stuff is rapped about over and over, this album thinks outside the box. With so many artists lacking depth, subject matter, and quite honestly intelligence, you still have The Ill Funk Ensemble and a few others to hold on to. In this repetitive game of rap, these cats set trends and explore uninhabited terrains in everything from rhyme patterns, beats and musical substance.

“The Duality” is an album of spacey hiphop, R&B and soul funk, that develops a startlingly fresh, original sound. The Ill Funk Ensemble deal out hard beats, as well as laid-back vibes that perfectly suit the band’s overall sense of melody. The album’s chief musical foundation is funky R&B, but other influences pop up all over the 12 tracks as well.

Some tracks have a spiritual, almost gospel feel (though only in tone, not lyrical content), and the production team frequently employs the spacious mixes and echo effects of dub and the now famous T-Pain vocal style, in creating the album’s modern soundscapes.

The album opens with “She’s Fearless” which is an infectious blend of swingbeat, G-Funk and mid-’90s, R.Kelly-style soul moves. Languid, lecherous but with a hip hop attitude that dominate.

“Afraid of Heights” sizzles along a 70's dance-funk bravado and leads to one of the album’s standout tracks. “Amazing,” which cruises on a outrageously catchy chorus line and slinky acid-jazz beat, which is hard to ignore.

Jermaine Wells’ vocals are off-the-cuff heart n’ soul deliveries, that blend perfectly within any genre or tempo. The Ill Funk Ensemble also greatly benefit from the fact, that the entire 5-man crew share vocal chores. Giving them an added edge with harmonies and other fancy vocal interludes.

Check out “Bringin’ The Heat” for the clever vocal interludes before you move onto another standout track. The sexy and hypnotic, “Hot Crazy Good Love.” Now here’s a group that understands the power of the chorus.

“The Duality” is filled with many highlights, like “Different Day (feat. Michael Gaydusek)” and “My Gosh,” but the track that epitomizes the sound of this outstanding band, is without a doubt “Find A Way (feat. Steven Atkinson).” This track has got it all. Beat, lyrics, flow, melody and chorus-line, with a hot musical arrangement to match. “Find A Way” stands head and shoulders above anything else on an album that is already air-tight on all levels, which should give you the measure of things.

“The Duality” sound production is mellow gold and the overall vibe is just outstanding. The air-tight flows and beats will make your head bob and your speakers purr with bowel-obstructing basslines.

Jermaine Wells (Lead Vocals/Freestyle), BJ FitzGerald (Guitar/Lead Vocals), Dennie Brooks (Drums/Backing Vocals), Joe Stoner (Keyboards/Backing Vocals), Duane Etienne (Bass/Backing Vocals), have put out an album unlike most modern rap/hiphop records; no skits, no filler. Just pure, raw, unadulterated soulful crossover R&B/hip-hop.

You cannot consider yourself a fan of these genres without this in your collection…

Pop it in, turn off the lights and listen from start to finish if you don’t believe me. - JamSphere

"Musician's Profile: The Ill Funk Ensemble"

If you haven't yet heard about The Ill Funk Ensemble, it's okay, for I am not sure how many people in this area have had the pleasure. However, they recently appeared at the Red Fox Inn in Bondville and are now starting to create quite a buzz around Southern Vermont. And... now that you know the name, checking this band out is a must for anyone who can dig a fresh combination of jazz, rock, funk, hip-hop, rap, R & B, soul and everything in between. Yes, these cats can bring all this together and make it tight as a drum!

Based in Albany,The Ill Funk Ensemble has been creating their electric blend of music all over the Northeast for over five years, a five-piece, innovative hip-hop band in the vein of The Roots, a Philadelphia band from the late 80's and known for their jazzy, electric approach to hip-hop. Among its' five members, Ill Funk Ensemble combines over 80 years of jazz, rock, funk and rap experience and have shared the stage with such contemporaries as Tower of Power, Naughty by Nature, Tower of Power, The Fabulous Thunderbirds and Young MC.

The band is fronted by Bronx-born singer/songwriter/rapper Jermaine Wells, a master linguist, singer and charismatic entertainer . He has appeared on MTV, the Apollo Amateur Night, Apollo Showtime On The Road and the feature film Random Heart starring Harrison Ford. The Ill Funk guitarist is BJ FitzGerald, who is a music teacher by day and has performed nearly every genre of music from rock, to jazz, country and hip-hop. He has shared the stage with such R&B giants as the aforementioned Tower of Power, famous session player "Blue Lou" Marini from the Blues Brothers and trumpeter Randy Brecker to name a few.

"I came up with the idea for The Ill Funk Ensemble simply for my love of funk and quality hip-hop, and realizing that no one in the our local area had tapped this genre with a full band," FitzGerald said in a recent interview. "When we found our lead singer, Jermaine, the pieces all started to fall together and we've been performing and writing our own music as well as doing great cover tracks ever since. The other members of this funk-ified band include Duane Etienne on bass and vocals, Joe Stoner on keyboards and vocals and Dennis Brooks on drums and vocals.

With a unique style and electric flair, The Ill Funk Ensemble has an amazing ability to appeal to a wide range of audiences and atmospheres. They have also released their debut, full-length CD titled Catching Wreck, which FitzGerald engineered, produced, mixed and mastered at Accidental Studios in Delmar, NY. "The past five years have been such a blast," FitzGerald concluded.

"It has really been exciting as we expand our fan base and continue to play all over Northeast… and we're especially excited to be breaking into Vermont - the entire state seems to be a bastion for great music and supportive fans." To learn more about The Ill Funk Ensemble and their new CD, visit their web site at

Article courtesy JEM Freelance Writing. - JEM Freelance Writing


Still working on that hot first release.



*2013 Artists in Music Best R&B/Soul Award Winner*

A slick mash-up of hip-hop, neo-soul, R&B and rock thats been compared to The Roots, The Ill Funk Ensemble has been making steady waves in the independent music scene for the last few years, culminating in a win for Best R&B/Soul artist at the Artists in Music Awards in Los Angeles, California this past February.

Described as soul for the masses (, airtight on all levels (JamSphere Magazine), brilliant (The Signal Magazine) and about to change the face of hip-hop music (Indie Band Guru), Ill Funk has shared the stage with Grammy-winner Mr. Cheeks of the Lost Boyz and hip-hop legends Naughty by Nature. Perhaps their proudest moment was being given the green light by Quincy Jones himself to use a sample of song, The Streetbeater (the theme from Sanford and Son) on their own track, Bringin the Heat. The band has also been featured on dozens of music and entertainment publications, including Okayplayer and Officially the Hottest, appeared on the Under the Radar digital sampler, the Launch Music Festival and Conference sampler 2013, the MTV show, Road Trip Nation, along with airplay on radio stations across the country and the world.

The Ill Funk Ensemble independently books and performs at more than 100 shows per year at venues all over the Northeast and has created a fan base of loyal followers; no purchased Facebook likes, fake Twitter followers or bought YouTube views here. Theres a reason for this: not only do they make great records, they absolutely throw down live on stage.

Hip-hop isnt dead; it lives in The Ill Funk Ensemble.

For more information contact:
BJ FitzGerald

Band Members