Since its debut in late 2011, Wil Wright and DJ Tom Ato’s LiL iFFy has been that rare novelty act that offers something genuinely novel. Street rap couched in the mythology and lexicon of the Harry Potter books doesn’t sound like much more than a half-funny YouTube video, but the proof was there from the first mixtape: iFFy’s sustained savvy in milking both huge hooks and casual fan-service gags from J.K. Rowling’s canon is a stunner of a trick in itself, compounded into something more by the crew’s facility with the bravado and breadth of style in contemporary rap. The tone is its own special magic, a seriousness that feeds off of the inherently silly concept rather than sweeping it under the rug.
This fun dissonance has attracted its share of self-serious haters, and Wright spends much of the third and allegedly final iFFy full-length, Wand Out, harvesting dis-rap riches. By this point, LiL iFFy’s adoring crowds, spurious beefs, and high-life adventures have further blurred the line between joke rap and “real” hip-hop, and Wand Out suffers a little from its pride in that self-fulfilling dynamic. The record is still heavy with Potter references (songs include “Dumbledore Kush” and “Accio Everything”) but beyond the heartsick Auto-Tune of “2 Doe,” the fan-accessible flair of earlier tracks is downplayed in favor of creative point-proving.
But its points are well-made, as Wand Out is clearly the project’s most focused and even personal release. Wright has blossomed into an agile, entertaining MC, and closes the record having left no philosopher’s stone unturned. And though Ato is still game for a sound-hopping playground vibe (check out the title track’s Neptunes-style scrape funk), he’s ditched the cheeky samples and instead slathered the record with his own Atopian EDM stylings. LiL iFFy knows their bread and butter is a dumb gimmick, but coming to the end of their run they’ve made it clear they’re no joke.