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Studio Sessions I J. Rich talks engineering music for Quality Control artists and having no off days

The QC engineer discusses recording Offset after his car crash, taking his studio into the hospital while Cardi B was in labor, and putting together Lil Baby's songs word for word.

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.

Before the 29-year-old Atlanta engineer came to the limelight, J. Rich helped Offset record roughly 90% of his debut album, Father of 4, and had to be ready 24/7 to record the Migos star no matter the circumstances.

"Right after [Offset's] car crash, I was thinking I was going to have some off time. So, I went home. He called me. He couldn't even talk because he had bandages on his head, hands and mouth. He still said, 'I need you at the house to record,'" J. Rich told REVOLT TV.

In this installment of Studio Sessions, the Quality Control engineer discusses recording Offset in the hospital and while Cardi B was in labor, putting together Lil Baby songs word by word, and how he finally got on the payroll at Quality Control. Check out the interview below.

When did you start engineering for Offset?

The head engineer would come in the studio and record Offset. The first two times Offset saw me, he didn’t want to work with me and sent me home. I think it was because I was a new person. Then, we just started working eventually. I wasn’t on salary with Quality Control. So, I told him, 'Look, I’ll come to your house to record. I don’t need to be paid. I just want to work.’ This was around the end of 2017 and we started working.

You worked extensively with him on his debut solo album, Father of 4. What was it like recording a song like ‘Clout’?

I recorded 'Clout' in a hotel on the Drake's 'Aubrey & The Three Migos Tour.' "We were on tour and he wanted a studio. But, I wasn’t able to bring our personal travel studio. So, we had to buy a whole new studio setup in L.A., drive all the way to Las Vegas, and set it up in his hotel room because they perform at Club Drai's a lot. I was up re-downloading all of the Pro-Tools plug-ins, making sure everything was right with his template. Around 4 or 5 in the morning, I had everything ready, and he wakes up 15-20 minutes later like, ‘Let’s work.’ Then, we recorded ‘Clout.’ He didn’t know who he was going to get on it. He was thinking about if he was going to put a second verse on it. It was very early on when he decided to put Cardi on it.

How long did it take for him to record his parts on 'Clout'?

He’s the first person I know to be like, ‘You need to speed up.’ He records very fast. I would say after 15-20 minutes, we had the whole song done for him. When he did the hook for ‘Clout,’ I told him to do it again and he stacked [his vocals]. That’s why that part feels so big. We did three songs that day. We did ‘Clout,’ ‘Made Men,’ and another song that’s not on the album. The majority of his album was recorded on the road and in his house.

A lot was happening with Offset while he was recording this album. Are there any moments you remember where he was dealing with adversity?

Right after the car crash, I was thinking I was going to have some off time. So, I went home [and] he called me. He couldn’t even talk because he had bandages on his head, hands and mouth. He still said, ‘I need you at the house to record.’ I had to come to his house and record him while he had bandages all over his head and all over his hand.

Did he say anything about the car crash?

No, he was actually mad that I left and didn’t think he would want to record. I was like, ‘Yo, you were in the hospital.’ When Cardi was having the baby, he made sure I brought the studio to the hospital. So, actually, they had Cardi in a room where she was having a baby, and they had a room for us and I had a studio in that room. When the water broke, he told me to pull up with the studio and I had the studio in the hospital room. You have to realize, we were working on an album. He was just really focused. He was a little tired, but still happy.

Wow. That's a different level of dedication. You also helped Lil Yachty record his debut album, Lil Boat.

Yeah. When he signed to Quality Control, he got other engineers to mix it. But, I recorded the whole project. I started off with him because I interned at a studio and they would give me studio time for free or very cheap, and I would use my studio time, so Lil Yachty could record. When I met Lil Yachty, he was working out of an apartment in Georgia with his other engineer Gent.

How long did it take Yachty to record Lil Boat?

It took a couple of months. He had a few songs on there that he already put out like '1 Night.’ It probably took six months.

What does Yachty like in the studio?

Artists are very particular about their ‘template.’ The certain settings on the autotune are what us engineers call a ‘template.’ It’s from 0-100 and other settings. If Yachty is used to recording on, let’s say, a 15, he’s not going to like recording on a 32. He’s very keen on his autotune settings. Besides that, he doesn’t smoke and doesn’t drink. He just likes good vibes. Yachty doesn’t like a lot of all of that nonsense. He just wants to work.

What’s the most memorable session you had with Yachty during the making of the project?

I think ‘Wanna Be Us’ was very memorable because I was with this girl name Shemida J and she’s a singer. What makes me a good engineer is I don’t hold my tongue. If somebody does a bad take, I’m not scared to ask them to redo it or offer my suggestions. I told him, ‘Yo, you should have her sing over your voice.’ So, he let me do it, I got her in the booth, and she sang over the part where he says, ‘It’s Lil Boat and Lil Perry.' A lot of people ask, ‘Yo, who’s that girl over that part in that song?’ It’s crazy he let me use a random girl he had never met on his song and it became one of his most memorable songs, and I think her being on it helped.

What’s the quickest you’ve seen Lil Yachty record a song?

Lil Yachty has freestyled a song all the way through. When he would catch a good flow, there would be times where he would freestyle a whole song. If the beat is two minutes, he’s recorded a whole song in two minutes.

You also worked with Lil Baby. How did you two link up?

One day, somebody called a good friend of mine saying, ‘Yo, my friend just got out of jail. He wants to do some things.’ I go to the studio and it’s Lil Baby. We did his first song ever, it’s called 'Options.’ He freestyled for about 10-15 times and I kept all of the takes of his freestyle, and we put the song together word by word, literally. I did Lil Baby’s first mixtape.

Looking back now, how has Lil Baby improved in terms of recording?

He got smoother with it. Now, he’s actually making songs, punching in, going crazy. He doesn’t need anyone to put his songs together. He puts his own songs together. When we first started, that wasn’t natural. It was something he had to learn.

Quality Control CEO Pierre 'P' Thomas and COO Kevin 'Coach K' Lee are visible in all of the QC artists' careers. How involved are they in the studio sessions and how have they affected your career?

All the time. They’re very honest. Everybody [at QC] speaks their minds. Even with those beginning sessions with Lil Baby, P was in a lot of those sessions. I was doing all of this stuff for free. Lil Baby paid me out of pocket. But, whenever Lil Yachty would have me at the studio, I would do all of this for free. They would keep me around for almost a year. I think that’s the tough love they show us. It’s like, ‘Yo, you’re going to work for it.’ Yachty was telling me, ‘Yo, they’re going to put you on pay roll’ for about three months until they finally put me on the payroll.

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