Mike Acuña is a hip-hop OG. Better known on stage as ILL Se7en, he's been in the game for more than a decade. The MC got his start as one-half of the group Isolated Generations with Ben "Opt Won" Chavez back in the day, and he continues to collaborate with local MC and visionaries like DJ Cavem and Panama Soweto. He is passionate about the culture behind the music and has grown with his audience while staying true to what he believes. His religious background is only one piece of the puzzle that makes him an intelligent MC and an artist to watch.
Westword: You've been in the game for a while. Can you give us a brief rundown of your credentials?
ILL Seven: I'm From a crew called Isolated Generation and also associated with 900pound Gorilla. IG has been doing music for about ten years. We used to be signed to a christian label at one time. About five years ago, we changed the direction of our sound and message. It's still uplifting the people, but our message is more open so we can touch the masses.
You have done solo work as well as collaborations. Which do you prefer and why?
I like doing both, I can tap into another side of creativity doing collaborations, where most of my solo ventures I still might bounce ideas off the heads of people, but for the most part, it's just me and my ideas.
Your crew runs pretty deep. Who do you think the best local MCs and hip-hop heads are in Denver?
I think that 900 pound definitely has some of the freshest talent in the city without question. But I have a lot of respect for the other crews around town. They all bring different things to the table. I'm Feeling Opt Won, Mike Wird, the High tops, Small Boi Funk, Whygee, DJ Cavem, Bianca Mikahn, Cam Shaw, MC Big House, Mane Rok, Prime Element, Turner Jackson, Adrien Molina, The Food Chain, DJ Bella Scratch and so on. So I would have to say that my city as a whole has some of the best artists in the country it's just a matter of us getting our shine on a national level.
The new project is your first solo project that is not on a Christian theme. What do you think the biggest difference is between doing christian or secular music? How have you combined the two?
Me and my Crew have taken the labels off of our music a while ago, so technically it is my first non-christian solo project, but it's also my first full solo venture that I have done. I think that God uses me as a instrument, so not a lot has really changed on my end...maybe it has for the listener.
What are you doing when you're not doing music?
Doing the family thing. Taking care of my three-year-old daughter, Miranda, and a lot of community work, too, building with Divine America and the Outcast Project, and I just started to do some work with Art from Ashes starting in August.
What is your favorite track off the new mixtape, and why?
"Darling Life." The main reason is because I wrote it for my daughter, and it makes me do a lot of reflecting on where I'm at and where I was
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What can we look forward to from you in the future?
I'll be doing a lot of collaborations. I have a new project that's in the works with Diles from New Mexico, and I'm also working on some music with a producer out of Germany named the Crates. We are also working on a new Isolated Generation album.
ILL Se7en, School Daze mixtape release party at Rize and Shine Car show, Red & Jerry's, Sunday, July 17, 1840 West Oxford Avenue, 303-783-0655.