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.

Brendan “Bren” Ferry turned 21 years old on July 3, and was given the late birthday gift of his first plaque for his work on YBN: The Mixtape and YBN Cordae’s The Lost Boy. Fans may hear the latter project as 15 audio delicacies to consume. However, Bren hears more than 15 months of endless recording that literally changed his life.

“When he really started popping off and moved to L.A. in June, I was back in Maryland. He was like, ‘Yo, bro. You have to move out here. We have to finish this album. We have to work on things,” Bren told REVOLT TV. “Within four days, I was moved out to L.A. I slept on my boy’s couch for two months, got my apartment and shit, and it was a big change.”

In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” Bren talks about studio time with Diddy, Chance the Rapper and Cordae’s freestyle sessions, and the unreleased songs that were created while making The Lost Boy.

You and Cordae started working together early last year. When did you know you two were recording The Lost Boy?

He was getting shouted out by [YBN] Nahmir on his ‘gram. His shit was going way up. Cordae dropped the ‘My Name Is’ remix and then, he did the J. Cole remix [‘Old Niggas’]. After that is when he got signed and the label was like, ‘Let’s start working on this project.’ That’s when we started locking in. The album has songs we did from February of last year when we first locked in. ‘Been Around’ is from February of last year. We really started locking in from around November until late June.

How was the making of the album ?

There were times where he would wake me up at 4 a.m. like, ‘Yo, we have to record this shit.’ It was a long process. He doesn’t record like these other rappers where they make songs in 10 minutes. He sits down and — bar for bar — makes sure every word is pronounced right and hits right. We’ll make one song the whole night. We’re making sure the production on that song is perfect. We’re making sure every syllable is perfect. He’s very precise when it comes to engineering.

It’s a very serious process. He’s very serious in the studio. He gets annoyed if something slows down the creative process. He doesn’t like anybody else in the studio. It’s just him. It’s not like a boot camp. It’s fun, but very serious at the same time.

A fan favorite from the album is ‘Bad Idea’ with Chance the Rapper. How did that come about?

That’s a funny story. The original name was ‘Bad Idea,’ then he was like, ‘I want to call it ‘Never Went Home.’ Then, he was like, ‘Fuck it. I want to call it ‘Bad Idea.’’ He had his own hook on there. Then, he had another singer record a hook. Then, he had another singer record a hook. He liked all of them, but he didn’t feel the vibe compared to the rest of the album. He had a mini-tour sometime between March – May this year where he went to D.C., New York, and Chicago. I had to follow him there because we were going to the studio every night.

So, we went to Chicago and that’s when Chance did his verse. Chance did his verse and Cordae was like, ‘Alright, we have to get this hook because Chance gave us this fire ass verse.’ That’s when we pulled up on Inglewood SiR and he murdered the fucking hook. That’s how it went. It was a long ass process.

How were Chance and Cordae like in the studio while working together?

Cordae is a very talkative person and Chance is obviously a very open person, too. They were really talking a lot. They got into really deep conversations and picked each other’s brains and stuff. Chance kind of runs his studio like a workshop. His producers are over there working on something and we’re over here recording. There are people over there doing something. It was really cool seeing how he runs his studio. He was still working on his album [The Big Day] when we were there. It was bang-bang. He did a song for Cordae and Cordae did a song for him.

For ‘Bad Idea,’ Chance was kind of quiet. He was kind of freestyling to the beat and listening to it. Then, he was like, ‘Yeah, this is the one,’ and he just went in there. I don’t think he wrote it. It probably took him 45 minutes. He and Cordae were just freestyling on some fun shit and Chance the Rapper is a pretty good freestyler (laughs).

What big artist did you play the album for in the studio?

In early February, Diddy invited Cordae over to his house in L.A. and we played the album for him. The album was halfway done. Diddy was giving us advice about where we should go with it. Diddy played us some shit and then, Cordae ended up doing some reference tracks for him for a Katy Perry record.

Wait. Cordae did a reference for a Diddy verse on a Katy Perry record?

Yeah. Exactly. I fucks with it. It sounds like a really big record.

What was the biggest challenge of recording the album?

I’d say the biggest challenge for recording the album was going to different studios. I don’t think we were in the same studio for two nights straight. We’ll be at Paramount Recording Studios and then, we’ll be at some bootleg ass studio in some warehouse. Then, he’ll go to Arizona for a show, I’d have to go with him, and we’d be at some other shitty studio. I really had to be in those studios and make them sound as good as they did the other day in Paramount.

He’d be like, ‘Yo, Bren, my vocals aren’t sounding right.’ But, we’ll be in a terrible ass studio. So, the things I usually do aren’t making it sound good, and I have to go to the next step as an engineer and be like, ‘OK, damn. I have to add this now and then, it’ll sound good.’ I’m put in these different environments where I have to pull shit out of my ass. I’d be like, ‘I learned this back in the day, so let me pull this out. I know this mic placement might be better than that mic placement. I know this EQ has a different tonality than this EQ. Things like that, that I’ve learned helped me in bad studios.

Common (left) and YBN Cordae (right) in the studio

I also saw pictures of Common and Cordae in the studio. Are there any unreleased songs from the time you guys were recording The Lost Boy?

There was a good amount. He has this joint with Common. He has a joint with Logic. Common actually got on a remix to Cordae’s ‘What’s Life?’ song that he put out on YouTube on December 2018.

Did Cordae say anything to you about his vision for the album?

We’re very in tune with one another. If he’s making a song, he wouldn’t have to tell me what it’s about. I could already tell. We’re more than engineer and artist, we live together. I have a really good connection to how he feels in the studio.

Cordae is really introspective on this album with songs like ‘Thanksgiving’ and ‘Family Matters.’ Were there any emotionally driven sessions?

One of the sessions that was really emotional was when he was recording ‘Wintertime.’ It was the first song we recorded after the label said it was time to make an album. It was the first song Cordae wrote after that. I knew from then, that this was going to be something special. Also, when we recorded ‘Family Matters.’ We recorded the choir, instruments and were so happy because everything came together so well.

What would you say is the most memorable session from making the album?

When he recorded ‘Thousand Words.’ We recorded that around 6 a.m. It was such a vibe. The sun was coming up and we saw a little sunrise. It wasn’t light outside, it was a little dark, and he’s recording this kind of really slow, emotional song and he’s spitting real shit. I really liked how I had his vocals sounding. The ‘Family Matters’ session was really joyful because it was an upbeat song, and we had a couple of different producers in there giving off ideas of how the instruments could break off and come in. I’m recording a bass and a guitar at the same time, and a live piano. It was a cool vibe.

What do you do specifically for Cordae’s vocals on his songs when you’re mixing them?

He doesn’t like a lot of reverb and dry autotune shit. He likes dry, upfront vocals. From the jump, you need a great recording of his vocals and the compressor settings are crucial for him. He knows. He mixed his vocals back in the day, so he’ll tell me, ‘That’s too much compression, Bren.’ I’ll be like, ‘Damn, I didn’t think he’d hear that.’ A lot of rappers just want to get that shit down. They just want it to sound decent.

With Cordae, I make sure his vocals sound very, very clear. It’s mostly the compressor. I’ll run his vocals back through the board and get some EQ in it. Recording-wise, I’ll focus on the high end on his vocals and the compressor settings. Those are my two keys.

Were you at the session with Meek and Cordae for their ‘We Gon Make It’ collaboration?

No, I wasn’t. That’s a funny story. Meek got on that song a week before we had to turn in the album. We were at the house and Cordae was like, ‘Yo, I’m about to pull up on Meek real quick. You want to come?’ We were still finishing the album. We had our producer and this other keyboardist at the studio, and I was the only one with the sessions. So, I was like, ‘I have to run to the studio because we have to finish this production and shit.’ Cordae was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah. I forgot about that. Go over there. I’m going to go link up with Meek, do this song, and then come over there.’ It was the last song recorded.

In January, Dr. Dre recorded a video praising Cordae. What did that mean to you two?

That was a crazy moment. We were probably 30% done with the album. I remember he came back to the house like, ‘Yo, I just linked up with Dre.’ This shit is crazy. Later, when he really started popping off and moved to L.A. in June, I was back in Maryland. He was like, ‘Yo, bro. You have to move out here. We have to finish this album. We have to work on things. Within four days, I was moved out to L.A. I slept on my boy’s couch for two months, got my apartment and shit, and it was a big change.

In the first week I moved to L.A., on the third day, he texted me, ‘Pull through to the studio. I’m with Mike Dean (a legendary engineer).’ I pull up to the studio, open the door and the first person I see is Mike Dean. He said, ‘Hi, I’m Mike Dean,’ and shakes my hand. It was the first week I moved out to L.A. We knew things like this were coming.

Bren (left), YBN Cordae (right)

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