It should have been a one-album joke — Harry Potter-themed gangsta rap. But LiL iFFy is not a joke. The Knoxville-based rap act has gotten a national following and the group's second album "Wand Ambition," which will be released at a party at The Well on Saturday, is proof that LiL iFFy is, well, serious.
"As silly as it sounds, I didn't want it to be silly," says Wil Wright. "I only wanted it to be funny if you wanted it to be funny."
Wright is LiL iFFy with DJ Tom Ato (Thomas Thibus), Playboy Manbaby (Zac Fallon) and Baylatrix (Alex Bayless) and Mr. 9and3quarters also known as Don Magic Wand (Jeff McClain) as the other primary members of Dude Source, the crew that backs up the rap wizard.
As X-rated rap, it pulls no punches. A Wal-Mart edit would leave the songs in tatters. And if you ever imagined a carnal encounter between Harry and Hermione, the new song "Sorted Affair" (available for free download at www.wandcore.bandcamp.com) delivers it.
Watching the group on stage helps explain why iFFy took off so quickly. iFFy and company can send energy to the back of the room. The room throbs. The crowd shouts back lines and pumps fists in the air. Women dance at the front of the stage waiting for iFFy or the crew to splash champagne into their mouths.
It is a scene most aspiring rappers can only dream of.
Wright, who also fronts the rock group Senryu and the new band Weird Miracle, says the reaction has been surprising.
"Whether it's this or Senryu or anything else, I'm always surprised when things work out," says Wright over lunch at Asia Cafe in Powell. "But I'm especially surprised at what this has become. What's really surprising about this is it's gotten such blanket support — people involved in hip-hop, fantasy and people who don't even care about the platform."
The entire project began in 2011 when Wright had a rare period of writer's block. Before long he had a batch of rap songs that he premiered for an invited group in the basement of Senryu guitarist Dan McCormack.
Those songs turned into the album "Wandcore." The group booked a tour, recorded a segment for the popular web program Daytrotter, and were becoming such local celebrities that one Old City club owner supplied the crew with free drinks all night just to have the group hang in the club.
The Daytrotter session previewed the growth between the debut and upcoming album.
What is so unexpected is that beyond the Potter references, "Wand Ambition" sounds so personal.
"I've always been really personal (in art) my whole life," says Wright. "I self-invest to a fault. A lot of it is autobiographical by design. It's been my primary adventure supporting Wandcore. The primary things that have happened with this this year has been with this thing.
"Most hip-hop is about making you believe the autobiography. That's why when I listen to this I hear a success. It sounds like ME. It doesn't sound like me doing a thing, like playtime. I'm really in there."
He gives much of the credit to Thibus, who finds samples and constructs backgrounds.
"I've never worked with anyone with more consistent ideas in any genre. He's a real case of someone who should be making music for a living, but isn't."
The project has turned into a more inclusive group called Magic Hu$tle, which includes the rap duo Dopplegangsta ("Myrtle Beach") and rapper HalfDeaf.
"Wand Ambition" will be available for free download at www.wandcore.bandcamp.com after Saturday, and it may very well be the last new recording from LiL iFFy.
"It's all based on the forward trajectory of this," says Wright. "I don't have any current interest in recording new albums. I'm that happy with this one and I don't know where else could it go. Once the trajectory slows down, I'm going to stop and that's that. It could be as early as the end of the year ... or I could tour on this album as long as it will go."
(Lil iFFy's album release show, featuring DJ Tom Ato, will be a 9 p.m. Saturday at The Well, 4620 Kingston Pike. Admission is free.)
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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