If you love a Chicago rap album from this decade, chances are, it was made at Classick Studios. Chance The Rapper’s Acid Rap, Noname’s Telefone, and Smino’s blkswn, among others, were all recorded at the renowned studio. The space is a Chicago staple, a magical place where our favorite artists have honed their crafts and come out as vanguards of the city’s art scene.
Speaking with Chris Inumerable, 31, owner of Classick Studios, I got the sense the studio is more than a creative endeavor, it is a haven for artists. To celebrate the 13-year-long success of the space, here is the history of Classick Studios, in Chris’ own words.
“Thirteen years ago, in 2006, I started the studio in the Northwestside of Chicago in my bedroom. When I was younger, I was into the process of making music. I started as a producer but eventually got into the engineering side of everything.
“One of the biggest reasons why I started Classick Studios was because I wanted to help out with the Chicago music scene. I was around a lot of artists and producers, and we were always working together, but it felt like we never had a platform to help us grow further. I decided to create that studio in my bedroom. The best thing you can give an artist or producer is a creative space to develop.
“Back in the day, I used to work as a bagger. I sold CDs and candy to buy microphones, my ProTools rig, and my monitors. Eventually, went to Columbia College, got my degree in Audio Arts and Acoustics and 13 years later, we’re a three-room facility in the Westside of Chicago. I feel very blessed for this journey. It was a lot of hustling moments.
“There’s no big reason why I called it Classick. I saw one of my homies wearing a dope shirt with a Coca-Cola logo, and they spelled ‘Classic’ with a ‘K’ at the end of it. I thought that was tight; I ended up saying that was my name and it just stuck. Now my phone auto-corrects ‘Classic’ with a ‘K.’
“The real struggle was staying patient. I felt like I wasn’t good enough as an engineer. Constantly telling myself, ‘How can I get better?’ I sought out working with other people to get better—learning off of other people, having mentors, interning at other studios, just trying to learn as much as I can to bring back to Classick Studios.
“Did I ever wanna quit? Eh. There was a handful of times, but there were always moments that brought me back. One big driving force behind the studio is my mom. She passed away in 2005, and in the midst of that, being hurt and depressed, I turned to music. That helped me with that deep depression, and the year after that, my dad came up to me and gave me a life insurance check. Of course, that felt weird. I was 18, 19. He told me, ‘Chris, this is your money. Your mom wants you to have this. You’re supposed to put purpose behind money, so don’t let it just sit there.’ I always thought about that and invested in the first studio in the basement of my house. Eventually, everything started growing from there.
“She’s the biggest reason why I will never quit. At all the studios I’ve had over the years, my mom’s picture is always at the front of the entrance. It’s my mom. I know she’s still here; she’s still pushing me through. I feel like I’ve done as much as I can, living off of what she’s taught me. I think she’s proud of me.
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“Going back to what I said, the first reason and main purpose of the studio: I wanted to help Chicago’s creative scene. We got to be that studio behind a lot of great artists coming up, and I’ve seen all these artists grow as the studio was growing. We’re still doing that to this day. What we envisioned turned into reality, and it happened over time. And seeing Smino grow from the first time he came to my studio in 2010 was a beautiful journey.
“Oh, man, putting a favorite on something is hard, but I’m gonna be biased. I would say blkswn [is my favorite project] because I was involved with the team, L10MixedIt and Monte Booker. But… I really can’t put a favorite on it. I think every project that comes down has a different energy. [I would say blkswn] just because I manage Smino, so project managing that whole thing and making sure the energy of that project felt right—I was close to that.
“I don’t think there was a project; it was more a year for us [to become a staple in Chicago]. It was in 2012, when we moved into the current studio we’re at right now on the Westside. It showed me that people wanted it because the growth came from the people coming through our doors. That’s the point where I felt like we were a staple.
“I rented out a house on Berenice, we put the studio in the basement, and at the time Chance used to sleep on the couch to wait on sessions. As we transferred over to 2012, to the new facility, Chance was working on Acid Rap in both rooms. He finished up the whole project with Elton ["L10MixedIt"]. I was working on Rockie Fresh's project after he got signed to Maybach [Music Group]. It was a lot of transitional moments, people breaking through the next level and we broke through with them.
“We make sure we build the right relationships with our clients, to bring out the best in them. We usually end up becoming friends with our clients, and the result ends up being amazing music. We’re essentially the people who work with clients to get them to be the best version of themselves, and we record that moment. It’s a combination of the studio, the producer, and the engineer to get there.
“A lot of the team came from someone who knew someone who knew someone who knew someone who came down. A lot of it was word-of-mouth. Everyone was either next to me or friends with somebody who became part of the team. Elton was a homie who I used to hoop with, who asked to intern at the studio. I just knew he had the drive in him and now he’s a GRAMMY-nominated engineer, which is amazing to see.
“Also, another person, Jeff Jackson, who was the first intern. That was a big point in the Classick Studios story because at that time, I still had the studio in my basement and for somebody to email me and ask to intern under me was like… What? Why? Why do you wanna intern under me? I’m still trying to learn? But it felt right. It felt like we were going in the right direction. Very special. He’s currently killing it in LA and engineered on Brent Fiyaz’s latest project, and worked with Kyle Dion.
“Two accomplishments: Being able to go to my studio, open up the door, look in the lobby and see these plaques, and see the GRAMMYs and the GRAMMY nomination certificates that we’ve received. Those are big accomplishments in my book, and the latter half is being able to see the people around build off Classick Studios, have their own situations going on, and being able to live off this. That’s a beautiful thing.
“The purpose of Classick Studios is to help the Chicago creative scene. I started the studio when I was 18, 19 years old. I’m 31 now. Of course, things change, but I haven’t stepped away from the main goal. The next goal for the studio is to create a hub for the city, to make sure that we can work together. I feel like everyone in Chicago is so separated. We started to do these manager brunches, called Manager Special, with a lot of the key managers that I know of in Chicago.
“I’ve been learning how Atlanta works, and it’s something about the vibe—being able to work together and circulate the money within your city. I wanna have a whole building of studios and offices with everyone in the city that’s killing it.
“What 31-year-old Chris would tell 18-year-old Chris? I would tell him you’re going on the right path. Keep going. You got it. Stay patient. Stay on this track, don’t allow all these other people to tell you otherwise.”