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Illgod & Xplain Finetune their Process; Incipit Vita Nova Album

When Dante Aliegieri wrote the Divine Comedy while in exile, he produced one of the most remarkable poems of the middle ages. He mixed philosophy with political commentary, and published it in Italian to ensure it was widely read. The Divine Comedy has been translated countless times, and inspired lots of work– Incipit Vita Nova by Xplain D Don and Illgod is a multifaceted hiphop project, loosely derivative of the classic poem and Dante’s existential sojourn.


Xplain embodies some of Dante’s experiences in the music. Coital Flow samples Rob’s Make it Fast, Make it Slow (1978)– and a short porn clip whose source, Illgod refuses to disclose speaks to raving lust. Elements of greed, pride, wrath can be seen through Xplain’s heavy delivery of one-liners. The biggest thematic difference between Xplain’s approach to Incipit Vita Nova lies in its name-calling when political commentary is concerned. Through Dante’s visions in the comedy, he satirises immensely by placing real-life figures into certain sections of his version of Hell. Xplain does not address the ‘Guelph’ in his immediate environment like Dante did. But that’s not to say his lines are not politically charged.


As early as the intro, he referred to himself as an “Issac Adaka Boro, trapped in John F. Kennedy’s Mind”. Isaac Adaka Boro was one of the earliest Niger Delta Activist brave enough to kick against the unfair exploitation of Ijaw lands for oil. He declared the Niger Delta Republic in 1966, and stood off against the military for 12 days—his actions later inspiring Ken Saro Wiwa, the Asari Dokubos and creek militants today.


Xplain teaches when he raps. He emphasizes on relaying the truth unfiltered heavily throughout the album.

“Drowned my woes with the booze and the herb

Then proceed to spit the same blasphemy that had the disciples of Jesus impaled.”

He says on Don’t Touch the Garment. Then he later explores how the truth can be weaponized, like in the case of the militants on Hippocampi

“Preach the gospel to the masses like Desmond Tutu

The high priest with a white hen performing chants and voodoo

To take absolute control like a despot would do”


Illgod expands his boombap palette with samples, away from the exploits he made on Soul Food with Timi Kei. He chops up Eden’s Im Bragdon-Wald with Christine McVie’s And that’s Saying a Lot to create Avid’s Lament. He taps The Most Requested Rhythm Band for a soul sample on Verbs and Pronouns. This experiment across genres creates proper atmosphere through the record, while Xplain assumes the role of an unfazed shylock—as he scrapes the bottom barrel for gems. Avid the Lyrika drops a liquid performance, Plasthic Slash suits a dense verse with one of his cleanest deliveries yet, Timi Kei, Bix F, Tulip, Being affirm the presence of PH City Finest on Incipit Vita Nova.


Xplain’s lyricism is reference packed, and sometimes borders on Poetry. His flow is truncated, he delivers in one-liners and in some case, might make it difficult to see the bigger picture. But when his verses are viewed holistically, the imagery—and attention paid to each line offers continuity and a glimpse into an exotic perspective. He crams Italian references through Virtuoso Valverde.


Some of them even produce sparse google results. ‘Fraudi Honoravelli’ is a phrase coined from Mario Puzo’s oeuvre of Costra Nostra culture. Peppino Gagliardi (1989) & The Tattoo Connection (1978)-sampled King Jaja Bars is an intimate encounter with Niger Delta culture. He creates a homely atmosphere through the record; consumes hot eba with primordial soup, trades poems with a cousin named Livingstone, right after to sip ekpetesi that will cause damage. Hiphop heads have discussed on Whatsapp groups if Xplain truly has a cousin called Livingstone, no, he doesn’t.


Incipit Vita Nova perfects the atmosphere Illgod has been trying to create through his albums. It does not exactly afford loose interpretations; rather opts for emphasis and imagery. It adds a few more dimensions to the revolution going on in PHCity as regards hiphop right now, and one cannot but wait for a more personal album from Xplain the teacher.