Studio Name: Rhyme Cartel Studios
Location: Auburn, WA
Key Players: Producer/engineer Sir Mix-A-Lot
Latest Project: Outtasite, Careful What You Wish For
Computer, DAW: Apple Mac Pro (8-core), (2) Digidesign 192 I/Os, Digi Pre, Pro Tools 8
Console: 32-channel Digidesign Icon D-Control ES Worksurface
Software/plug-ins: BIAS Peak; Digidesign D-Verb, Impact, Maxim, and Structure; Native Instruments Battery and Kontakt; Redmatica Compendium Bundle; Spectrasonics Omnisphere; Waves C4 Multiband Compressor; and more
Sampler, Mixer, CD Turntables: Akai MPC2000XL, Mackie d.2, Pioneer CDJ-1000MK2s
Synths/Modules: Roland HandSonic 10, MC-909, V-Synth GT, XV-5080; M-Audio Evolution UC-33 and Keystation Pro 88
Guitars: Ibanez 7-String (all played by Joel Davila)
Amps: (2) Crown Micro-Tech 600s and (2) 1200s
Kits/Snares: Roland V-Drums TD-20 brain with double kick, snare pad, hi-hat, (3) cymbal pads, and (4) tom pads
Mics: Blue Kiwi
Room Treatment: Baffled ceilings, 3-inch floors, (3) 6-inch pipes filled with sand running through the floor into concrete for subwoofers
Power Conditioning: 600 amps serviced to the house— 125 amps dedicated to the studio with independent grounding
b JBL 4430s and 10-inch sub (for nearfield), KRK V88s
Headphones: Sennheiser HD 280 Pro, Sony MDR-V900HD
How have your years of experience as an artist/rapper helped you as a producer and studio owner?
My first love was always the production side of music. I started with the old [Boss] Dr. Rhythm DR-55 and never stopped. I was a DJ for years and was able to witness the things that made some songs work while others didn’t. Buying gear is easy, but it’s how you hear that dictates how you sound. I am not a purist when it comes to how a studio should sound. When I hear someone bragging on how good a room sounds, I immediately wonder what “good” is to him/her. I see a lot of hot shots track a song at some insanely high resolution, then they call me over to listen and, wow, it sounds great, but when it’s mixed down it sounds like crap to the consumer. Why? It’s because their room was built to sound like a great studio. My room is built to sound like a massive car stereo or club. When I mix, I keep the consumer in mind and not other engineers.
What were your goals for running your studio?
I built my first studio in the mid-’80s. Once I saw hourly rates of some studios, I realized my creative process was altered greatly because of the clock running. Initially, I only wanted a place to work with no time limitations then take my work from the root to the fruit. I eventually ended up with a couple of the old 2-inch MCI machines and a huge board. With the studio I have now, I decided to mix the usual rap sessions with some more challenging stuff. I have actually taken some of the things I use to make a rap song pump and applied it to rock. For years a lot of the rock stuff was warm, rounded-off sounding material that was always lightly rolled off from about 150Hz on down and from about 5kHz on up. I decided to open it up and came up with something far more dynamic and explosive sounding.
What was the process of choosing gear for the studio?
I had a Pro Tools system back when it wasn’t cool to have one. The editing power alone sold me on it. No more cutting tape, cleaning heads, aligning, etc. So the migration to PT8 and the D-Control came quite natural for me. The D-Control gives me the freedom to dig into Pro Tools without slowing my workflow. I purchased a pair of the 30-inch Apple monitors because I love visual real estate.
I have been looking for a good soft sampler that’s easy to use. Omnisphere has the features laid out perfectly for me, but it won’t allow me to import any of my 5,000-plus WAV files. [Cakewalk] Rapture is cool, but try to import a multi-sampled sound into Rapture while maintaining original mapping. For now, I am using Kontakt 3, but it’s exposed my new problem: [my need for] a MIDI controller that will allow me to do all my MIDI learns, then name all the encoders for visual feedback—LCD windows under each encoder! Mackie got close with the C4, but you can’t use 0–127 on all encoders. For some reason, it makes you choose your parameters from some dated list of synths. I have decided to make my own controller. Watch out M-Audio!
What piece of gear couldn’t you do without?
The one piece of gear that I absolutely have to have would be the HandSonic. Give me some good-sounding drum samples in NI Battery and I will take that HandSonic and go f**king nuts!