's have typically been about new crews and labels but they don't necessarily
to be. The goal is to breakdown anything hip-hop (
) related so that you can have the inside scoop to impress that guy or girl at the bar, drop some knowledge on your friends, or simply understand the world we spend so much time talking about.
It's been brewing for some time now, and it has been called for RefineHype Nation more than once but it's finally time to give the engineer some credit. I talk alot about producers and how they are unsung heroes, but if you thought it was tough for a producer to get some love, you haven't seen what it's like to be an engineer. Shit, I'll admit it, before setting out to write this, I don't think I could have really told you what an engineer does or named more than like two, so I am learning right along with you. If you're already very familiar with the world in engineering, share your wisdom. Everyone else, let's figure this shit out together.
The most important thing to start with, obviously is what the engineer does. Before this, I had always assumed that the engineer is the guy who makes the record sound all purdy; make sure the bass isn't too high, no distortion, that kind of thing. Wrong!Tthat would be the mixer (although sometimes engineers are also mixers). The engineer plays a far more involved role than just that; hell, they are more involved than the producer in some cases. Basically, the engineer's job is to run the recording session. The engineer and artist relationship's has to be great or it won't jive. They are the first people to hear the music and can sometimes be only ones in the studio with the artist, or at least the only way paying attention while everyone else checks their phone.
As the artist is recording, there job is to make sure everything goes as smooth as possible. Maybe it's making the drums hit harder, maybe it's adjusting the levels, or maybe it's making sure the emcee doesn't sound like total shit. For example, you know when Eminem says "
"? Well, it is the job of the engineer to turn up that snare. If the emcee wants a few extra bars or wants the horns to kick in a little bit ealrier, the engineer makes it happen. They have to have a special, and thorough, understanding of the music, but they're rarely involved in the in-depth creative aspects; they are there to make the producer and emcee's vision come to life and sound as perfect as possible.
An engineer is sort of like a director of photography in a film. They don't really have much to do with the content itself, but they have to make sure it looks (or in this case) sounds perfect. I wish I could pin point a perfect example of great engineering, but the thing about it is, when the engineer does his job correctly, you won't be able to hear his influence at all. It is only when the record sounds bad (poorly recorded, not just bad like a Tyga song is bad) that you can find the engineer's fingerprints. Once the song is recorded and pressed, it is send off to the mixer; if the engineer gives the mixer shitty audio, then the mixer is fucked. Mixers cross the T's and dot the I's but it is the engineer who is writing the whole thing out. It's a dirty, glamour-less job, but someone has to do it.
Now, how about an example or two? Obviously a legendary engineer in the game is Young Guru. If a song came out of New York (or Def Jam or The Roc) in the early 2000's, chances are, Guru was the engineer. He has worked with the likes of Talib, Cam'ron, Beyonce, Mary J. blige, and Jay; in fact, he has worked with Jay on pretty much every single album and won a Grammy for "Empire State of Mind". If you want some insight into the mind of one of the greatest engineers ever, check this out.
While Guru is a a legend, Mixed By Ali is the current champion of the boards. Remember that little album called
Good Kid m.A.A.d City
? Everyone is praising Kendrick as the second coming, but nobody is showing any love to the engineer, Ali. Actually, not true, Kendrick shows him plenty of love (he knows how pivotal he is in defining that TDE sound). You will often hear Kendrick giving him a shout out, or
, making him also be in charge of studio security. The thing I love most about GKMC is how intricate everything was, from samples, to tiny little effects, to voicemail messages, everything fit so perfectly; I have to think that Ali was a major reason why it worked so well. If you are really curious to see just how much he influenced the album, check out this piece (shoutout to RefinedHype regular WalzBoxRecords for the spot). This is the holy grail for anyone interested in learning more about mixing. Sidenote; he looks like The Weeknd a little, no?
So there is your cliff-note guide to engineers, folks. I wish I had more to tell you, but I, too am still learning about it. I think engineering is one of those things you have to really see first hand to know just how it works exactly. Sadly I haven't ever been in the studio, but when I get in there with Ali and Kendrick, I will definitely let you know.
I am sure RefinedHype Nation is full of those with insight into this, so if you do know something, have a question that wasn't answered, or want to correct me please do so. I may be a rap blogger, but I am not going to sit here and pretend like I know everything. I want to learn just as much as you do, so let's all do it together.