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 Kato On The Track had everyone from Alicia Keys to Nicole Scherzinger participating in the TikTok challenge for the “So Pretty” track he produced, he was working with future stars anywhere they decided to set up a studio.
“Jack [Harlow] was in Atlanta and staying at a hotel. I hit him up and he told me to pull up to the hotel, and they had a little hotel studio set up. They had monitors, laptops, and mini-keyboards,” Kato told REVOLT.
In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” the producer discusses how he made a beat out of random sounds for Red Bull Mystery Pack, Joyner Lucas’ picky beat selection, and how he made the viral TikTok smash “So Pretty.” Read below.
Who was the first major artist you were in the studio with?
I remember my first session with a major artist when I moved to Atlanta was with Lil Scrappy. My homie and I were working on a song together and he got a feature from Scrap. We pulled up to his studio, he recorded it, and that was my first time in the studio with a major artist. Everything in the studio that night was new to me because I hadn’t been in the studio with a real artist before that. I remember Scrap walked in with this big ass fur coat on (laughs). I was like, “Shit, that’s Lil’ Scrappy!” I was so hype. That’s the main thing I remember. This must’ve been between 2008-2010.
You also linked up with Joyner Lucas in 2014. How did you connect with him?
He actually entered my rap contest. Every year since 2012, I held an online rap contest called No Sucka MCs. That was my way of discovering and curating new aspiring talent. Joyner entered the contest at the last minute, and people didn’t know who he was back then. As soon as I heard his bars, I knew he was the winner. After he won, he flew out to Atlanta, came over to the crib and he told me he was working on a project. I started playing him beats and I thought those were my hottest beats. I was ready to go in, But, Joyner was next to me and there was no expression on his face (laughs). I kept running through the beats and eventually he stops me to say, “Kato, stop playing me your throwaway beats.” I was like, “Damn!” So, I started playing him the different stuff and he started to get into it. We ended up recording on a few beats I played for him that ended up making his Along Came Joyner project. That was our first time working together.
What did you notice about his creative process?
What I can remember is he’s pickier than other artists with his beats. He has a pretty good idea of what direction he wants to go. That’s why it takes him a minute to find that perfect sound. But, as soon as he hears it, he knows it. He’s one of those artists who have a clear vision for his music.
How quickly did you two record the first songs?
He took the beats back with him to Massachusetts, but it wasn’t long before he sent me the demos he cut. It’s a pretty quick process.
You recently made beats out of random sounds for Red Bull Mystery Pack. What was the process like?
I won’t lie, it was a challenge. I never did anything like that. These were sounds you would typically never make music with. There was a cell phone vibrating, sword, and other left-field sounds. So, you have to be really, really creative to do something with these. I’m always up for a good challenge. As soon as I made the beat, I thought Lizzo would be super dope on it. I personally want to work with her.
How long did it take to put the entire beat together?
It took about an hour. When I’m in music mode in the studio, I have no real concept of time when I’m making beats. I’d shop this beat to people. As far as doing it again, I’d do it again. I would take elements of what I did during Mystery Pack and incorporate them into my creative process.
You were also in the studio with B.o.B. How’d you two connect?
I connected with B.o.B through Playboy Tre who is B.o.B’s homie. I also got to work with B.o.B on a record for Jarren Benton’s Yuck Fou album I was producing on Roc Nation. We got B.o.B. on a record called “Godzilla.” I would keep in touch. Then, B.o.B. randomly reached out to me one day and wanted to get up in the studio. I remember he was at a pizza shop, called me, and said, “Yo, you want to get up and swamp samples, loops, and shit?” I remember linking up with him at a pizza shop listening to stuff on our headphones. B.o.B. is super cool and down to earth. It was interesting being in the studio with him and seeing his creative process.
Did you record any songs in those sessions?
Yeah, and I want to get him on my new album.
Speaking of Jarren Benton, you’ve worked extensively with him more than almost any other artist.
He’s the first artist I worked with consistently. We were more so on the same level back then. We clicked creatively. A lot of fans who know me know me from his work with Jarren and our almost decade history of work. We developed that sort of producer-artist relationship and that got my name out there especially after he got the XXL freshman look.
You’ve also worked with Jack Harlow before he had fame. What do you remember about a pre-fame him?
I connected with Jack in 2015/2016 through a mutual friend. Jack was in Atlanta and staying at a hotel. I hit him up and he told me to pull up to the hotel, and they had a little hotel studio set up. They had monitors, laptops, and a mini-keyboard. I pulled up, played him some beats, and we chopped it up for a little bit.
Are there any other memorable studio sessions you have?
On TikTok, I had a record go viral called “So Pretty.” The girl who recorded on that track lives in Melbourne, Australia. We had a virtual session. It was late as hell in Atlanta, but it was the middle of the day for her in Australia. We ended up doing a five-hour virtual Zoom session while she was in the studio. The song went viral and we ended up getting Tyga on the remix.
How did you put your upcoming album together?
I definitely have some dope features. I got Houston legend Paul Wall on a record. I’m honored to have him on my album. I have a number of notable people on the album. I was working with my team who have a good ear for music. They’ve introduced me to new artists and songwriters. A lot of the making of the album was virtual because I wasn’t trying to pull up to a studio in the middle of a pandemic. It’s been really dope. It may come out towards the end of May or early June.