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 world knew who 6LACK was, he, his longtime producer Singawd and R&B artist WPNOFLOVE were breaking the rules. If not for their creative environment, the world may have never gotten 6LACK’s breakout singles such as “PRBLMS.”
“I had my studio setup, Singawd was making beats, and every day, for weeks at a time, we were creating and vibing off each other. [6LACK]’s a Cancer and I’m a Scorpio — deep, moody water signs,” WPNOFLOVE told REVOLT. “Singawd had the production to bring that out of us. Singawd unlocked that safety net for us to express without the boundaries of the music of the time.”
For this installment of “Studio Sessions” before the release of his new project Happy Hour, WPNOFLOVE discusses how 6LACK encouraged him to be an artist, his and the East Atlanta Love Letter artist’s recording process, and more. Read below.
You been working with 6LACK and Singawd since 2014. How did you three link up?
Before I met 6LACK, I saw a YouTube video of him freestyling. It was a very short video of him freestyling at some concert. I thought it was cool, so I hit him up like, “Hey, bro, that was dope. You need to do more of that.” He was like, “I appreciate that. Nobody has been bold enough to go, ‘What you have going on is cool, but this new shit you have going on is where you need to go with it.’” So, he pulled up to my mom’s crib with 15 niggas. It was ridiculous (laughs).
They’re from the east side, and I’m from the suburbs with my mom and my stepfather. They came to the basement and we exchanged records. He found out I was an engineer, an artist, and all of these other things. We worked on music that night and put out a song called “Slow” that same night. It was produced by my father. It was a weird situation. I had just got back together with my father. Music was blossoming for me. Singawd found me from the song 6LACK and I put out. He found my email somehow; he’s a magician with it. He sent some beats I didn’t see for two months and then he sent me an email saying, “I’m going to send you those beats in a couple of weeks.” I’m reading the email thread like, “This is the weirdest way to communicate by hitting me up saying in a few weeks you got me.” I was like, “Something about it told me to take it seriously.” Singawd came [back] two weeks later and played me these beats that ended up being on my debut. They felt so perfect...”
How did this connection evolve into the sessions that produced “Free 6LACK” and “PRBLMS?”
I had a two-bedroom apartment with my baby mama. We had just delivered our first baby boy, and Singawd and 6LACK were staying in my apartment. I didn’t care about rent, that was covered. I get money, so I don’t need somebody to help out with that. A lot of the reasons people don’t make it is because they don’t have someone willing to be like, “Let’s work and worry about that later. We have the time, space, and creative energy.” I had my studio setup, Singawd was making beats, and every day, for weeks at a time, we were creating and vibing off each other. [6LACK]’s a Cancer and I’m a Scorpio — deep, moody water signs. Singawd had the production to bring that out of us. Singawd unlocked that safety net for us to express without the boundaries of the music of the time. That’s what we did — make unadulterated, unfiltered music. I had Pro Tools, compressors, pre-amps, a Neumann microphone, and built a booth with foam and blankets. I’m self-taught as an engineer, but I care. I’m a technical whiz. I come from an educational background with my mom as a teacher who told me if I don’t have an answer for something, I should investigate. Whatever we needed, I invested in and got better at it.
What did you learn about engineering from your time working with 6LACK and Singawd?
To be honest, I realized pop culture and music took away some of the life of engineering. Everything was too clean. Engineers were afraid to leave a little bit of distortion. They were afraid of leaving a little bit of low-end on the vocals. Everything had delays at a certain time. Our view was, “Fuck the rules.” Music is about feeling and I learned how to express feelings by manipulating certain tools, plug-ins, and VSTs. 6LACK, just like myself, likes to record alone. I had to learn how to teach him how to record. I had to set him up with a template and let him know how things operated, so we could be productive and I can still give him a safe space to create.
Your debut came out this year. So, you held onto those songs with Singawd for years.
Yeah because I engineer and I’m a songwriter, as well. I was helping out my bros. They all had things going on and better situations. They had managers with a team behind them and a little bit of money. I come from a loving background, so it’s all love for me. If I see my bros have something going on, I’m like, “Let’s do it. What can I do to help?” We’re not competing with each other until it comes to charts (laughs).
When did make the decision to be a solo artist?
I’ve always been an artist, but I’ve always been a giver, so I put myself on the back burner. When I established [that] I should take myself seriously, so others would take me serious was around when I met 6LACK. I was still considering myself a rapper. I have to give 6LACK credit for telling me, “Nah, that rapping and engineering shit is cool. But, you have a message, flow, and voice. I want to hear you blow, as well.”
Most of your debut project was produced by Singawd. How’d it come together?
Just over the years and going back to production we created during the Free 6LACK days. I flew up to L.A. with Singawd and he was playing me beats he made with both 6LACK and me in mind. He’d be like, “I think this is more for you, but we’re working on this project, so I presented it to [6LACK] first. But, it didn’t stick.” Or, he’ll be like, “Remember that old beat I made for you? I spruced it up.” I have this song named “T.O.Y.” that stands for “Touching On You.” That record went through three different beats. One day he called me up like, “Bro, I have the perfect beat for ‘T.O.Y.’ Fuck that other shit we worked on (laughs).”
How did your 6LACK collaboration ‘Her” come about?
We were sitting there, the beat came on, and I don’t think we even intended on recording. But, we always had the mic on. There was never an option to have the studio turned off. At any time, inspiration can spark. I was like, “Oh, I have something for that,” and I went in there and said “Hello?” Then, 6LACK went in the booth and was like, “Hey.” Then, we thought we needed to go back and forth for that record. So, I would go in, do a bar, and then as I’m coming back out, he grabbed the headphones and did a bar. We literally made that song in 15 minutes. The original cut to that song was done in 2015. It’s definitely been a journey.
How would you describe the sound you’ve developed in the studio?
Unfiltered. A lot of my songs don’t get overthought. I freestyle my music. I’m a vibe person. In life, we overthink and are always correcting things in the hope they come out perfectly. I don’t hesitate. I’m a first-step nigga every time. I’m attacking the basket (laughs). I like the lights low in the studio, I want it to feel like a cave where I’m tucked away and there’s some savagery going on in here. My sessions are never a link-up where we’re vibing and smoking.
Your music is very personal. Have you ever cried while working on a song?
Nah. I’m an emotional dude, but I have a poker face because of my upbringing. It’s for me to build off of in order to operate better and be a better man. It would probably take some wild shit to make me cry. I’ve had moments when I’ve felt vulnerable. I wrote about my kids. I’ve made songs about relationships. I’ve done the polyamorous thing for a while. I had songs about dealing with multiple entities. I look at women as spirits more than just the flesh.
What do you have coming up?
I have a song dropping on Black Friday called “I’m Good, Luv” produced by LucyCubhouse. It’s a funny record. I was listening to the beat and thought it felt nostalgic like So Far Gone days. I was joking and not necessarily emulating Drake, but that vibe of that time. I was thinking we don’t have many songs as men from the female perspective. I’m not going to tear a man down, but we can still speak on the truth. That song is about a woman choosing to deal with a man who really isn’t 100% in.
How did the pandemic affect the recording of your new album?
It didn’t affect me at all. I’m a hermit and I have my own studio. I engineer for myself. The pandemic pushed me to work harder. I made more songs in three months than I did in a full year. We got the stimmy (stimulus check) and that did nothing for most of us, so I had to work. I’m engineering and mixing projects. People were so scared to put out music during the pandemic and the protests. For me, it inspired me to put out music and I put out a song “Freedom Fighters” in the midst of the crazy riots going on. I think Interscope had a blackout week and no one was putting out music. I wrote that song in 2014 and I was inspired by Mike Brown because I just had a son who was brought into a world where this shit happens. It hurt. It felt like I was setting him up to fail, so I expressed myself in that song. To be in 2020 and the same thought process be just as accurate, if not more, I knew I had to release it. I cleaned it up, made it more relevant.
Are there any other artists besides 6LACK who you engineered and wrote songs for?
Honestly, there’s plenty of people. But on paper, no. What I mean is I didn’t realize that if it ain’t on paper, it doesn’t exist. It took me until 2019 to realize that. I’ve worked with a lot of people in Atlanta that are part of this sort of “new Atlanta.” But, on paper, you wouldn’t know.