Tommy Ill is a Wellington-based hip hop artist whose music appeals to those outside the traditional confines of the hip hop genre. Tommy Ill is a one-man-band featuring Tom Young, although when playing live he recruits his hype-men Kelvin Neal, Buck Beauchamp and Brian Hainsworth.
Tommy Ill’s dry wit and cheeky lyrics means he’s more often playing with indie or electro bands as opposed to his hip hop contemporaries. You won’t hear him rapping about guns and drugs, but instead about the real issue facing tall, affable, awkward white men such as Tommy: girls, hangovers, and phone bills. In a sense he’s not quite serious… Yet not quite not.
The release of his eponymous debut album in late 2010 followed the earlier release of three EPs; Toast and Tea Kettles (2007), Matchsticks (2008), Come Home Mr. Ill (2009). The songs he’s released have been perennial hits with New Zealand’s student radio stations. Accolades include a Best Hip Hop Track nomination at the 2007 bNet Awards, and his song ‘Bill Cosby’ made it into the top 10 of most bNet stations across the country.
Being piggybacked by his band-members, tackling audience-members and collapsing in a sweaty heap after a performance is nothing out of the ordinary for Tommy Ill. Such playful-hooliganism and vivacity is perceptible in his recordings, and give rise to riotous live performances that are impossible to resist.