John Derek Yancey better known as “Illa J” (born October 13, 1986 in Detroit, Michigan) is an American rapper/singer & songwriter. He is a solo artist but also is currently an active member of Detroit based groups Slum Village and Yancey Boys. He also has another alias “John Regal”. He taught himself how to play the piano, had bass lessons and continuously has vocal training.
As an independent artist, he has released three albums, 2008’s solo album Yancey Boys, 2013’s Evolution (as Slum Village along with rapper T3 and Producer Young RJ) and 2013’s Sunset Blvd. (as Yancey Boys along with Frank Nitt and Illa J’s big brother, James Dewitt Yancey (1974-2006) aka J Dilla, on the production). Illa J also has two EP’s, 2007’s Illa J, 2010’s 4 Past Midnite and two mixtapes 2012’s Dirty Slums and 2013’s Dirty Slums 2 (both as Slum Village). He magically has released all this work without being signed. He has done interviews and specials for Sway in the Morning with Sway Calloway, Mass Appeal Magazine, HipHopDX, URB Magazine, XXL magazine, etc. He also performs every year at DillaDayDetroit held at The Fillmore in Detroit which is a tribute event to celebrate the life of his big brother J Dilla. The 2013 event was headlined by Royce da 5’9 and Talib Kweli.
Since 2007, Illa J has toured in Japan, Europe and has had shows in Chile and Canada. As Slum Village, Illa J has also toured many times in Europe, the USA, Canada and have had shows in Greece, Chile and Brazil. However, 2013 has been the busiest year for Illa J in the studio and on the road.
With almost 100 booked shows with Slum Village for 2012-2013 he has recorded and released Sunset Blvd and Evolution. He also took part in the Welcome to DillaVille - A tribute to J Dilla Tour along with SlimKid3 from Pharcyde, Guilty Simpson, Frank N Dank and Slum Village. Illa J has been in a relationship for little less than two years with his Venezuelan but Montreal based girlfriend Maya. Montreal is where they spend most of their free time.
Illa J wrote and recorded his first rap at the age of 13 with his big brother J Dilla at Studio A in Detroit, Michigan. Later on, in his teenage years, he wanted to undertake a basketball career but music had always been part of his life. He joined the church choir at the age of six and he grew up seeing his entire family involved in music. His mother, Maureen Yancey, studied opera singing and was in the church choir, and his father, Beverly Dewitt Yancey (1932-2012), was offered a deal by Motown Music that he turned down but kept on doing music independently, Mr. and Ms. Yancey also had their own acapella group. His big brother James Dewitt Yancey better known as “J Dilla” was a record producer who was a great influence to the hip-hop scene by working with groups such as; A Tribe Called Quest, The Pharcyde, De La Soul, and artists such as; Busta Rhymes, Common, Erykah Badu and MF Doom.
Illa J’s tracks