John Derek Yancey, better known as “Illa J” and sometimes “John Regal” (born October 13, 1986 in Detroit, Michigan) is a rapper, singer, producer, songwriter, and multi instrumentalist. He is a former member of the legendary group Slum Village and is the younger brother of Hip Hop icon J Dilla (James Dewitt Yancey 1974-2006), a record producer who was a great influence to the hip-hop scene working with artist such as A Tribe Called Quest, The Pharcyde, De La Soul, Busta Rhymes, Common, Erykah Badu and MF Doom and more.
Illa J was exposed to music at a very early age from his brother making beats in the basement of their house to his parents’ acapella group and rehearsals in their living room, his family was very musically inclined. His father was also a ghostwriter for Motown Records. Yancey joined the church choir at the age of six and recorded his first rap at the age of 13 with his big brother J Dilla at Studio A in Detroit.
Active in the music industry since 2006 in L.A and Detroit, Yancey released one solo album and two group albums and has toured worldwide, always bringing with him his creative energy and friendly spirit. In 2014, Illa J relocated to Montreal and has since entrenched himself in the Canadian music scene by collaborating with some of Canada’s finest emcees and producers including Moka Only, Potatohead People and Kaytranada. Illa has made his name very well known throughout Montreal, headlining the 36th edition of the Montreal Jazz Fest in addition to performing at POP Montreal and Montreal’s Hip Hop Week. He is scheduled to play at Montreal’s Under Pressure festival for its 20th anniversary as well. Aside from his extensive work in Montreal, Illa J played at L.A.’s renowned Low End Theory in 2015. He collaborated with Jazz legend, Robert Glasper in concert and on his Miles Davis tribute project yet to be released and is featured on three tracks (two of which are singles) from Slum Village’s latest and critically acclaimed album YES and on famed UK producer Tom Misch’s forthcoming project. Illa’s second solo and self-titled album will be released via Bastard Jazz Records on October 2nd 2015.
As an independent artist, Illa J has taught himself how to play the piano, had bass lessons and continuously takes vocal training. 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). Illa J also has two EP’s, 2007’s Illa J, 2010’s 4 Past Midnite, two mixtapes 2012’s Dirty Slums and 2013’s Dirty Slums 2 (both as Slum Village). He has released all of his work independently and toured worldwide for each project in addition to interviews for Sway in the Morning, Mass Appeal Magazine, HipHopDX, URB Magazine, XXL magazine, etc.