Illmind (often stylized as !llmind) (born Ramon Ibanga, Jr.) is a Filipino American hip hop producer from Bloomfield, New Jersey. He has co-written and produced hip-hop, pop, soul, and electronic music for labels such as Nature Sounds Records, Def Jam, and G-Unit, and has worked with artists such as Kanye West and Eminem. !llmind has also released several studio albums and had a number of songs and albums reach the music charts, including Live from the Tape Deck, a collaboration with Skyzoo which reached #3 on the Billboard 200 in 2010. He is also in the bands Fortilive and Smokey Robotic.
Starting in 2008 !llmind has been releasing the free mixtape series Blaps, Rhymes & Life, and he operates a regular producer showcase in NYC called Beats, Love, Alcohol & Party (B.L.A.P.). He also teaches music production at The Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University.
Ramon Ibanga, Jr. was born on August 28 in New Jersey, where he was raised in the city of Newark before later moving with his family to Bloomfield, NJ. His family provided a strong musical background, as his father was a musician and his older brother was even named Les Paul.
!llmind started using his father's equipment to make beats around age 13, specifically learning MIDI and sequencing on a Roland KR-4 500 keyboard. In his early teens he developed an interest in hip hop, and started producing music in 1997. Around 1999 he began to take production more seriously and he started sampling, using both hip hop vinyl and obscure records such as his father's old jazz and soul albums from the Phillippines. He began using the program Cubase and an Akai S20 synthesizer around age 17.
After learning sampling !llmind began making his own beats and sounds, and in 1999 began uploading his music to online forums such as undergroundhiphop.com. Around 2001 he started participating in the Beat Society producer showcases in Philadelphia, where in 2002 he beat his future collaborators Kanye West and 88 Keys at one of the events.
!llmind started his production career working with groups like Little Brother and Boot Camp Clik; he had met Boot Camp Clik after being introduced through Khrysis, and he started working with Little Brother after being introduced to their music around 2000. His first official collaborative release with the latter was Nobody Like Me.
In March 2004 !llmind's remix of the Jay-Z's Black Album, called The Black and Tan Album, was released to a positive review in The New York Times, who stated "Sparse is the aesthetic for !llmind's remixes, which set out to do more with less: techno boops, ticking drums, laid-back bass lines, three or four notes from a guitar or keyboard. !llmind's minimalism makes Jay-Z sound almost nonchalant."
In early 2007 !llmind signed to the label G-Unit, after D Prosper, the senior A&R executive at the label, gained an interest in his sound.Sha Money XL, another G-Unit executive, served as !llmind's manager for several years. As a part of G-Unit, !llmind went on to produce songs with Erykah Badu, 50 Cent, Ludacris, Lloyd Banks, Prodigy, Kool G Rap, Redman, Scarface, LL Cool J, dance crew the Jabbawockeez (America's Best Dance Crew season 1 winners), El Da Sensei, Diamond D, KRS-ONE, and others. He produced the 2008 Akrobatik hip hop album Absolute Value.
In summer of 2012 !llmind's track "The Morning" was included on Cruel Summer, a compilation album released on Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music label. The song peaked at 19 on the US Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart, and 49 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. The genesis of the track was 2007, when !llmind met Chicago-rapper Rhymefest and started sending him beats. "For a couple of years, I just kept sending him stuff whenever I had Kanye or him in mind. It must have been 100 beats. And then I get a phone call...from Rhymefest...asking for a session to a beat I made. Then he was like, 'I think Kanye wants to use this for a Pusha T song.' Then a few hours later, he's like 'We got Raekwon on this.' The first time I heard the complete album was when it leaked. And I heard it, and I lost it. I would say my life has definitely changed since that moment."
In 2008 he won the Philadelphia Red Bull Big Tune Beat Battle, and as of 2012 he has shared the stage in beat showcases with artists such as Kanye West, Just Blaze, Nottz, and Don Cannon.
In mid-2012 he worked with K-pop artists Drunken Tiger and Yoon Mi-rae (aka Tasha), and he has also recently worked with The Clipse, Kanye West, Eminem, Dr. Dre, Beat Society creator Hezekiah,Ludacris, and Pharoah Monch. !llmind produced music for Hoodie Allen's mixtape, Crew Cuts. The single "Cake Boy" premiered on February 11, 2013 via YouTube with over 30,000 views in the first day.
As of 2014 is executive producer and official member for three separate groups; Fortilive (Mushmouf & Slo-Mo), SunZoo (Drunken Tiger, Yoon Mi-rae, Roscoe Umali & Styliztik Jones), and Smokey Robotic. In late 2010 he released an album with the crew Fortilive, a group he co-founded that includes himself on beats and Hawaiians MC Mushmouf and MC Slo-Mo. A year later !llmind co-founded the band Smokey Robotic with four other members. Smokey Robotic releases its music for free, and genres cover pop, dance, electro, and hip-hop.
In 2005, he produced and released an entire album on BBE with fellow producer Symbolyc One called The Art Of Onemind, which featured artists such as Ghostface Killa. Since his discovery by Sha Money XL in 2006, !llmind released multiple full-length albums. These include The Official !llmind Remix Album in 2009 on myx, and a 2010 LP with lyricist Skyzoo called Live From The Tape Deck on Duck Down Records.
Live from the Tape Deck (2010)
In May 2010, lyricist and rapper Skyzoo had announced that he and !llmind were collaborating on an album called Live from the Tape Deck. Recording sessions took place at Big China Studios in Brooklyn, New York in 2010. The entire album was produced, mixed and arranged by !llmind, and was mastered by Ricardo Gutierrez. !llmind took a custom approach to the production, focusing on keeping the sound "analog," similar to old 2-inch tapes. Skyzoo and !llmind secured guest artists that matched the Live from the Tape Deck concept, including Heltah Skeltah, Torae, Styles P, Buckshot and Rhymefest.
Live from the Tape Deck debuted at #3 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers Albums. The album entered the Top Rap Albums, peaking at #16, as well as entering at #30 on the Top Independent Albums and #33 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. The album was also met with positive reviews from music critics. SPIN's Mosi Reeves gave the album a seven out of ten, saying: "On this duo's debut full-length, Skyzoo was nicely complemented by !llmind's production, which ranges from the Dilla-like soul loop of "#Allaboutthat" to the fuzzy '70s-cop-show funk of 'The Now or Never.' Live from the Tape Deck is full of stolid striver anthems...but the album's meat-and-potatoes consistency remains bracing throughout."
Beh!nd The Curta!n, his first official instrumental album, came out on April 19, 2011 through Brooklyn-based Nature Sounds Records. He followed this up with the second instrumental album #BoomTrap EP, an eight-track EP released in January of 2014. He shortly after released the drum kit #BoomTrap "The Drums", which includes extracts from the EP. Only 200 copies of the kit were offered.
B.L.A.P. mixtapes and events:
Blaps, Rhymes, & Life mixtapes
Since 2008 !llmind has been releasing the Blaps, Rhymes, & Life albums, which are a series of free digital mixtape/compilations produced entirely by himself. The "BR&L" albums include both mainstream artists such as LL Cool J and underground artists such as Fortilive.
Blaps, Rhymes & Life Vol. 3, released in June 2009, has collaborations with mainstream artists like 50 Cent, Scarface, Young Buck, and Marsha from Floetry, and underground artists such as Termanology, Wale, and Torae. Also included is an official remake of 88 Keys' single "Stay Up!" with Alchemist, Evidence and 88 Keys on the rhymes. The album also includes the character Master Shake from the Adult Swim show Aqua Teen Hunger Force. In 2011's volume 5, !llmind and Dub MD incoroprated artists such as Crooked I, Brother Ali, Emilio Rojas, Redman, and Masta Ace.
In July 2012 he released the !llmind Blap Kit Vol.1, which is a collection of signature drum samples from the series. About releasing the free samples, he stated "I wanted to give producers (and my fans) a part of who I am and where I came from... all of my sounds were chopped and collected from old drum breaks."
Beats x Love x Alcohol x Party
!llmind is founder and CEO of the event series B.L.A.P. (Beats x Love x Alcohol x Party), a live producer showcase started in 2009 by !llmind and his team. According to !llmind, "Over the years, I've participated and judged various beat battles and beat showcases. I wanted to start my own producer showcase, which allows up-coming and established producers play their beats and songs for an un-biased crowd, in a 'club' environment." His showcases were inspired both by Beat Society and by Jonathan Moore, the man behind the Big Tune brand events.
Coverage for the second event in June 2009 was provided by music websites such as The Smoking Section and Rappersiknow.com, while there were giveaways from brands such as Staple Design. By late 2010 showcases had been held at several New York locales, and the event later traveled to other states and overseas.
Blap On The Radio
As of 2013 !llmind hosts the bi-monthly radio show B.L.A.P. Producer Showcase, which is slotted on the Blap On The Radio weekly broadcast.
!llmind has called himself a fan of producers such as J Dilla and Pete Rock, but writes and produces a variety of genres. About his style, he has stated "I just try to create the music I like, period. I've got a pretty diverse taste in music, so I'm managing to not get bored, which is awesome. There's a lot of talent out there, and I think that's what continues to drive me as well."
!llmind inititially learned production on analog equipment and hardware, and in 2010 he was using a Roland SP-303 digital sampler and an Akai S-20 synthesizer, with an Ensoniq ASR-10 keyboard. As of January 2013 he was using a Pro Tools rig for his digital audio workstation.
!llmind has been featured in magazines and online publications such as Scratch Magazine (Top 20 Best Producers), Hip Hop Weekly, Mass Appeal, The Source, XXL, Hiphopgame.com, and Hiphopdx.com.
In the summer of 2012 !llmind started offering consulting services as a member the online service Blazetrak, and he later formed an independent online consultation service. As of July 2012 he was a senior contributor at BeatTips.com.
He taught music production at the non-profit organization Harlem Children's Zone from 2007 to 2009, and he was later hired by the Clive Davis Department Of Recorded Music at NYU as a Technical Music Instructor for a program called "Future Music Moguls."
As of 2012 !llmind lives in Brooklyn, New York.