AllHipHop Staff

Illfonics: Time To Get IllHometown: Bronx, New York

Clientele: Jim Jones, LL Cool J, Mickey Factz , Fat Joe , Jackie Chain, Young Dro, Sheek Louch, Daytona

Equipment: Logic Pro on a Mac, Some analog synths, Juno-106, MS-20, Guitar and Bass

Everyone knows the story of grinding out until you finally get recognition. It takes some people a very long time before they reach a plateau of substantiality. The Illfonics have been patiently working behind the scenes with television shows such as Rob and Big, underground artists like Mickey Factz and video games like NBA ‘07. With the recent success of their current beat with Jim Jones “Na Nana Na” it seems like they are finally going to get the credit they been waiting for. What initially got you guys into beat making and then becoming overall producers?

Jed: We both had been playing guitar since we were real young. We met at school, NYU, we were studying music technology. The transition from beat making to instrumentalist just kind of happened.

Matt: We went to school for music technology and focused on production. We were into the more electronic sounds and weird instrumental stuff. What we were making were beats, but, no one could necessarily rap over them. They were really hectic musical stuff. In 2002-2003 we decided to go more main stream with our stuff. Why are you guys called the Illfonics?

Jed: A friend of ours actually thought of it. It’s kind of like a play on the Delfonics.

Matt: We were just trying to come up with names and we hated everything we came up with. A friend said you guys should call yourselves the Illfonics. We were like alright cool. It’s not that deep honestly we just kind of went with it. Do you guys use a lot of guitar riffs and stuff when making beats?

Matt: In some of them. We use more electronic “synthy” stuff.

Jed: We do Rock stuff and Pop and R&B as well. Rock stuff is all guitar and bass most of the time. Do you think it's harder to be in a partnership than it would be if you both worked individually? How do you guys conduct business?

Jed: In terms of what? For instance since you guys are considered as one entity is it harder? Does one guy come in and make a beat than the other might come in later and tweak it?

Jed: It goes both ways. We make beats together for the most part. There are joints that we’ve made completely separate. There are things one may start and the other person comes in and finishes it.

Matt: We all kind of cover the same basis. We both use program drums or play drums. We play guitar, bass, keys and stuff so we can both take something from start to finish. Sometimes we’ll just start something together completely and finish it. As far as the business end of things, we let our manager Toshi handle that and our lawyer Paulina.

Jed: We’re just doing the music. What was your first piece of equipment?

Jed: It was the MPC 3000

Matt: I don’t even remember…wow. I think it might have been the MPC 2000. Yet I’m almost positive I was tinkering around with other stuff as well before that. What's your favorite piece of equipment to work with?

Jed: The computer.

Matt: We do everything in Logic. There’s a lot of stuff in there, a lot of sounds in there that we can use. We have a lot of analog synths and stuff.

Jed: There’s a virtual MPC in the bottom. I bet everyone asks you this question, but, how did you link up with Jim Jones? What was it like working with him?

Jed: Our manager is cool with Jim’s publicist. That’s how the initial connection was made. He gave Jim’s A&R a beat CD and he really felt this one beat. The beat later became the “Na Nana Na” track. He just kept playing it. Jim was in the studio and he just had the beat on repeat.

Matt: He wrote down his stuff. The whole thing happened real quickly. It took about four days. He was here in your studio?

Jed: No he has his own.

Matt: They started on a Saturday or something like that. He laid down his thing and then they hit us asking us if we’re still doing this. They invited us to his studio and we met Bree as she added her vocals. We all just hung out and stuff and met Jim. That night into Sunday morning we were awake doing a mix session until 6 a.m. By Thursday it was on the radio. It was nuts because the album was already closed already.

Jed: They bumped somebody’s track for ours. So the track wasn’t even supposed to be on the album?

Matt: I know the album was supposed to come out earlier, but, I think there were other reasons as well. The album got pushed back and stuff. Jim liked the track enough to get it pushed on the radio and stuff?

Matt: Yea. He liked the single and I think they were floating two other tracks before that and testing them out. He just really liked “Na Nana Na.” Where are you guys going next with producing and who do you have lined up to work with?

Matt: We got a track with this guy Jackie Chain. He’s on Universal and the track will probably come out in the Summer with his project. Nipsey Hussle is another one. We’re doing a real West coast track.

Jed: Honestly we’re going to keep the rest f our endeavors quiet. Keep our mouths closed…haha.

Matt: We got stuff in the works. We have a lot of projects we’d love to get on. When it comes to music do you want to stick with just Hip-Hop?

Jed: No not really.

Matt: It’s pretty funny because we started off doing hip hp stuff for the longest. It just wasn’t happening. We started doing pop stuff and got such a strong reaction from that. We kind of left the hip hop stuff behind and then the LL Cool J stuff happened. After that things started to pick up and we went back to it. We are definitely trying to get the pop stuff off the ground again. Some rock stuff as well. What else outside of the music industry are you involved in?

Jed: We did a lot of TV stuff. We got some tracks with Everybody Hates Chris. We did a lot with Rob and Big on MTV. We did a track for Entourage on HBO. We have a lot of stuff we’ve made in the past that still might get used. Music supervision companies will have it and will take it when they feel.

Matt: MTV has a bunch of our tracks and they’ll throw it on there. We’ll get ASCAP checks months later in the mail.

Jed: There are a few tracks on Rob and Big that I didn’t even know were placed on there. What's the difference in making a beat for an artist and a video game? I know you guys made a beat for NBA ‘07.

Jed: The video game situation is a more hectic time constraining situation. We had to make about 60 beats or rather 30 second snippets in about a month.

Matt: It was actually more like 2 weeks. They than gave us an extra week.

Jed: So basically 3 weeks total.

Matt: This is all while working full time jobs. It was pretty hectic.

Jed: We were just banging em’ out. They would give us direction as well. We also made the theme song for that particular game.

Matt: The difference with an artist is it has to sound like a record. It has to have a certain quality. Videogames don’t always have to sound like a real record. Some do, but they can be more abstract. Another thing with video games is there is no sampling. You have to make each one different. You can start t run out of ideas.

Jed: Quality is compromised with time constraints.

Matt: That was dope for us because we learned in two weeks how to pick up a lot of tricks and stuff. Trying to model beats out of what was out already.

Jed: We needed Dre sounding beats and stuff like that, in the club sounding joints. In the process of recreating those sounds we learned a lot and it came through in our future creative processes.

Matt: Basically to make a beat for an artist it’s different because they will just ask for a hit. With the TV or videogame stuff they will give you references. They tell you what they’re looking for. Making it for an artist is much more vague and elusive.

Jed: Most of the artist situations we’ve had they didn’t specifically ask us to make a beat. They just heard a beat they liked. The LL joint we made for him. He felt it. We already had one track placed, but he heard a different beat and went with that one.

Matt: Artists always pick the beat you least expect them to. I won’t want to play something for them, yet we do it anyways and they pick it. Are ringtones a viable option for producers?

Matt: In terms of making stuff strictly as ringtones? We never actually did a deal to just make ringtones. I’d be open to it. It’s more the Jim Jones track will be a ringtone.

Jed: As far as revenue goes it is a viable option. It is something to think about when making a track. Would it be a good ringtone?

Matt: It seems like Timbaland could do a deal with Verizon to make 40 original ringtones and that’s a pretty sweet deal. Once you get to a point where your name counts for something it can get a company to want to use you to market. What's your take on the current rap game?

Matt: I think there is a lot of cool stuff going on. There’s stuff that gets boring and monotonous. There are a lot of guys trying to do new and interesting stuff.

Jed: I think something is going to happen at some point soon. I think it’s been a bit oversaturated with the down South 808 sound. I feel like a new sound is going to break sometime soon. It has to.

Matt: I like a lot of the dudes coming out now. I like Mickey, B.o.B. or Cudi. They seem like the guys that care less about being rappers as opposed to being artists or musicians.

Jed: I think one of those dudes is going to come out and set a new wave of creativity.

Matt: I think it’s where people are at with music in general. The genre line gets blurred more and more and it matters less and less to be a certain way. There will always be rappers. Any advice for someone who might want to be a producer?

Matt: Don’t do it…haha. It’s hard. You have to be patient.

Jed: Send your music out to everyone. The biggest mistake for a lot of up and coming producers is they worry about their music getting taken. You just gotta send your stuff out to as many people as possible. You have to expect to get ripped off. It’s gonna happen at some point. Most new artists and producers have that happen all the time.

Matt: You have to be patient and believe in what you’re doing. Get a good team. Get a manager. Get someone to help you put your stuff out there.

Jed: Get someone to handle the business side too. When you meet up with the artist and talk music the business end doesn’t fit. It’s hard to do both. It’s much better having someone else handle the business stuff.

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