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Symbollic 1 & Illmind - conducted by Alex Goldberg  

Symbollic 1 & Illmind

October 2005

On August 11th, I got a chance to talk with up and coming producers Symbollic 1 and Illmind, as they were waiting for a train in Newark, New Jersey. Symbollic 1, born and raised in Texas, and Illmind hailing from Newark, have just dropped a compilation album of sorts, The Art of Onemind. The album features an eclectic array of MC's, to say the least, from Ghostface Killa and El da Sensei, to Supastition and Little Brother, and the list goes on. Their production has a diverse quality that allows for variation in their sound. This variation has allowed S1 and Illmind to explore other sounds in hip hop that aren't usually classifiable. The track, "Milk 'em" with Ghostface is the strongest track on the album, a large part is due to Ghostface's undeniable talent. However, "Milk 'em" is closely followed by a more club, boppy, California sound with the track, "The Groove" with Organic Thoughts. If you are looking for an album with intricate and complex beats and unbearably abstract lyrics, go buy something from Anticon. This album does not follow any backpack trend, but rather allows for a loosening up of hip hop, a letting go, and just enjoying. Have we forgotten that hip hop began as party music in the South Bronx? We can't forget the past, pick up The Art of Onemind, if you're trying to finally just let go and enjoy.

MVRemix: Let's start with an introduction. Illmind, you can go first.

Illmind: What up, what up, this is Illmind, coming out of New Jersey. Producer slash engineer, not really reppin any specific groups.

MVRemix: So you just dropped The Art of Onemind, have you been getting any good feedback on the album? What's the general response been?

Illmind: I mean so far it's been great, real good. I mean, a lot of people who haven't really heard of me or S1 before, prior to us releasing our album, are now checking out are music. So it's definitely opened up more doors for me and S1. So it definitely gained us new fans. But overall it's been real good. The feedback has been real good.

MVRemix: So you're getting good publicity?

Illmind: Oh yeah, definitely. We recently had something in Vibe Magazine. Also in Scratch. Scratch was a semi cool review, they gave us a 7 out 10 review. But publicity has been real good for the album.

S1: I mean, the album is basically a collection of songs. So the people we got down with on the album like Little Brother and Ghostface [Killa], they've been putting in work the past few years, so people who are fans of them are checking out the album too. We kind of have the best of both worlds, in getting a lot of different people to check out the album.

MVRemix: I want to expose the both of you to the Canadian hip hop community. So let's get some background information. So Symbollic 1, you're from Waco Texas.

S1: Yeah, I'm from Waco Texas, right now I reside in Dallas Texas.

MVRemix: So what's the Texas hip hop scene like? I didn't even realize there was a Texas hip hop scene.

S1: Well, Texas has a lot of diversity; it's just kind of overshadowed by the typical down south style of music that you hear. Like, the mainstream on the radio. But overall Texas is really diverse. There are a lot of dope MC's and dope producers in Texas. It's just a matter of coming together, which we have been doing lately, just coming together to build a larger foundation on the type of music we do, and just put it out more to where that people know that this music does exist in this certain area that isn't usually known for.

MVRemix: What's your response to the rise of Crunk music?

S1: Umm, I mean, I like some of it [laughs]. I mean it depends on what it is, if it's something I'm feeling then I'm feeling it, but if it's not something I'm feeling, I don't bother listening to it.

MVRemix: Would you ever consider putting out a Crunk style album?

S1: Umm, nah [laughs] Maybe a while back, long ago, 4 or 5 years ago. But right now, not really. I mean, if I did something crunk, it would have sort of an edge to it, where it's not sounding like everyone else's crunk. It would be a new type of Crunk. MVRemix. So how did you get the name S1?

S1: Well, to make a long story short, the actual name was Symbollic 1. This was given to me by a female in college who always called me Symbollic 1. I kind of built on that, and kind of kept that as my name. S1 is just Symbollic 1 short. MVRemix; What's your real name?

S1: It's Larry Griffin Jr.

MVRemix: So Illmind you're from.

Illmind: Well, I grew up in Newark, New Jersey. But right now I live in Bloomfield, which is not too far away from there. I grew up in Jersey, and lived here all my life.

MVRemix: What was your first exposure to hip hop?

Illmind: Hmm, man, it's just been a part of my lifestyle since I was little. I don't know, I'm not really one of those dudes who is really biased with the old school stuff. I grew up with a lot of different type of music. I don't really consider myself growing up just listening to hip hop. But when I really got into hip hop was probably the early 90's, late 80's. I'm really influenced by a lot of different kinds of music.

MVRemix: What else are you influenced by besides hip hop?

Illmind: Everything in between really. Specifically I would say Soul music of course, and a lot of the old records that I own have really inspired me to kind of create. I would say anything that moves me. I don't want to limit myself to soul music or jazz music, pretty much anything that moves me.

S1: I'm pretty much like him. Anything that moves me, whatever I'm feeling at the time.

Illmind: Even other artists inspire me too. When I hear other producers, like Pete Rock, who I used to listen to, before I started to produce, I listen to their stuff now, and that always inspires me to step up and create. It's a whole range of things really, old and new.

MVRemix: Tell me about your label.

S1: Well The Art of Onemind is actually on BBE/Spilt Milk. BBE put out a lot of the Beat Generation Theory, Pete Rock, JD, etc.

MVRemix: What do you think are some of the problems facing hip hop today?

Illmind: I mean, there have always been problems, not only with hip hop but with all other genres. I try to look past the negative aspects of hip hop. To me, I just feel it's too saturated. Especially the mainstream, it's too saturated with the same redundant type of hip hop. That's where me and S1 come in and try to bring something different to the table, something more refreshing. But I think there's a good balance between the two.

S1: Yea, pretty much just bringing in something fresh. A lot of the stuff you hear sounds the same, this cat sounds like this cat, etc.

MVRemix: Who are some of your favorite producers?

Illmind: Aww man, there's a bunch. There's a whole lot. I mean, especially in the past few years, there are so many up and comers out there who are just really stepping up. I mean, of course, for me, specifically, the usual suspects come up like J-Illa, and Pete Rock. Even a lot of mainstream stuff is really good. I could definitely respect both types as far as just the beats go. Like The Neptunes, and Kanye, they're all killin it now. I mean, if you got good music, if you're making good hip hop music and you're out there making a record, then you definitely have my respect.

S1: Hi-Tek is definitely in my top two.

Illmind: Yea, I definitely agree with that.

S1: I mean he's so consistent in what he's doing with everything. Even from like the underground stuff with Talib Kweli to the mainstream stuff.

Illmind: He's never fallen off really. But I mean, there are a lot of people out there who I really respect.

MVRemix: Do you see yourselves as independent producers or do you see yourselves open to anything?

Illmind: It's a really broad term to look at it. I mean, if you are talking about how we put out our records, then yea, the majority of the work that me and S1 put out is independent. But as far as the style of music, I've talked to S1 about this multiple times, we don't like to pigeon hole ourselves to just making independent music, or making that real, real underground music. Especially with our styles, and the way we make our beats, we try to focus on everything, cause there are so many aspects of hip hop that we respect. Me and S1 making a record, play it on the radio for a mainstream artist, we definitely wouldn't hesitate to do that. We're just trying to make good music on all levels.

MVRemix: Do either of you DJ?

S1: No, neither of us do.

Illmind: I don't consider myself a DJ, I mean, I could do it, but I don't go around doing parties or DJ battles. I just stick to making the beats.

MVRemix: Would either of you ever go on tour, or do you see yourselves behind the scenes?

S1: Actually, I did quite a bit of touring. But with The Art of Onemind album, with there being so many artists, we just didn't have the budget to go on tour.

Illmind: I'd like to tour sometime in the future.

MVRemix: How did you get so many MC's on The Art of Onemind? Do you know them all personally or was it connected through the label?

Illmind: It was a mix of both. We basically got down with people that we worked with in the past or people that we wanted to work with in the future. So basically it was people we got down with, people we knew personally. We didn't really want to go out and find some outside people to get down with us.

S1: Just to elaborate on that a bit more. Once the word got out that we were working on this album, a lot of MC's wanted to get involved.

MVRemix: So when you produce a track, do you have an MC in mind before you produce the track, or do you produce the track then decide who would work best?

Illmind: It was actually a mix of both. The process was that me and S1 would send eachother beats and if I heard a beat that S1 sent me that I could imagine someone working on it, then it would go from there.

MVRemix: What would you say is the difference between your two production styles?

S1: I guess the main difference is that Illmind has a more warm, grimy type of feel. And I guess mine is more mellow, more smooth. As far as our vibes, our vibes are really close.

Illmind: The vibes we're trying to bring is kind of grimy, but also that soulful clean sound. I hear S1's music, and I don't just hear east or west coast music. I'm from the east coast, but I don't limit myself to that boom bap New York type music. And S1 being from down south you hear that cross over sound.

S1: A lot of stuff that Illmind sent me, you can really hear the range. He'll get you with the grimy type of stuff, and then he'll do a club type joint. He just has so much range, whatever he's feeling the vibe to he can work with.

MVRemix: Alright, any last thoughts or comments?

S1: Yeah, I just want to say thanks to Alex for doing this interview. And we'll just keep on doing what we've been doing, putting out some good music, and anyone who hasn't picked up The Art of Onemind, pick it up.

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"Texas has a lot of diversity; it's just kind of overshadowed by the typical down south style of music that you hear. Like, the mainstream on the radio. But overall Texas is really diverse."