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.
“He was like, ‘Yo, Drewski. I’m putting a plan together. We’re not even going to release music unless I have a plan.’ So, I can see that he’s focused. He’s a little older now and more mature now, so he understands more the business,” he told REVOLT.
In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” the DJ explains how his debut album helped Pop Smoke and 50 Cent’s “The Woo” happen, Sheff G and Sleepy Hallow’s recording process, and his connection with GS9. Read below.
You put out “2020 Vision” with Sheff G and Sleepy Hallow. What’s Sheff’s creative process like in the studio?
I used to think, “Yo, they’re young kids. They’re from Brooklyn and they made jewel records. They’re probably not very creative, right?” Sure enough, him and Sleepy sat there with the producer and built the beat from scratch the way they like it. From the guitar sounds to the drum patterns. I was like, “Oh, they’re really in tune with their music and they know what they like, and what they sound good on.”
They’re lowkey picky about who they work with and the type of music they put out. I was always super surprised that they knew what they wanted and were able to build it. Like tell[ing] the producer, “Yo, let’s add that here. Let’s switch that. Let’s take that out. Can we add this?” So, I was like, “Listen. Yeah, it’s a Drewski record but I want you guys to be excited for it and happy with it. So, go ahead do your thing.” They sat there for like, I two hours building a beat and they got it to where they like, we played it, and I’m like “Yo, this shit is hard.”
Being big in the NYC music scene put you in sessions with the late Pop Smoke. How did you end up in the “Mood Swings” session?
Pop was my guy. He would text me randomly like “Yo, Merry Christmas.” I’m like, “What the fuck?” He was just super random. But, that’s the type of relationship we had. So, in [the “Mood Swings”] session, I brought a couple of beats and said, “Yo, I got an idea. You do so much of this trap drill shit, I want to put you on something different. I want a party record. But, I want to put you with Lil Tjay.” At that time, they didn’t have no records together. It just so happens that we were at Penthouse Studios and Tjay calls me. So, I’m like, “Yo, I’m in the studio with Pop Smoke.” Tjay comes up and Pop is like, “Yo, I’m working on something for Drewski’s album, you should get on it.” So, Tjay is like, “Yo, pull some shit up.”
I pulled up the first record we actually did that was called “Mary Jane.” So I’m like, “Yo, Tjay could do the hook because he got more of a melodic thing. We’re making a party record. Pop, you jump on.” So, when he did “Mary Jane,” and I’m like “Yo, attack it like 50 would” because people were already comparing him to 50. He started to record like ‘Welcome To The Candy Shop.’ We did that then they did “Mood Swings” in the same session. So, I’m like, “Yo, I’ll take the ‘Mary Jane’ one” because, as a DJ, I want more party records. I took “Mary Jane” and in that process, we were trying to get it cleared and all that with Columbia Records and it was taking forever. Then, the unfortunate passing of Pop happens around that time. So, what we did was take the original verse that Pop Smoke had on that “Mary Jane” record that me, him, and TJay did, and put it on what’s now “The Woo” with 50 Cent and Roddy [Ricch]. That’s why he starts it, “Let me take you to the candy shop.”
Were there any other records that you had with him that you kept? Is he going to appear on the album?
No. Me being the good person I am, all the Pop Smoke music that was left over, I felt like it should be for him. That way we can keep his legacy alive. He can’t make more music, so whatever he left behind is what we have for the rest of our lives. Whatever we can preserve and whatever we can keep from Pop’s music, I’d rather he have it.
I saw you in the studio with Rowdy Rebel after his prison release. How’d you get ingratiated with the GS9 crew?
The whole time while they were in jail the last three years, me and Fetty Luciano actually built a relationship. He’s featured on my album, too. Me and Fetty was just cool, working in studio sessions. That’s [Rowdy’s] real blood brother. We would talk about Rowdy, I would write to them in jail. We weren’t even talking about music. It was just like, “Yo, whatever y’all need, just let me know.” As soon as Rowdy came home, Fetty was like, “Yo, I want you to pull up and chop it up with my brother.” So, of course, that’s Rowdy. The first week he was home, we were in the studio. He respects my ear. He’s been playing me all these new records he had and features he had that I can’t really talk about because they’re not out yet. But, he had some shit.
What was his demeanor like in the studio for one of the first times in years?
He was super excited and super focused to the point where I said, “Yo, yo, stop playing. Put this shit out.” He was like, “Yo, Drewski. I’m putting a plan together. We’re not even going to release music unless I have a plan.” So, I can see that he’s focused. He’s a little older now and more mature now, so he understands more the business. He’s trying to maneuver the right way. We’re not going to be reckless and just drop records. He knows his worth. He knows the features he got... The big producers are sending him stuff. Before the NAV record [“Jesse Owens”] came out, he already told me, “Yo, this is going to be the first single.”
With your years on the music scene, what was the first studio session that felt major for you?
Probably a Jim Jones session. When I started working with Jim, he would hit me up randomly to deejay some of his shows and we just built a relationship. Then, I would start going into the studio. I’m talking about full in-depth studio sessions where he’s cooking stuff up from scratch. We would bounce ideas off of each other. This is a legend. To us, we grew up listening to Dipset. I didn’t look at it like work. I was like, “Oh, shit. I’m really in the studio with Jim Jones and he’s asking me questions.” It wasn’t until later on that I realized that Jim is super smart to have the young energy around him, and feeding off of that. I think that was one of the major times when I was like, “Okay, I’m in the studio with a legendary artist, a real artist, cooking up real music, and watching it go from the studio to radio and streaming.” That’s when I was like, “Wow, the process can really happen. It’s not as hard as we think.”
Who are some artists you’ve connected with through sessions with Jim?
The first time I met Kevin Gates was, I think, after he just came home from jail. He was in New York and he came to visit Jim. I met Kevin Gates in a Jim Jones studio session and ‘til today, we’re still cool off of that one interaction. He was there just kicking it. It wasn’t even really music stuff.
What suggestions of yours to Jim can we hear in his music?
There was a point where I said, “Yo, Jim. There’s so much going on, let’s start doing remixes to the hot shit that’s out right now, whether it’s a reggae record or an R&B record. We hear the whole Vampire Life going on, so instead of doing remixes we called it ReVamps. I still knew how to shoot and edit video, and we would remix a hot record, then I would shoot a quick little video, and we’d throw it up on YouTube and it was getting crazy streams.
All of those records were ideas that I brought to him. And anything I would bring to him, he would just do. Actually, one of them was a reggae record. It was “Cheater’s Prayer” by Chris Martin, I think the artist is... And then a label, the reggae label, hit us up and said, “Yo, can we use it as a real remix to the record, like a hip hop remix record?” It was little opportunities like that were just coming about just being in the studio and coming up with ideas. It wasn’t like we weren’t taking it serious, we were just having fun with it. It was crazy.
What was your favorite studio session? What song was the best to put together?
Desiigner’s session was fun because he’s just a fun type of guy. He rolled up a blunt. He came by himself. He ain’t have no security, no friends, no nothing. He met me there, he met me at Penthouse Studios. So, I’m like, ‘Yo, you dolo?’ He says, ‘Yeah, I’m here. I’m ready to work.’ He’s always a happy and excited dude, he’s always smiling and shit. I was like, “Oh, he got no distractions. No nothing.” ...it was maybe four of us in the studio and we just cooked up. Then, like two days later, we went back to 1801 Studios and he did like two more records.
How did you put this album together during a pandemic?
I feel like the pandemic actually helped the whole idea of this project because before the pandemic, I [was] trying to make records and then still deejay on the radio, deejay in the club, and move around so much that I couldn’t really focus 100%. I was like, “Yeah, I want to make the album,” and then, I’ll do one record and then wait another month to get another record done. I’d shoot a video, wait two months. It was just getting dragged out. During a pandemic, the clubs are closed. Now, I got nothing but time to shift my energy and focus on the project. Artists are still working. So, if we had to get an artist in the studio, if I had to pull up on someone, it was so much easier because there were no events going on, no concerts. It was easy to get access to the artist, they have more time to sit there and record. To me, it helped for both myself and for the artists.