With a combination of playful musical innovation, undeniable hooks and whipsmart wordplay, multi-Platinum Australian artist Illy has made a habit out of defying expectation across his first four albums: his fifth record Two Degrees (out Nov. 11) is the next impressive step in a career that continues to resist classification. And Two Degrees pushes any pre-conceived notions of Illy out of the way, down the stairs, out the door, sets them on fire and shoots their ashes into space.

From 2009 debut Long Story Short to 2010’s breakout The Chase, through 2012’s throwback Bring It Back and the hugely successful Cinematic in 2013, the evolution of Illy as an artist — across all spectrums of pop, hip hop, electro and indie — has been nothing short of relentless…. As Illy states on the record’s title track, his success — from hip hop opener to multi-platinum festival headliner — all happened with him moving forward “two degrees / then two degrees / then two degrees” at a time.

The accolades are easy to list off — multi-Platinum singles, a Gold record, an ARIA award, huge sold-out tours, massive festival spots and seven consecutive appearances in triple j’s Hottest 100 — but Two Degrees is all about Illy continuing the musical growth witnessed on Cinematic. Following the success of that album — which went Gold and spawned the epic single ‘Tightrope’ — Illy was champing at the bit to start working on Two Degrees at the start of 2015.

“It’s the longest I’ve taken between releasing albums, but I wasn’t sitting on my couch,” the rapper laughs. “The way Cinematic went, and the way it connected with people was great… it also meant that with all the touring, I started a little later than I wanted. But it worked out, because that time helped get me into a different headspace, and made me even hungrier to get back in the studio and get to work.”

From the outset, Two Degrees is a statement of intent, with Illy laying his storied history out for all to see on ‘Forget It’ (“from first one on to encores”), and quickly moves to focus on the now and the future in the rambunctious electro pop of ‘If Looks Could Kill’ (“In one ear / Out the other it goes”), and the trappings of letting your ego get the best of you ‘Hazard to Myself’.

Lead single, the 2x Platinum ‘Papercuts’ (feat: Vera Blue), is a pop powerhouse — and has Illy once more showing off his singing chops — about overcoming the little things that constantly try to get you down, while ‘Catch 22’ is the album’s anchor song, summing up the album’s narrative ethos succinctly with its story about how the decisions you make, for good or bad, are what make us all who we are, and staying true to that is what matters most.

Still, while the album’s narrative is so succinct and striking, the other imposing aspect of Two Degrees is how the musical vision of Illy and executive producer M-Phazes has grown and expanded beyond any and all conceivable borders. It’s a heady mix that combines pop and minimalist funk, electro and hip hop, dance and soul into a genre-defying rush that’s accompanied by Illy’s wry, knowing take on life.

“The most important thing heading into this record was making sure that I’m doing what I want to do,” explains Illy. “It was about staying true to the vision for the record and where I want my music to go.”

“That might mean an electro song,” he adds, “or a tune’s that a bit chilled out. it was about making sure I got out of my comfort zone really quickly and pushing it into places even I wouldn’t expect.”

Written and recorded around the world with Illy working in various studios in New York, Los Angeles, the UK, Sydney and at home in Melbourne — and with M-Phazes looking on in his executive producer role — musically Two Degrees is free flowing and ever-changing, never settling in one place for too long; it’s about Illy ignoring other people’s expectations and simply doing what comes naturally.

“We’d sketch out ideas for songs, M-Phazes and I, and then build them up with the other producers we worked with on beats and everything. But it’s really about pushing ourselves to a place where it becomes just ‘Illy’: a place that’s just itself, and to do that we got out of comfort zone.”

“I remember,” he continues, “during one of the first sessions for the album at the start of 2015, I walked into this amazing studio in LA, late at night, and there’s all this trap music, and huge, big beats coming from these amazing artists in all the other studios… and I had to go in there and just deliver. That was being thrown right in the deep end; really out of my comfort zone.”

Two Degrees also hosts some impressive guests; the dulcet tones of Sir The Baptist accompany ‘Hazard To Myself’, ‘Papercuts’ features Vera Blue, Jenna McDougall of pop-punk band Tonight Alive adds an incredible hook to ‘Oh My’, British star Anne-Marie guests on ‘Catch-22’, and ‘Extra Extra’ and ‘You Say When’ feature Mike Waters and Marko Penn respectively.

On trying to find the appropriate guests for Two Degrees, Illy chuckles wryly and says, “it was tough.” The reason? “I had to find people whose voice really fit the hook I had imagined in my head, and that’s tough,” he laughs, “but after lots of wrangling, we found guys who were perfect.”

“Like,” he continues, “Jenna McDougall. When I first heard her doing those lines, I lost my mind; I sent her a text saying ‘Your lines just made my life!’ It fit just so perfectly. Everyone was so great: Vera, Sir the Baptist, Mike, Marko, and man, when I first heard Anne-Marie I knew she’d be great. It’s an honour to have all these guys on this record.”

After five albums and with the creative musical melange of Two Degrees, Illy’s roots in hip hop have now spread out to all corners of the musical globe to encompass pop, soul, funk, electro, dance, and indie, and he stands as one of Australia’s most innovative and creative artists, doing it two degrees at a time.

Illy himself explains it best: “President Obama was asked whether he viewed his presidency as a success, having faced such fierce opposition throughout his two terms. His answer likened society to a ship, where you can’t steer 50 degrees at once, but if you move two degrees, then another two degrees, and continue like this, years later you end up in a very different place from where you began. And as long as you’re steering in the right direction, and progressing, your impact is made over time. This album is a celebration of moving forward, two degrees at a time. I hope you enjoy it”.

Band Members:


Press Photos

Hi-res Promo Photo

Amanda de Simone