Those who know hip-hop understand that it is largely a community oriented music genre. With the help of global web agents like Okayplayer and blog sites like 2dopeboyz and HipHopDX, this community has been able to considerably expand its reach. At the forefront of this movement locally is hip-hop veteran Ramon Ibanga, Jr., better known as producer Illmind.
A tri-state-area native, Illmind has an ear for unique beats and an enviable work ethic, the magic combo that’s gotten him in the room with some of hip-hop’s brightest figures. Since beginning his production career with underground groups like Little Brother and Boot Camp Clik, Illmind has of late found success on the mainstream level with artists such as 50 Cent and Eminem.
In his rise to the top of the producer chain, Ill is quick to credit his relationships with other prominent members of the music industry, among those most notable, G-Unit Records president Sha Money XL.
Beyond his vast work as a producer — and recent projects with Brooklyn rapper Skyzoo and Redman — Ill has been working diligently to promote his recent event-planning venture, Beats Love Alcohol Party (B.L.A.P.), while also playing the role of professor at the Clive Davis School of Recorded Music in the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.
With his B.L.A.P. showcase, which allows producers a unique opportunity to play their catalogs directly to live audiences, Illmind has created an environment in which professionals can get together while honing their craft. These events — billed “Where the MPC Becomes the Turntable” — foster a sense of community amongst producers, new and experienced.
We had a chance to talk to Illmind about some of his recent projects, collaborations, and how he has been able to successfully utilize community and industry relationships to create opportunities for himself and for those around him. Check it out:
Where did you grow up?
Early childhood was in Newark, NJ, then moved to Bloomfield, NJ.
How did you get started creating beats? What kind of equipment did you start on? What do you primarily work on now?
I started messing with beats when I was around 12 or 13 years old. My dad is a musician and he had all sorts of equipment. I remember he had a [Roland] KR-4500 performance keyboard, and that’s what I learned MIDI and sequencing on. When I got older (around 17) I got Cubase, an Akai S20, SP-1200, and soon after a Boss SP-303. Today, I still use the SP-303 and S-20, but do everything on my Ensoniq ASR-10 keyboard.
As an Asian American, you’re an obvious minority in the hip-hop community. How would you say your Asian background has impacted your work and ability to get work?
The Asian thing has actually been a blessing, believe it or not. It’s given me the ability to overcome greater odds. The stereotypes were always there, but I think people respected me more because there were very few of us doing it. It’s still pretty rare today (Asian producers), but we’ve come a long way and there’s definitely talent out there. All I know is, people remember me more because I’m Asian.
What was it like getting started; how did you promote your beats and gain contacts?
Back in like ’99 or 2000, I started posting my beats on various online forums, one being http://www.undergroundhiphop.com. People liked my stuff and I slowly got my name out there. One thing led to other things and the rest was history. Back then posting beats online was a new concept. I was literally on dial-up, uploading beats at low quality bit rates because them shits took too long if they were high quality.