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The ?’z: Illastrate (Black Noise) Interview

by Eric on June 18, 2010

Peep Bloggerhouse’s take on Aarophat & Illastrate’s “Black Noise” HERE

Illastrate….Hmmm, where do I begin? Not only was dude responsible for the production half of one of ’09′s finest albums in “Black Noise” (along with Aarophat killin’ the verbals), but he also laced fellow ATLien Boog Brown with some heat for her mixtape, “Grind Season Vol. I”, in the form of “The Best” and “The Essence”.  Prior to this interview, little did I know that Illastrate also handled some production for one of the most underrated albums of the last 10 years, Akir’s “Legacy” (ak’ like you know).  With the recent leak of his “Whata’ Fool” (craziness) and a follow-up to “Black Noise” in the works, it’s safe to say that Illastrate is just scratching the surface…

B-House: Alright Illa’, a brief intro to the masses, or those that have been chillin’ under a rock for the last year and a half?

Illastrate:  Haha! I FEEL like I’ve been under a rock myself! My name is Illastrate, I’m from Ft Wayne, Indiana, been in ATL for about 10 years. Also, I’ve been producing for artists heavy since about ’04 or so, that’s about the time I found my lane, I’ve been riding there ever since.

B-House: Of course, I discovered your material with the release of “Black Noise” (w/Aarophat), give us a “refresher” on some of your collaborations with artists, prior to the release of the CLASSIC, “Black Noise”.

Illastrate:  The first big project I was on was “BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS” from Broady Champs (DayByDay ENT), around that time I met AKIR (Viper Records) and did a joint with him on his debut “LEGACY”. I’ve worked with a lot of artist around the ATL: BINKIS RECS, OZY REIGNS, METHUZULAH, SENOR KAOS, CLAN DESTINED, BOOG BROWN, STAHHR, NAIRA and also a handful of artists outside of Atlanta:  Butter Verses, Doitall (L.O.T.U.G.), Dynas and Tiye Phoenix.

B-House: How did the connection with Aarophat transpire? Also,
throughout the development of “Black Noise” were you both in a Pete
Rock/CL and Primo/Guru mindset? Meaning, we want this to play out like a
one producer/one emcee album?

Illastrate:  At one time we had the same management, and I was feeling Aarophat as an emcee, so it was kind of a no-brainer. We laid the foundation for the Black Noise album down in about 3 days, Aaro has rhymes like that. We had 10 or 11 songs cut after 3 days. We sat with the songs waiting on a situation; long story short we decided to put it out on our own.  After a few years of empty promises and what not, it worked out for the better in my opinion.

We definitely studied the blueprint of groups like Pete Rock & CL and Gangstarr. We KNEW it couldn’t just sound like a bunch of songs, it had to be special. We knew we could make good songs, but just putting it together making it all “make sense” as an album was our main goal. I know my strengths as a producer, and Aaro knows his strengths as an MC, we just wanted to convey those strengths on the album.

B-House: I view the album as one of the finest to drop last year, are you as pleased with the overall reception of “Black Noise”? Anything you’d do differently if you re-visited it’s makings?

Illastrate:  Thank you! I really liked how it was received. We really don’t have a team, so our goal was just to get it to the tastemakers (bloggers, dj’s etc) we knew if they liked it they would get the word out.  I think it reached who it was supposed to reach. But at the same time I would like for more people to know about it, but I’m a patient person (LOL).  I know sometimes it takes awhile, especially in this climate of music. If I could change anything though I would DEFINITELY put more visuals behind the projects, videos and such, I think that was a missing piece to that album, but you live and learn.

B-House: So what nudged you into production? Why not a lyricist?  That’s where all the shine is anyway, right? (insert sarcasm)

Illastrate:  Right!?! I actually used to rhyme, but ironically the shine is one of the reasons I wanted to fall back and produce. I’m not really a spotlight kind of dude. I like to get respect from my peers and fans of hip hop don’t get me wrong. Like I said, I used to rhyme, but I never felt like I was rapping off the beats I wanted to rhyme to. Where I’m from there wasn’t a lot of sample-based producers. So when I got the opportunity, I ran with it. After awhile I met so many nice emcees looking for beats, it didn’t make sense for me to rhyme anymore.

B-House: What is your actual production set-up like right now?

Illastrate:  I try to keep my set-up as simple as possible, right now I’m fooling with Logic, Reason, and I still use the Ensoniq Eps 16 plus, from time to time. I’m not really a gear head.

B-House: Is there any single piece of production equipment that you
just can’t do without?

Illastrate:  I would have to say the Ensoniq Eps 16 +. That’s my favorite piece, it does everything I need it to do, that was the only thing I used up until ’07.

B-House: Was making beats a natural progression for you?

Illastrate:  It feels like it. I was always into making songs, not just beats. Plus, the digging aspect, learning from older artist, checking for sounds and things from records has always been fun for me. When I first started making beats, cats that were rhyming around wanted to rap off of them so that told me I didn’t completely suck at it, from there I just wanted to get better.

B-House: I notice that your production isn’t  overly “sample-heavy”.  When you do “dig”, how often do you seek old old vinyl?

Illastrate:  I try to dig as often as I can, even if its just one record here and there, I just try to have something new to vibe with. I got a lot of stuff archived too, so I dig through mp3′s as well as old floppies. One thing I learned is that depending on how I’m feeling I will hear a record differently. I still make beats off records I’ve had for years.

B-House: Share with me some of the “current” producers in Hip Hop you check for on the regular, helping to keep that Pete Rock vs. Primo competitive  fire alive..

Illastrate:  There are so many cats right now….But I like, Locsmif, Amdex (from Clan Destined), Nottz, Lex Boogie, Tone Beatz, Exile, Odisee, Black Milk, Jake One, I could go on, but those dudes right there, make me go back to the lab.  It should be like that though, all producers/beat makers have these little battles, nothing serious on some hateful shit, but its kinda like “iron sharpens iron”.  You want to compare your stuff to the top dogs and come out with something fresh…..that’s hip hop!

B-House: Annnnd, your past influences, whether it be on the  production-tip or the M-I-C?

Illastrate:  At one point EVERY beat I made was for Nas (LOL), he was a big influence on how I approached making a beat. Marly (Marl) of course, Pete Rock, Dr. Dre, Da Beatminerz, Dj Scratch, Warren G, Organized Noise, Magic Mike, Dilla, No ID.  Man, there are so many artists. I’m from Indiana and as far as Hip Hop, we were so hungry for it we listened to EVERYTHING. So my style is like a mix of all that shit.

B-House: Speaking of the mic, will we ever hear an Illastrate solo joint?

Illastrate:  Man, I’m such a sporadic dude you never know, but I have no plans to get on the mic as of right now.

B-House: Tell us what the future holds for Illastrate, what projects
can we look forward to in the near-future?

Illastrate:  Right now, me and Aaro are knocking out the follow-up to the Black Noise LP, I’m really excited about it.  I feel like we’ve both stepped our game up. I just finished a project with Senor Kaos out of Atlanta that should be out this summer. I’m working on two projects of my own, a beat tape “Friday Nite Theme Music” and a compilation project “High Gravity”.  So far I have NessLee (GrindTime), Clan Destined, Boog Brown, J-Live, Kam Moye, and Arablak and a few other folks. I’m also working on an album with Methuzulah out of ATL, called “Lamont and Rahlo”. I have a joint I produced on Doitall’s solo album feat. Treach.  Also, I did a couple of joints for J-Live’s next album.  There is a couple other projects I’m working, I’ll keep under raps for now.

B-House: Any particular artist(s) whom you’d like to collab with outside of those whom you haven’t already?

Illastrate:  Yeah, there are a few. One artist that sticks out is that kid yU (ed’s note:  GOOD CHOICE), and I’ve always wanted to work with Planet Asia as well.

B-House: With the recent leak of the Doobie Brothers jawn you  “re-worked” (Whatta’ Fool), have you ever given any thought to working with someone outside of Hip-Hop?

Illastrate:  Definitely, if the vibe is right I’m with it. I’m not opposed to stepping outside of the genre at all. As long as the vibe is good, the music is good.

B-House: What advice can you offer to a young “up and coming”
producer who wants to establish himself, yet has big dreams and a thin

Illastrate:  Make the music, everything else will come. Study your craft, do your research, homework, whatever you wanna call it….just focus on being ill at what you do,and everything else will fall into place. That’s the ONLY formula I live by.

B-House: Gimme’ 5 albums you can’t live without…

Illastrate:  Damn just 5??? Redman -Muddy Waters, Ice Cube-Death Certificate, Common-Like Water For Chocolate, Slum Village Fantastic Vol 2 and PE- Takes a Nation of Millions

B-House: Shout outs, etc.?

Illastrate:  Shoutout to my Dirty Drum Academy family, the whole ATL scene, and everybody else that supports honest music!!

B-House: Thanks Illa’ for your time and most importantly the good
music you keep creating!

Illastrate:  Thank YOU!!!! I will play my part.

Stay up with Illastrate below:




Purchase “Black Noise” HERE

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{ 1 comment }

chronwell November 9, 2010 at 8:26 pm

Illastrate beats is the medicine!

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