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Revivolution's Tommy Ills Talks 'Decent Meal,' Boom Bap Revival Rap & More

Johannesburg's Revivolution rapper Tommy Ills talks his new music video for "Decent Meal," GrimeTown and more with Okayafrica.


Johannesburg's Revivolution is fast becoming a wealth of backpack revival rap. We first caught on to the six-man collective back in March when the clique's Tony Dangler joined forces with Christian Tiger School beatsmith DESERT_HEΔD on “No Manners.” Gugulethu born and Johannesburg bred and based (where he moved to with his mom when he was ten), Tommy Ills was second up to land our way, firstly on his Cape Town love/skate story "See You Later” and once more on his nostalgic "Pacmanbass" with the brothers Fratpack. This week Ills came through with the sharp visuals for "Decent Meal," a sweet-talking romance shot in the scenic "innercity edge" of Johannesburg. We asked Ills to shed some light on the new video plus his Revivolution and GrimeTown families. Watch "Decent Meal" featuring Inferno Williams below and scroll on for our full Q&A.

OKA: What is Revivolution?

Tommy Ills: Revivolution is a collective of six soloist artist "rappers," a designer and beat maker. Revivolution is a mixture of the two words Revive and Revolution. The name came about when we use to cypher in varsity and at the time hip hop music was sounding less hip hop and more watered down. So our goal was to keep the sound of hip hop that we grew up listening to alive. Most of us met in highschool cyphers and battles. We saw ourselves as the last hope of boom bap in Johannesburg so we decided the only way to inspire other kids to keep the sound alive was to unite and make one group with all the dopest freestyle and battle Mc's and Revivolution was born.

OKA: What is Grime Town and what's your affiliation?

Tommy Ills: Well Grime Town is a media group founded in 2008-2009, however when it began it was just friends who met in highschool and ended up studying similar subjects in varsity and we wanted to start a clothing line and naturally the bigger our brand got it turned into a media group that does animation, film, design, illustration, brand strategist, Magazine layouts, photography, event managment, composers, the list goes on. The company was founded by King Kong aka Mister Makonga, myself "Tommy Ills" and Vez breighkbeats. And since most of our friends did media related disciplines in varsity we decided to make a collective and help each other get jobs and produce our own work. GrimeTown represent all youth living in a large urban cities such as Johannesburg. We are inspired by our city and its people.

OKA: Who are some of your influences?

Tommy Ills: My influences range from 80's hip hop to 90's hip hop artist such as Slick Rick, Kool G rap, Big L, Nas, Pharrell Williams, A Tribe Called Quest, Tumi and the Volume, Slum village, MF Doom, Wu-Tang Clan, One Be Lo, Biggie Smalls, Gangstarr, Sean Price, Roc Marciano, Blu, The originators, Kool Kieth, AZ of Bravehearts, Mobb Deep, Children of the Corn, and our very own POC- "Prophets of the City." The list goes on but basically old school New York rappers. I try to take their approach and apply it to my own country, city and people. I love the lyricism and dress sense of old school New York rappers.

OKA: Who is Inferno Williams?

Tommy Ills: Funny enough Inferno Williams is one of the guys that influenced me to start rapping back in high school. He's a member of Revivolution and Grimetown [and] he is also apart of the stable "Bounce Theory" who produce a lot of Revivo beats. Inferno is a rapper and animator and a very close longtime friend of mine.

OKA: Where was the "Decent Meal" video shot?

Tommy Ills: Inferno's house. "The beach house" we call his house the beach house because its in Troyville, Johannesburg, which is in the innercity edge of ("GrimeTown") Johannesburg on a cliff that reminds me of houses in Cape Town. It has the one of the dopest views of the city yet it looks so tropical in its design. So seeing that as a filmmaker we dont really have a budget for music vids, we try to use unique location to make our videos look good. And I've practically always wanted to shoot a video at Inferno's house, so who better to feature on the track than the owner of the house himself.

OKA: Who produced the track?

Tommy Ills: Well it's a very popular sample amongst the hip hop community so we decided to make our own rendition of the beat with a little twist to it. Inferno sourced the sample and he did the little touch ups to it.

OKA: What is "Decent Meal" about?

Tommy Ills: Decent meal is about wanting a girl that clearly likes you back however she is skeptical about dating you coz of the stereotypes that go along with dating a rapper. So in the song I take the time to explain and let her know how I really feel and that I'm not just a typical rapper. I'm an individual with my own views. Basically it's about asking a girl to trust you and to give you a chance.

OKA: Any projects coming up?

Tommy Ills: Yeah I got a tape coming out soon titled Bad Days and Good Nights which is mostly produced by Vez breighk beats, who produces most of the beats I rap on, and as a duo we are called the "THE-CREIGHTS." So that's the tape that me and Vez are dropping towards the end of the year to make way for another untitled project I'm planning to drop next year with beats from A Major of "Bounce Theory." I'll let u guys know all about it when it's close to being completed.

For more from Tommy Ills follow him on Twitter.

Photo by Meztli Yoalli Rodríguez

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