Two Musical Genres - One Mission

Aug 12, 2020

Some people use their creativity to express how they feel about the world around them. Two northern Illinois musicians are doing just that.

Brandy Gilliam

Aurora hip-hop artist Brandy Gilliam, also known as K.I.K. and rock musician Shawnzie Gade are making a timely album. They are asking other local artists to take part. Gilliam explained the vision.

“So, whether you're a woman and you're protesting something, whether you're LGBT[Q] protesting something, whether you are a folk singer protesting something, the whole theme of this project is protest music," he shared.

Gade mentioned that they want the album to have diverse content.

“All artists, all different types. Like, it would be so cool to have really good spoken word performances and it could either be a capella or with, like different kinds of music,” he shared. “Like the possibilities are endless, and we really want to make sure that we incorporate that.”

Gilliam said this is a part of the “A-ILLA” series. “A-ILLA” is another name for Aurora, Illinois. He explained why he and other hip-hop artists felt this series was needed.   

“Aurora is the second largest city in Illinois. We have a hip-hop community here, but we don't have a hip-hop voice,” he said.

Gade said he worked with Gilliam in the past and wanted to work with him again. He explained how he reached out to Gilliam before the protests. 

“And I put it out there and he very enthusiastically was like, 'Yes, let's do it,'” he explained. “And he started sending me some ideas. And then everything in the world turned to crap.” 

Shawnzie Gade
Credit Picture provided by Shawnzie Gade

He said when the protests started, he decided to make that the theme for the project. 

“When everything was going on, I wanted to do something. You know, this is a cause that mattered greatly to me,” Gade shared. “And it was something that it's like, so many things happen. And you just say, ‘Oh, you know, I should do something about it,’ and you never do.”

Gade said he remembers how all the artists came together after the Aurora protests took place.

“And I thought we had so many elements here in Aurora, from music to art, to everything,” he said. “Let's get those voices together. Let's get all of that together. Let's get the whole thing together and do something.”

Gilliam said people are really busy so it’s taking some time to recruit.

He said the artists would be responsible for their own studio and production costs. Once all parts are complete, Gilliam and Gade will work with a producer to put the album together.  

The album would be the third volume from the A-ILLA series. Artists who are interested in being a part of the project need to join the Facebook group A-ILLA Angle Volume 3. Proceeds from the album will go to charity.

Gilliam said he is working with Rockford’s poet Christopher Sims for volume 4. This will be a friendly competition between hip-hop artists in Aurora and Rockford.  

  • Yvonne Boose is a 2020 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at