EXCLUSIVE: Interview With ILLA (of THEBLKHANDS) - I had the opportunity to chop it up with ILLA, the producer third of THEBLKHANDS conglomerate. We discuss what the group has in store for the next few months, what features we’ll expect on their upcoming album, how he got started producing and more. Don’t forget that Cazzie Jetson (another member of THEBLKHANDS) has recently released his album theMighty, which we got to review for our readers. Hit the cut to read our exclusive interview.
Straight Fresh: Thanks for taking time to speak with us. To jump start things, get our readers up to speed by giving us some details about yourself, the THEBLKHANDS & what you guys are all about.
ILLA: Well, THEBLKHANDS is a trio-hiphop group out in NYC. Cazzie and I came up with the idea one day to form a group with our close affiliate, Dominic Serendip, and to put out a small album together to see how it would go. We put out our first song out called “Emily” back in January but it wasn’t under the name “THEBLKHANDS”. Then one day we started to form the group officially. I came up with the name one day in history class when we were learning about World War I. There was a Serbian terrorist group called The Black Hands so thats how we got our name. Right now, we just got all the beats ready for the album and the basic idea of each song. The album is really experimental right now, all type of beats from classic hip/hop to ambience dreamy songs to radio hits. Its looking about 10-15 tracks right now but could be more. Who knows!
Straight Fresh: When & why did you get into producing and/or music in general?
ILLA: Oh, I always hoped someone would ask me this question in the future, its quite a long, interesting story but I’ll make it short.  I always loved hip hop but I got into music quite late. My first hip hop album would be Kanye West’s Graduation and from there I just picked it up and expanded my genres along the way. I first started produced last summer actually. I was trying to impress some girl at my high school and my friends told me I should make her a song. I looked into it more on the internet and researched how to produce for a couple of days and eventually I downloaded a producing software and sampled a Norah Jones song and sent it to her. Well, she loved it and so I kept producing more songs and more songs for her and eventually, in November, I took it seriously and did work with other artists such as Cazzie Jetson and it all started like that. Really unexpected but I’m glad it happened in the end.
Straight Fresh: Besides Cazzie Jetson’s theMighty, what future projects do you guys have on tap for the upcoming months?
ILLA: Well, Dominic Serendip’s debut album is coming out in just under 2 weeks and we have been working on that since November 2011. I produced most of that. We actually are planning to do a lot of music videos in the future too with our videographer Deniz. We got one coming out August 28th with Skyzoo actually, the third single to THEBLKHANDS album. We shot that in Chinatown in NYC, the song is called “Downtown” and it samples a Lana Del Rey song. Cazzie Jetson is taking a break with solo music to focus on THEBLKHANDS album and also the purpVarsity group mixtape. We are aiming to release THEBKHANDS album right before the year ends but you will definitely get more songs from us in the meantime. We are aiming to put out another single after “Downtown” which is definitely going to be a radio hit.
Straight Fresh: You’ve worked with Smoke DZA, Big K.R.I.T. & other big name artists. How do these high caliber guest spots affect THEBLKHANDS’ musical output & will there be any additional features on the upcoming album?

ILLA: We try to get these big name artists on the song they do best at and what their fans love from them. We put Big K.R.I.T. on an classic hip/hop beat and we put Smoke DZA on more of a trippy smoke beat so the fans get what they want from these artists. We also try to experiment with our songs to see what type of songs our fans love the most from us. Right now we are in the experimental stage but it looks like we have a set sound for the album, its different and unique and I think our fans would love it. Additional features? Definitely. What I’m worried about is that we don’t have enough songs with just Cazzie and Dominic on it! Right now, I can confirm that Skyzoo is on the album and on the third single. Jay Saif & Justus Clarke is on the album too, Justus is on a summer chillwave song, for the indie fans out there. Also, After The Smoke is on the album too, we got Whuzi to drop in a verse for us just recently actually so you can expect to hear him on the album. Last feature I’m going to reveal now is Kembe X. We got some big ideas going on here too, but there are a lot more features on this album, unexpected too, something no other hip hop artist has done before, I’ll definitely let the fans know over the few months.
Straight Fresh: Who are your top 5 biggest influences on your music?
ILLA: Top 5? In order from most to least it would be, Kanye West, A$AP Rocky, Lana Del Rey, The Weeknd and The xx. I would love to work with A$AP Rocky or Lana Del Rey so hopefully that will be an opportunity in the future.
Straight Fresh: Once again, thanks for sitting down with us. We are excited to hear more material from you & THEBLKHANDS in the future. You can find the group on Twitter below.
ILLA (@BelowTheILLA)
Cazzie Jetson (@KingCazzie)
Dominic Serendip (@DominicSerendip)

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