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.
Paul Couture is one of a selected few in charge of keeping Max B’s wave alive. The producer has helped the rapper release Coke Wave 4 with French Montana and House Money without ever meeting him. Max being in prison hasn’t stopped the music from dropping, but Couture knows the limitations being behind bars can have on making hits.
“The vocals take so much work that someone in Swizz [Beatz]’s camp was like, ‘Paul, you deserve a Grammy just off of what you did with Max’s vocals alone,’“ Couture told REVOLT.
In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” the producer explains how Max B already has three projects ready for 2020, linking with French Montana, and Max B’s appreciation of the newer generation of artists.
Congrats on producing on both French Montana and Max B’s latest projects that dropped last week.
I wish I could say that was my grand design. But, God is good and everything lined up the way it was supposed to.
How did you first link up with Max B?
Max and I have the same asset management company, Phase One Network. When Phase One was talking about doing a project for Max, they came to me and everyone Max had worked with about sending in music for the project. Just like everyone else, I was skeptical. What do you mean Max’s project? He isn’t home. How is he going to do this project? They said, ‘Don’t worry about that. Literally, don’t miss the wave. Stop everything you’re doing because you want to get on this now. You don’t want to wait until Max comes home to jump on.’ That was about a year ago.
How do all these Max B songs get made while he’s still in prison?
That really is the question of all questions. All I know is that I send in the music to the label. Max has a lot of involvement. From the beginning of the process, Max has been on the phone with me like, ‘I like live music. Can you throw some guitars and stuff?’ Max knows I don’t just come from a hip hop background. He wants to do something more with me than he’s done in the past. Max and French love samples and the fans love that. But, he wanted live elements, too.
It started with a lot of phone calls with Max on what he wanted. The Sade record we did (‘Hold On’), that was Max’s idea. I just had to go and flip the beat. I’ll send in the music and he’ll send me back what he decided to record to. He’ll usually send me like 30 tracks and I just have to arrange it and clean it all up. It’s always an experimental process because we’re not in the studio together. In the beginning, I would have his vocals super clean in the middle, but Max loves his harmonies and his stacks [of vocals] that he’s known for. He’ll be like, ‘Nah, bro, bring all of that shit up. I want to hear all of those parts at the same time.’ I’ll tell him no one records like that anymore, but Max B.
He can hear things that no one else can hear. I’ll be like, ‘Nah, he’s tripping.’ He’ll be like, ‘Nah, it’s off by a little bit over here. Bring these harmonies over here.’ But, the man is a genius and would be absolutely right in all of his notes. It was an experimental process until we got the first group of songs together, and then he goes, ‘Now you have our template. Now, let’s rock.’
What was the first song you two worked on?
The first song we actually did was ‘Super Bad.’ I knew when I made that beat that Max was going to love it. Funny enough, French heard it and that’s what made him jump on. He heard it at a Super Bowl party in Atlanta last year. That started this whole process of French wanting to do music with me.
How long did it take to get one song done with Max being that he’s not next to you in the studio?
It really depended on the song. Now, Max has a lot of trust in me. In the beginning, it took forever. It took doing 15 versions of the song to get it right. Then, you want to hear Max. But, it was like, ‘Do you tuck him in the beat? Do you change the beat? Do I make it compliment him more?’ He’ll be like, ‘I love that part you did. Just let that shit loop. I heard the changes you made. I get it. It’s artistic. But, keep the energy up.’ So, I learned that with Max, less is more. He wants you to ride the wave he’s on.
What’s the quality of the vocals you’re getting from him?
I wish you could hear them (laughs). The vocals take so much work that someone in Swizz’s camp was like, ‘Paul, you deserve a Grammy just off of what you did with Max’s vocals alone.’
How did this latest project come together so soon after Max and French’s Coke Wave 4, which dropped in July?
We were already working on this project. When French jumped on ‘Super Bad,’ which we did for House Money, he sent me the sessions in May. I had never met French. I flew out to L.A. in May. Max and I were already a few songs deep into the project. French heard ‘Hold On’ and wanted to jump on that. After French jumped on that, saw how I could work on things, and that I already had Max’s part, he was like, ‘You can’t leave. We’re going to do Coke Wave 4.’
I was supposed to be in L.A. three days ended up with me staying for a week. French and I were in the studio for 36 hours each session. He was like, ‘This is a part of history.’ But, after 12 hours with anyone you need a break. Shout out to French and Max. After we did Coke Wave 4, it was about putting together a few more records for this House Money project.
Every song has a feature. Who picked those?
For the ‘Ride On Em’ record with Jadakiss, I just said to Max and his manager on the phone, ‘I feel Jadakiss would kill this.’ They would say, ‘Say no more,’ and Jadakiss was the first one to turn in his verse. From there, Max left it to my discretion on who I’d want to get features from for the album. Wiz [Khalifa] and [A$AP] Ferg heard a couple of the records. It was Ferg’s idea to jump on ‘Champagne Wishes.’ A lot of it happened organically, as if Max was there. They were showing ‘Champagne Wishes’ to Swizz Beatz in the studio because he loves what I’m doing with Max. He was basically calling it the new ‘Pac and Dre. That’s the biggest compliment you can hear.
Besides Jadakiss and French, all the artists featured on House Money debuted after Max B went to prison in 2009. Has he given his opinion on these new artists?
In prison, he listens to everybody. A Boogie has always shown love by saying, ‘Without Max, there would be no A Boogie.’ Wiz is the same way. Dave East is Harlem, so it’s all love. Max knew certain people were showing homage to him, but it was like, let’s see if they really fuck with Max by doing a feature. It took about a year to put this project together.
There’s been word that Max’s sentence may be reduced from 75 years to 12, making his prison release possibly in 2021. Have there been any talks about this?
House Money is just part of a bigger project that’s coming. We have so much more coming for Max in 2020. We’re kind of setting it all up, so that when he comes home, there’s going to be a fucking parade down Manhattan. We know that. We’re trying to have it, so when he comes back home and performs these songs, everyone knows the new songs and old songs.
You also worked with French for the song ‘That Way’ on his album. What’s he like in the studio?
French always sets a vibe in the studio. Everyone has a different vibe to the studio. Everyone has the color lights and all of that. French will bring in the hookah and he’ll have his uncle come, and bring in some Moroccan cheese. You’re going to need it because that cheese is going to keep you up.
I met French at his house going into the studio, so it was that moment of stepping into the fire. He’s either going to fuck with you or he’s not. You don’t have a lot of time to become homies, have a drink and go to the club. French is a beast in the studio. He has a lot of ideas and a great ear. It was his idea to use the Das EFX sample on ‘That Way.’ He was like, ‘Yo, what can you do with this? Shazam this. Pull that up.’ French wanted to see how fast I could work. We did ‘That Way’ during the Coke Wave 4 sessions.
He’ll work anywhere. He’ll work in an SUV when we’re on our way to a photoshoot. He’ll be like, ‘Yo, pull up this sample and see if you can flip it. Chop this up.’ He doesn’t sleep. With him in the hospital...he’s a workhorse. He doesn’t stop. I’m glad he has a little break to rest up and get himself together.
How did his hospitalization in November affect things?
It’s so crazy. He and Max’s projects weren’t supposed to release on the same day. I [didn’t] know what French’s rollout was going to be. But, it was almost a coincidence. When their teams were talking, they were like, ‘Look at how God works. Max and French are both dropping on the same day.’
The year 2020 is fast approaching. Do you have enough songs done with Max B for another project?
Are you kidding? We have three coming. Max is working on the fourth project right now.