For "Studios Sessions," we delve into the stories behind the long hours in the studio and all that goes into making an album by talking with artists, producers, engineers, photographers, and more who are intimately connected to the recording process with some of the biggest artists in the world. These are the stories that rarely leave the booth.
Thirty-one-year-old engineer Angad 'Bainz' Bains is the founder and chief engineer of Crosby Recording Studios in Los Angeles, California. Anytime you see a picture of Young Thug in the studio -- and with a Los Angeles geolocation tag -- Bainz is probably off-camera with his face glued to a screen and waiting to make any adjustment Thug requests at a moment's notice. That sort of exposure to the famously prolific MC has left the engineering veteran in awe.
"Thug is like 2Pac. He has more records than anyone I've ever worked with. His catalogue is crazy," Bainz proclaimed.
Being a professional engineer for more than a decade, Bainz has had his hands and, more importantly, his ears on records from Wiz Khalifa, Shy Glizzy, and Kid Cudi, among a panoply of others. For this installment of 'Studios Sessions,' Bainz explains how many songs he's seen Thug and Gunna record in a week, why earplugs are essential in the studio and much more.
You worked with Atlantic Records out of the New York studio called Blast Off Studios before you started your own studio. What sessions sticks out the most to you during that time?
The day Wiz Khalifa got signed, he had a three-day lockout and one of the first few songs we did was actually on that album Rolling Papers. What happened, which kind of sucks and is important to engineering, is the song ['Cameras'] leaked at some point between when it got to him and his people, and the label. The label was really mad. So, they didn't give anyone credit on that particular record. So, I wasn't actually credited on it. But, it was one of the first songs we did. It was crazy because [Barack] Obama used that song in his  White House correspondents' dinner skit.
You've done a lot of work with Young Thug. What was the most memorable sessions with Thug?
There's been a lot of them. When we did On The Rvn, he had to turn himself in. We didn't know how long he was going to be in. So, we just did a project called On The Rvn. He was on tour at the time with J. Cole. He didn't go to the tour and the cops actually showed up at the venue. We just stayed locked in the studio and in three days, he did most of the album.
Wow. That had to be emotionally heavy. What sort of vibe does Thug like in the studio?
We have all kinds of stuff. Colored lights, candles. We have a bed in the studio for him. Anything to make him feel more comfortable.
You also worked with Gunna on his upcoming album Drip or Drown 2. When did you lock in with Gunna for his new album?
With Gunna, it's whenever Thug is there. So, I ended up working with him a lot. I've done a bunch of songs with them together.
How many songs have you seen them record together?
In a week, I've seen them record 15 or 20 songs. Thug is like 2Pac. He has more records than anyone I've ever worked with. His catalogue is crazy. We recorded both of them at the same time with two mics where they'd go bar for bar. That was a dope session. They both wrote in their heads and went back and forth, feeding off each other's energy. We did a bunch of songs like that.
With all those songs floating around, have you heard them discuss doing a possible collab album like Thug did with Future for Super Slimey?
It's too early for me to say anything. But, they might do something like that pretty soon.
What's the fastest you've seen Young Thug record a full song?
Oh, man. He's recorded songs in 10 minutes, man. He's really, really, really quick. When he's doing it, he doesn't like to listen back to it that much because when he's doing it, he just wants a half-bar or one bar pre-roll. And then, he'll keep going.
What's the longest you've been in the studio with Thug without seeing sunlight?
I've been in the studio with him upwards two or three weeks.
You're telling me you didn't go outside for two to three weeks?
I might go outside to get some fresh air and smoke a cigarette. But, this last stint, there was a point where we were recording for 45 hours straight. The longest break was two minutes and I didn't even have enough time to finish a cigarette.
There are major health risks with that sort of sleep deprivation. What do you do to mitigate those risks?
I have a bag of multivitamins. A lot of Vitamin-C, Emergen-C, Airborne. There's this one called Berocca. Your immune system goes down when you're not sleeping. If you're sick in the studio, that's the worst. Also, I have earplugs on me all the time. That's really important because you can get ear fatigue. Rappers listen to music at dangerous levels. Your ears are your career. So, you want to keep them fresh.
Do artists ever ask you about what you're for tips about engineering?
They do and I feel like they pick up a lot by just looking at me doing it. Before, the engineer used to be on one side and the artist is in another room. Nowadays, a lot of these artists -- because they are so hands-on -- they record in the control room. It's really over the last year or two that, that method has become a lot more popular. It's especially true for trap music because they go bar for bar and are used to seeing the screen.
It's interesting you mentioned trap music because in the credits for Quavo's debut solo album, Quavo Huncho he's listed as the recording engineer. Do you see that becoming a trend?
Yeah. That's essentially how it came about because they started recording themselves. That's why they're used to seeing the screen. I recorded Quavo a few weeks ago. He was very specific with what he wanted. I'm familiar with working with artists like that because of working with Thug. Thug literally does a lot of his edits himself because he likes to experiment when he's working. He knows how to run Pro Tools really well. While he's recording, he's looking at the screen the whole time.
Was it hard to give up some control of the engineering process to the artist?
That was a bit of a learning curve. But, it is a part of the creative process. So, you have to embrace it because [Thug] could whisper something and if you don't hear what he says, he'll get annoyed. The main thing is listening. He freestyles everything and sometimes, he'll do one bar and then, four versions of a different one and if I wasn't listening, I wouldn't know which version to take. If you mess that up once, then, they get really annoyed. You don't want to do anything to slow their creative process down because the moment may be lost.
I'm not sure if you've seen the scene in the show 'Atlanta' where a rapper is in the studio and begins berating the recording engineer because they keep messing up. He even has his bodyguard intimidate him. Have you seen that?
Yeah. I've seen that a lot, man. I've seen that happen a lot to people. It hasn't happened to me, personally, so much. People lose gigs like that. People burn through multiple engineers in one night.
What would you advise an engineer do when that happens?
You have to keep your cool and be on point. Everyone is different and artists' brains work differently than regular people, especially in a creative space. You just have to understand what they want and help them achieve their vision.
With streaming and online platforms making it easier for artists to record music and release it to millions, have you noticed any increase in studio visits from rappers?
Absolutely. Label budgets are getting bigger. When I started, everything was still CDs and we did record to analog tape. Streaming really sped things up. It's quantity now. Everyone is playing a numbers game. Drake's last album had 20 - 25 tracks. When I was working in New York, things were branded as mixtapes or Datpiff releases. Now, you can get everything on Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal.
Are there collaborations from Young Thug that haven't come out yet that you wish would come out?
There is one. I'm not sure if I'm allowed to say what it is. But, there's one with an artist who recently passed away. I think that's the reason he hasn't put it out. But, fans will love it when it comes out.
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