Producer !llmind Launches Cryptocurrency to Sell Beats & Drop NFTs: Exclusive
!llmind demystifies NFTs and cryptocurrency and discusses his stacked workload, plus what it means to give back to his people in music and the Philippines
As NFTs continue to cause swirls on the Internet, one producer is using technology to his advantage. Today, GRAMMY-winning beatmaker, !llmind, is launching his own cryptocurrency, $BLAP, via the digital platform Rally.io to give fans and music creators around the world access to his beats, sound kits and exclusive NFT drops, along with the chance to virtually collaborate with him, he exclusively tells Billboard.
For those who may not have invested in Bitcoin or are strangers to blockchain, the Filipino-American producer (real name Ramon Ibanga Jr.) known for supplying sounds to top-tier talent is embarking on a digital quest to connect to a global network of creatives by streamlining his services online and creating value for his community. His impressive list of credits includes songs for Jay-Z and Beyoncé, Drake, J. Cole, Khalid, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton and Disney’s Moana.
Throughout the pandemic, the East Coast-based producer has been flexing his productivity, banging out beats and Blap Kits (NFT-backed melody/sample loop packs), hosting his podcast, and blogging about his endeavors. Within the past month, !llmind has also become a father — he recently welcomed a baby girl — and celebrated the release of rapper Guapdad 4000’s 1176 album, which he executive-produced.
While getting involved with NFTs (which stands for non-fungible tokens) may sound unexpected from the producer, !llmind prides himself on predicting trends, especially in the music industry. He’s also made it his business to open doors for aspiring producers after building an impressive career the past decade without a blueprint or mentorship. Bonus: a portion of the proceeds from his cryptocurrency will go to Save The Children to support children in need in the Philippines.
In the midst of executive producing a few albums from other artists and preparing a top-secret remix with Guapdad 4000, !llmind demystifies NFTs and cryptocurrency and discusses his stacked workload with Billboard below — while also explaining what it means to him to give back to his people in music and the Philippines.
Let’s start with NFTs. How did you get interested in that?
For a long time, I’ve always had this curiosity of: What’s next? What will the world be like years from now and where are we headed with music? Part of my job as a producer is to kind of predict musical trends. Also, our goal as producers is to create trends. I think that’s what’s allowed me to be ahead of the curve in a way with my drum kits, Masterclass and Pass The Aux. I paid attention to crypto for a long time. Unfortunately, I didn’t invest enough money into Bitcoin early — but back in 2013, when I started the drum kit business, I actually accepted Bitcoin currency.
I didn’t make that much money, but it was always on my radar. So having this technology come forth in the form of non-fungible tokens really changed my entire view on the potential of everything I’m doing. I just dove in and I believe [my] sample pack NFT is the first one of its kind. It caused a bit of a stir and people were excited and it did pretty well. So that was sort of the beginning of my journey into crypto.
It calls to mind what Nipsey Hussle was doing with Crenshaw, when he sold his mixtape for a hundred dollars each. Are you trying to figure out a way to monetize the loyalty of your fanbase? What is your main goal?
So any digital product or service that I launch online, it’s always been about providing some type of value to the community that I come from. For the most part, it’s the music creator community. I [also want] to open up the door to how we function as music creators. I think that this move is just a way for me to take all these things I’ve done over the years and consolidate them into one, really organized, forward-thinking ecosystem in the form of currency.
And I’m a true believer in digital assets, digital currency, crypto, the future of trading and services especially in the entertainment industry. When I went to the Philippines right before quarantine last year, I did this thing with [comedian] Jo Koy for Netflix. When I was there, I got to touch base with my culture and I saw all these different people that look just like me. This thought came into my head that if my parents decided not to come to America, I could have just been another Filipino in the Philippines trying to survive and thrive and provide for my family. So I’ve realized that I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to be in America and take advantage of the different financial opportunities that we get here that you don’t necessarily get in the Philippines. That whole trip woke me up.
Then I did this album with my brother, Guapdad 4000 — and him being half-Filipino really meant a lot to me and the community. So I decided to tie in this cryptocurrency to something that lives online, that could consistently help children in need in the Philippines.
I also meant to congratulate you on the Netflix look with Jo Koy.
It was such a crazy experience. I was in L.A. in October of 2019, working with TDE [Top Dawg Entertainment]. TDE had rented a studio for about a month, and they just invited different producers to work on music. Ab-Soul, Schoolboy, Punch and all these people were there. I didn’t really tell anyone I was going. So then I got a text from Jo Koy. We’ve known each other for a couple of years. He texted me like,”Yo, Ill. What are you doing?” And I was like, “I’m actually in L.A. in the studio.” And he was like, “I live five minutes away. I’m coming to you right now.”
So I go outside and he pulls up in like a Lambo. He tells me about this idea where he’s putting together this Netflix documentary that is more than a comedy special and showcases a little bit of our [Filipino] culture. He wanted me to be a part of the show and do the music segment with him. Of course, I said yes. A couple of months later, we made it happen.
Going back to cryptocurrency and NFTs, there’s a lot of debate about it online. What is the biggest misconception?
I think the biggest misconception is that anyone could just create an NFT, release it and it’ll make a million dollars. NFT stands for non-fungible token, so the simplest way to put it is it’s a digital receipt that proves ownership of any digital product you want to attach it to. It could be an MP3, digital artwork, animation, movie tickets, anything. It’s very powerful technology and it all lives on the theory of blockchain. People think that they can just create a piece of digital art or music, attach an NFT to it and it would be valuable. But it’s no different than trading cards.
When you’re thinking about Pokémon, the most expensive card is the Charizard. The reason why it’s so expensive is because it’s over 20 years old. It’s built up a proven track record of resale value. There are millions of people in the world that are willing to pay a certain amount of money for that card. When you’re a new artist or new producer and you’re trying to put out your own Charizard card, no one cares. [Your music is] not really valuable yet. So my piece of advice for anyone that’s trying to jump into the NFT space is you want to create quality work, but you also need to do the legwork to create anticipation and demand for whatever it is you’re launching. You can’t cheat the system.
You’re also going to be donating a portion of your cryptocurrency gains to Save The Children to help Filipino children in need. Why was it important to attach purpose to this?
Over the years, I’ve felt like I haven’t been doing enough to showcase my Filipino roots. I’ve been on the grind here in America, trying to break through in the industry and just being a Filipino-American hip-hop producer, there’s not too many of us. You got me, P-Lo, Chad Hugo from the Neptunes and a few others, but I knew that I had to get myself in a position first to be able to really make an impact. I feel like I have enough ammunition now, so I want to start it with SaveTheChildren.org to help a few kids in the Philippines potentially have a brighter future.
And you know the story if you’re Filipino — our parents and [family members] came to America from the Philippines to try to live the American dream, and all of them worked as caregivers or nurses. Whatever little money they made, they would send back to the Philippines. One dollar goes such a long way in the Philippines, and that’s still the case. So for me to just do what I love and make music, but then actually contribute a little bit out there, feels really good. I want to continue to do that.