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The Grammy nominated audio engineer behind Jay-Z has been sharing a few trade secrets and discussing his craft with college students nationwide.
In 1999, a budding New York rapper named Shawn Carter and a DJ from Delaware named Gimel Keaton combined their lyrical genius and technical skills to create an era of hip hop nirvana. Over a decade later the team, now known as Grammy award winning rapper Jay-Z and his premiere audio engineer Young Guru, are still making amazing music. Ever on the cutting edge, Young Guru has now decided to share his industry knowledge and gift for creating authentic sounds with students. As his Era of the Engineer 13 city college tour comes to a close, the talented guru discusses the impetus behind the tour.
“There’s a lot of engineers that don’t get the props that they deserve, yet they have a lot to do with the way that people put together records,” explains Young Guru. “They have a huge influence on the way that records sound and the way that records are produced. The producer gets his highlight, the artist gets his highlight, but the engineer doesn’t always get his highlight—so I just wanted to showcase to people what other people have done.”
When major artists seek an engineer with a proven track record, Young Guru’s name is often at the top of their list. The multifaceted veteran engineer, who has also served as an A&R for Def Jam Recordings and Roc a Fella Records has helped to set the gold standard for hip hop engineering. His rolodex of A-list clients run the gamut, including but not limited to Drake, (Thank Me Later), Kanye West (College Dropout), Beyonce (Crazy in Love), Fabulous (Loso’s Way), Nelly (Nellyville), and 10 of Hova’s 11 albums.
The Era of the Engineer is a joint venture between Young Guru and Grammy U, The Recording Academy’s (Grammy Award Producers) program for college students interested in pursuing careers in the music industry. With the tour Young Guru has been conducting town hall style, and in studio sessions. As he sits coolly in the unassuming confines of Santa Monica’s Grammy University recording academy, the strikingly tall music guru discusses his program
“It’s giving a little bit of the history of myself and the history of engineering,” says Young Guru. It’s also showing people what I do in the studio and what people have done previously in the studio—transferring from the analog age to the digital age and basically just giving the students some information about how I work. Hopefully they can carry that information into the way they work and carry it on into the future.”
The Era of the Engineer tour wrapped on April 28th. For more information about Grammy U or The Era of the Engineer, visit www.grammy365.com.
Sentinel: So how did you get into the engineering world?
Young Guru: I used to take the money that I made from delivering newspapers and I would go to the studio and waste a lot of money making a bunch of whack records. I was figuring out how the studio works. My first major break in shall we say real recording and mixing came through Nonchalant and Chuckie Thompson. Chuckie Thompson was a producer from Bad Boy, he was one of his “Hitsmen.” I ended up being Nonchalant’s tour DJ so when we got back from touring with the Fugees in 96 on the Ready or Not tour we were the opening act. Chuckie Thompson was also the first person to ever bring me to New York City to do sessions.
Sentinel: What are some other projects you are working on?
Young Guru: Right now I’m working on Rap Kings a group from Harlem and I’m working on Rich Kid he’s a guy from Canada. I think he’s going to be really big.
Sentinel: Has moving from the analog to digital age helped us or hurt us?
Young Guru: It’s weird because the technology is supposed to speed us up, but it actually slowed us down because people became lazier. When we used to do a session it was on tape, everybody was in the room from the engineer, to the artist, the A&R, to the producer, and you made decisions at that session. It was an 8 hour session to a 12 hour session and everything was done right then. Now people are like ‘oh you can just email me.’ So you go ahead and mix the record by yourself and you email it to the A&R, and the artist the artist makes comments, the A&R makes comments, then you have to go back in and adjust that would have all been done in that original 8 hour period.
Sentinel: What’s the best piece of advice you can give to an up and coming engineer?
Young Guru: The best piece of advice that I could give to somebody is to listen to a lot of music and develop their own style you look at what has been done before and you say I can be different. You want to be at the top of the pyramid.
Sentinel: You’ve worked with a lot of artists from New York. Do you think New York rap will ever be as influential as it was in the 90’s?
Young Guru: ASAP Rocky is killing it on a major level, where New York rap was suffering for along time because southern rap was killing it. So the NY scene is coming back but it’s going to take us having a Kendrick Lamar album from an New York artist to bring New York all the way back to a point of prominence.