Tobymac (of DC Talk fame) once covered a rap song from soul-junk called ‘Ill-m-I’ (think ill am I) which uses the word ‘illuminati’ in the chorus. The song was written long before the ‘illuminati’ craze on the internet, but a lot of people seem to see an affirmation in the song that Toby is an agent for ‘the dark side’. (Which already is weird, if I would be an infiltrator I wouldn’t be rapping about it, but as I’ll say more times in this blogpost, nevermind…)
The American band soul-junk is one of my favourite bands. (Click on the name and find all of their albums on bandcamp!! Oh wondrous times we live in that these are available by computer-click now. The effort it took in the nineties and early noughties to get their CD’s to Belgium…) I know I’m in a minority there, but some of their albums are really among my favourites.
It certainly is an interesting and undoubtedly Christian band -if a thing like a Christian band exists- that is completely out of the box, ranging from weird lo-fi worship with straight bible verses as lyrics to completely abstract hiphop that’s pure chaotic association therapy. Glen Galaxay started the band as side-project of Trumans water -an extreme noise rock band- when he became a Christian, using a unique album naming convention where he started from 1950 and counted up for full albums, and down for EPs. The first albums like 1950 and 1951 which I have listened to a lot over the years are lo-fi guitarnoise worship mostly written from bible verses, interlayered with noisy freejazz chaos interludes. Later he experimented with rock, hiphop, noise, freeform electronica and a lot of other styles, with changing band line-ups too. The only constant factor in soul-junk always was Glen Galaxy as songwriter and singer/rapper. My favourite will always remain the 1942 EP, an incredibly arranged lo-fi record which includes Sufjan Stevens and members of the Danielson famile in the line-up, with a lot of strange instruments and vocals. It probably was one of the main influences on most of my own Contemporary Christian Muzak songs.
The song ill-m-I from 1956 is one of his more poppy efforts in the hiphop department, and one of those forgotten pearls in the history of music. A lot of associative lyrics, a very unique flow and some original but catchy beats. Fun tune that stands out even in his very weird repertoire and if you would analyse the text there actually might be a very Christian message in between all the weird metaphors…
Tobymac must have found the same, because he covered it on his second solo album ‘Welcome to Diverse City’, not that long after the split of the legendary American Christian rap/pop/rock band DC Talk of which he probably was the main brain. I’ve never been that enthusiastic about the cover version, but rap covers are rather rare, and souljunk covers are even rarer, so it’s just an interesting attempt, although rather over-produced. (listen to it on youtube, and don’t forget to read the comment section that partly inspired this post…)
The problem with the song is that Glen in all his associative rhyming use the word ‘illuminati’, a word that didn’t have much airplay then, but certainly does now, even though a lot of people have no idea what it means or where it comes from. The word ‘illuminati’ comes from Latin and literally means ‘enlightened ones’. Enlightenment is a word that is very important in mystical Eastern religions, including Eastern Orthodox Christianity. (And ironically also in a Western philosophical tradition that is as anti-mystical as could be possible…) It means being illuminated by an encounter with God, the Divine, Reality, the Brahman… Glen uses the word rather ironically in the song, talking about people who think they’re so enlightened but act like self-righteous pharisees.
Ill-M-I, Ill-M-I, Ill-M-I, Ill-M-I and you
Illuminati comin’ through (X2)
All of this would go completely unnoticed as a mediocre track from a solo-album of one of the DC talk guys, covered from an obscure band (whose version is less ‘commercial’ but much better, at least to me), if not for a craze around that word ‘illuminati’, and a supposed conspiracy against the world that goes by that name about which the craziest stories go around on the internet. (google is your friend if you don’t know by now what I mean. Here’s an interesting article on its influence on hiphop.)
Most of it seems to come straight from a series of weird fiction books called the illuminatus trilogy, and a lot of the rest is even more unbelievable (reptilian shapeshifters control the governments of the world and stuff like that) and certainly less coherent. Sometimes it’s mixed with very weird Christian endtimes theories, other times it’s more mixed with weird new-age stuff about the Annunaki (the gods as ancient aliens) and Nibiru or with Islam. Just the word -whatever it means- is enough to scare a lot of people and make them stop all critical thinking, and run for their electronic pitchforks to go on a witchhunt…
And a song from a Christian artist that uses the word illuminati must clearly be a sign that he is not actually a Christian but a member of the secret society of the illuminati. Also note that he uses eyes in his artwork! See!!!
Here’s someone trying to interpret the lyrics, seeming not aware that it’s a cover. The illuminati-hunters do populate the comment section though…
Toby even had to address the whole thing in the FAQ on his website:
WHAT IS THE SONG “ILL-M-I” ABOUT?
TobyMac answers: “‘Ill-M-I’ was originally done by an artist called Soul-Junk. I talked to Glenn Galaxy (the songwriter) a lot before I put that song on the record because I wanted to know exactly what he was writing about. It’s the only song I’ve really ever covered … I just loved the feel and the flow of it so much—it’s just raw hip hop. What people should know about this lyric is that ‘ill am I’ actually means “broken am I.” The next line says ‘and you, illuminati coming through’ … illuminati is defined as persons possessing, or claiming to possess, superior enlightenment. So when I talked to Glenn, he confirmed that the song was really speaking out against a Pharisee-type attitude, like, ‘holier than thou.’ So the chorus is saying, ‘broken am I, and you, those who claim to possess superior enlightenment, are coming through,’ as in, ‘you’re spiritually enlightened, you have it all together.’ [sarcasm implied] But of course, they really don’t, and the song stands to remind us that we’re all broken.
Obviously I’ve been made aware that there’s supposedly a secret society called “the Illuminati” that dates back for years … but I don’t know much about it beyond that. I know I’m a follower of Jesus Christ and that neither the song ‘Ill-M-I’ nor the album artwork was intended to refer to that usage of the word illuminati. It just has nothing to do with my world, or following Jesus, or raising my kids and loving my wife.”
(Note that Toby certainly had the chance to talk with Glen, having Glen as a guest musician/co-writer on his first solo album Momentum on the song ‘in the air’. He knew whom he was covering! -even though it’s hard for me to fit them both in the same musical universe…-)
The real believer won’t believe that though. Like I said, coherence is not needed. Just look for eyes and triangles and you’re sure that you can find devil-worshippers. No matter that freemasons and Satanism are completely different things, and that the eye-in-a-triangle is also a Catholic symbol for God. Nevermind. One sign of the illuminati and Satan is there… Because the illuminati control the world, and the showbizz, and everyone who has money and fame has sold their soul to them, and they want to sway all people to the dark side, and that’s why they’re hiding ‘occult’ symbols in music videos. It doesn’t really matter what occult tradition, they’re all the same. Be it chaos magick or Catholicism… Yes, the first thing I think about when I see an eye in a triangle is a catholic plate than hangs in a lot of old houses here in Flanders. ‘God sees me, one does not curse here’, with the all-seeing eye of the trinity in the middle…
So all of this is why I ended up reading the weirdest stuff on comment feeds today about a song written by Glen Galaxy, the least likely person to ever join an antichristian secret society that wants to control the world. Nevermind that he never had much fame and is not the person to ever sell his soul, didn’t lead any showbizz, and that half of his albums have lyrics taken straight from the bible. (What few people know is that he rapped the complete bible books of genesis and exodus some years ago in sometimes fascinating avant-hop impro). If there’s any actual Christian present in the American Christian music industry at all it will be him, even though some of his raps are indeed free-form stream of consciousness.
But yeah, whatever… I’m too old to understand the world as some of my students would say… So reptilians it is for the commenting masses…