The Champion Mixtape

Considering Detroit's plethora of hip-hop talent, it's easy to overlook top-tier music while keeping up with the more familiar names. Some may know Terron "iLLite" Calmese for his work with One Be Lo's Subterraneous Records crew and The Chosen..., his album with partner-in-rhyme Octane. But his top tier debut Crème De La Crème last year established him as one of the most unjustly slept-on emcees in the area. Listeners to The Champion Mixtape, his new effort with Detroit-bred G-Unit producer-DJ (and Metro Times alum) Nick Speed, may realize that iLLite deserves as much attention as any rapper in the state.

One needs to look no further than the opening track, "Be It," to see that iLLite's primary assets are his effortless, measured delivery and deadpan wit: "Now hurt yourself trying to follow my bravado, you wallow in your sorrow trying to keep up with the kid, nigga better luck tomorrow," he spews over an upbeat soundbed from Vitamin D. But other songs are more substantial. He mulls over decisions he's made in "Time Machine," and the mixtape-closing "Goodbye" finds him recounting his ups and downs in the music industry while praising his contemporaries.

And in true Michigan hip-hop fashion, The Champion Mixtape's beats hit just as hard as the rhymes. While Nick Speed offers several standouts, his layered arrangement of pianos, guitar twangs and drums on "Be Alright" is plenty for iLLite to describe a big man on campus who isn't as happy as he seems. "Off The Heart" sees Ypsilanti producer 14KT resurrecting an offering from his lauded The Golden Hour instrumental album to supplement iLLite's somber narrative about a waning friendship. Magestik Legend, zHAO, and other Michigan beatsmiths offer heat throughout as well.

The Champion Mixtape shows, again, that iLLite has the talent and the ear for beats to place him with the big dogs in Michigan's hip-hop scene. Hopefully, listeners will pay attention.

Download iLLite's The Champion Mixtape here:

Download iLLite’s The Champion Mixtape here:

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