Versatile, well established and passionate, London’s Illaman is an institution on the mic – it’s hard not to be if you’re head-hunted by D&B legend Goldie – and now he’s wearing his heart on his sleeve with new EP Give Us A Smile.

All woozy, spiralling beats – crafted by Cardiff producer and long-time Illaman associate Norm Oddity – pushing intense, candid lyrics to the fore, Give Us A Smile is a frank record drawn raw from a dark place.

“The EP was written at a time when I was feeling low, depressed but excited” explains Illaman, whose raucous punk/grime band PENGSHUi are going from strength to strength in an entirely different scene. The resulting record soundtracks those emotions locked in combat, and pivots on a mesmerising collab with MC DRS, ‘Times of Change’, which swerves from an urgent, heartfelt backbone to a soulfully sung chorus.

Illaman and DRS go way back – Illaman, fresh from a feature on Dabbla’s latest record Death Moves, describes the two as having “a proper bredrinmanship” – and that’s how ‘Times of Change’ came into existence. “I sent him the vocalled version without a hook for his opinion and because I knew he would enjoy it,” said Illaman. “Within an hour he had sent me back a version with that hook that appears on it without me asking, he just did it. That to me is beautiful, how shit should happen. I love him for that.”

Elsewhere it’s all about the mischievous hip-hop hay maker of ‘Air Max’, where slinky funk basslines wind around a left field beat while Illaman struts on the mic. Give Us A Smile is out on Potent Funk Records and was released on March 8.

Stream ‘Give us a Smile’ EP here or via Bandcamp below.

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Give us a Smile EP by ILLAMAN