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.
Samuel David Jimenez came to the United States on a mission. Born in Spain, the young man, who would later grow up to become Grammy-nominated, multi-platinum producer Smash David; landed on American shores due to his parents' work as missionaries. To this day, the church is still involved in his identity, even in his producing.
"I'm a drummer. I grew up playing drums in church. The main thing people know me for is my drums," David told REVOLT TV. "I don't use any presets. I adapt to anything. I can make you a pop record, R&B record, trap record. But, my drums will always be on point because I have a very good ear for sound collecting for drums. I have my own secret drum kit that I've been adding sounds in for the last three years."
For this installment of "Studio Sessions," Smash breaks down how Tory Lanez can make something out of nothing, the harsh reality of making money as a producer, and the most impressive thing he's ever seen someone do in the studio.
What was a session where you learned a bit?
Any session with Hitmaka is always fun and he's always giving out knowledge. Every session with an artist is more about them going in the studio, sitting down and going in their zone writing. When you have a session with Hitmaka and he brings in artists, it's more of a party and a family vibe.
How long did it take you two to make Big Sean's 'Bounce Back'? I also saw there were multiple producers credited on that beat.
I originally made the beat and then, I gave the beat to Hitmaka. At the time, I just met him. So, it wasn't how the creative process is now, going in the studio. I just sent him the beat and he wrote the chorus for the record with Jeremih. Then, he ended up beefing up the beat a little bit by adding Metro Boomin' and Amaire Johnson as producers.
You've been in the studio with Tory Lanez and produced songs like 'B.I.D.' and nearly half of his 2018 album, Love Me Now? What is he like in the studio?
He's very energetic. He's a positive vibe in the studio. He likes to keep the good vibes going. He's just in his zone. He'll go in the booth and make you three songs. All of his songs he does are basically freestyles. He goes in and freestyles and then, takes bits and pieces of what he thinks sounds good on the record, and just build off that. He doesn't really write. He just goes in there and freestyles his shit.
Who is an artist you've worked with in the studio to shape a record?
All the music I've done with Jason Derulo. It's unreleased. But, we have a bunch of songs. He's dropping an album pretty soon. Well, hopefully. We've been working on music for a while. We have songs we did two years ago and songs we've done eight months ago.
I've always wondered if that part of being a producer is frustrating. Have you ever made a beat for one artist and it's taken so long to come out that you gave it to another artist?
Yeah, that happens all the time, man.
What's the most impressive thing you've seen in the studio?
The fastest artist I've ever worked with that makes full records without taking time to write is Tory Lanez. He does it without trying. Whether it's a pop record, hip hop record, or Caribbean record. It doesn't really matter what it is.
Are there any songs out that's beat you made for someone else?
Yeah. I originally made the 'Bounce Back' beat, in my mind, for Future. Supposedly, Future was on [Big Sean's 'Bounce Back']. He didn't end up on the record. It took a year and some change for the record to drop. I didn't believe the record was real until it dropped.
Have you ever worked on a song with an artist and it not come out because of sample clearances?
I don't really use samples for that reason. Unless it's a Drake record or something and he asks for a sound with that sample. For me, I don't usually like using samples because there are people with big hits that get two percent of a record.
Wait, I thought producers were getting paid crazy for beats out here.
Hell nah. You can if you're Metro Boomin' or Murda Beatz, on that level. Why do you think all of these producers go into clothing lines, start deejaying and get featured as an artist on the record? Because they're trying to make the most money off of this music. It's not the same thing for an artist. An artist can make $20 million off one record doing performances, streams, club appearances, etc. But, a producer might make $600,000 or maybe $1 million. If they do make $1 million, it's not an advance. You get paid every three months. It's a process to get all of your money. It could take a year.
The biggest song you've produced probably is 'Location' by Khalid. Walk me through how the beat came about? How closely did you and Khalid work together?
At that time, I was new. So, I wasn't really going in the studio with artists. Khalid wasn't a known artist at all. He was just an artist from El Paso, Texas. I didn't know who he was at all. A producer named Syk Sense hit me up and said, 'Yo, I need the session for this beat for this artist.' I was like, 'Alright, here's the session for this.' Syk Sense produced 'Know Yourself' for Drake. He has a lot of records. He's a big-time producer. He took the beat, added to it, and made it sound more poppy.
I didn't think nothing of it. Then, Kylie Jenner put it out on her Snapchat and the record blew up. It blew up out of nowhere. The video right now has 380 million views.
Without being in the studio, you made your biggest song. How crazy is that?
I would've never thought it. The following year, I got two Grammy nominations off that song and one for 'Bounce Back.' It was a good year.
You also worked on Gucci Mane's 'BiPolar' collaboration with Quavo. How did that come about?
[Quality Control Music producer] OG Parker sent me these little bell [sounds]. I don't remember around what time it was. But, I was like, 'This is going to be super dope.' So, I just added the actual melody on the bass line and the bridge. Then, I did the drums, the 808s and the arrangements. That was it and I sent it back over to OG. He said, 'This is fire.' I think he was in the studio with Gucci Mane and Quavo because he's signed to QC. He played them the beat and they did the record.
That's a record I always knew about. But, I didn't know if it was going to drop. I knew it existed maybe eight months to a year before it came out. I would blow up the engineer every two or three months like, 'You still using this record? You still using this record?' Then, out of nowhere, OG Parker sends me the link. He's like, 'Gucci Mane's new single.'
After almost a year, do you even recognize the beat as one you did? You must've made hundreds of beats in that year.
As a producer, I remember every single beat. It can a beat from three years ago. If I don't know the exact beat, I know what timeframe it was made. It'd take me 10 minutes to find the beat. I categorize all my beats by years and months.
What's the longest you've been in the studio working on music?
Shit, it could be two days. One week, from Thursday to Thursday, I was in the studio with Hitmaka from 3:00 p.m. until three in the morning. We made about 45 songs. It may take a couple months for something to come from it.
What are some other new ways producers are trying to make money these days?
I've noticed producers have started to have songs drop with them featured as an artist on the record. DJ Mustard dropped a single that's his song with other artists on it.
What was the one song that had the biggest effect on the demand for your beats?
It would have to be after [Chris Brown's] 'Pill & Automobiles.' Yeah, I had 'Location' and 'Bounce Back.' But, nobody knew who the hell I was. Plus, since it was other producers on the record that were bigger and been in the game longer, at the time, people didn't really know who I was. For 'Bounce Back,' I made most of the beat. But, most people think Metro Boomin' made the beat. He's another producer on the record. He did his thing.
What's the main thing about being a producer you wish will get better in the future?
I mean, shit, the income.
More from Keith Nelson, Jr.: