Studio Sessions | DJ K.i.D talks DaBaby recording through pain, ‘KIRK,’ his unique sound and more
In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” the man behind the boards for DaBaby explains how the star tapped into pain for his music, how he records nonstop, and much more. Read here!
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.
Pain doesn’t always paralyze. DJ K.i.D knows this well because it wasn’t too long after DaBaby’s father passed away — the same week Nipsey Hussle died earlier this year — that the North Carolina rapper was back in the studio recording.
“It may have been a week and a half after. Ain’t shit change about bruh and that’s the thing about him,” K.i.D told REVOLT TV about DaBaby. “For a regular person, something that dramatic would put a hitch in their character. But, bruh doesn’t change.”
In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” the man behind the boards for DaBaby explained how the star tapped into pain on a cruise with Lil Nas X and Cardi B, how he recorded weeks after Baby on Baby dropped, and much more. Read the interesting conversation below.
How did you and DaBaby link up?
I’ve known him for about a year. We first linked up at [The Biggest Pregame Block Party] at East Carolina University [on September 1, 2018]. I’m deejaying, Stimp comes down and DaBaby’s DJ at the time couldn’t make it to the event. So, his DJ hit me up like, ‘Yo, Kid. I need you to deejay this event for me. I can’t catch my flight on the way down there.’ DaBaby pulled up with his manager, who I already knew, and his homeboy was like, ‘I got this little DJ that’s under me that I just started fucking with. He can do bruh’s set.’
I was 18 or 19 at the time. His manager came to me and said, ‘I guess you’re going to be doing Baby’s set. Here’s his music.’ He handed me a flash drive with all of [DaBaby’s] music on it. It wasn’t broken up into sections. There wasn’t a folder that said, ‘Show Set.’ I didn’t know what he wanted to perform…or any of that. But, pretty much, he’ll hint at certain songs during the performance and I’d know where he’d want to go. We were in sync from the jump.
So, when did your working relationship go from the stage to the studio?
The first time we linked in the studio was probably a couple of months after that. I was engineering at his DJ’s studio and I was the head engineer. When DaBaby and I hopped on the road for the ‘Baby on Baby Tour,’ he saw that I was multi-talented as a DJ, producer, and engineer. He was the first one to see me as a star. So, as soon as we got on the road, we bought some raw ass microphones from [Neumann] U 87 and U 67 mics to the big Sony microphones. We had studio equipment that’s better than big ass studios with million-dollar budgets. When we hopped on the road, we said, ‘If we can’t get in the studio, fuck it, we got the studio with us. We’re just going to plug up at the hotel or wherever.’
What were those recording sessions like on the road?
He might record right before the show and we go onstage. Then, he’d record after we hop off stage or right before we’re supposed to hop on a jet. It was broken up into certain time sections.
How much of the album was recorded in hotel rooms?
Almost everything from the album. Everything, but a few. We did ‘POP STAR,’ ‘GOSPEL’ and RAW SHIT’ with the Migos in L.A.
Let’s get into KIRK. No better place to start than that intro you produced. How did that come together?
Producers were sending him beats that sounded like ‘Suge,’ but Baby is so much of an artist that you can’t put him in a box of just being ‘Suge.’ I get on my laptop and I think, ‘Let me put together a beat that’s going to put Baby in a different realm that I know he can snap on.’ I wanted him to put the shit people don’t get to see from him on the beat. That’s when I came up with the melody.
We were on the DJ Khaled’s ‘Days of Summer’ cruise in The Bahamas with Lil Nas X and Cardi B. I ended up playing the beat and it was hella people in there at the time. He heard it and started rapping, ‘Thinking about my grandmama and shit. I got the No. 1 record. They acknowledge the jit.’ He was like, ‘Yo, this record is so big, I don’t even want to finish this shit in the room’ because you could tell the vibes just changed. Everybody in the room was like, ‘This nigga about to spit some real shit’ and niggas were being weird. That wasn’t the right environment for it. We ended up finishing the record in a hotel room. That’s why he has that different, aggressive vibe in the second verse.
Even though the second verse is more aggressive, I can’t believe he was able to tap into those emotions in the first verse on a tropical cruise.
But, it’s different between him and me when we lock in. When we record in the studio, he already has the mic outside the booth because it’s a little more personal. He can be himself. He’s talking his shit and he doesn’t write his shit. Everything you hear is coming right out of his mind. For him to still be able to channel back into those same feelings — he had in a whole different location — and tap into those same feelings he had about his father and his brothers that he was speaking on in the song, while we’re [recording] in a hotel about to leave and go get on a jet is almost amazing.
What was his mood like recording that intro in those two sessions?
Everything you hear on that track is basically the conversations we were having. It was happening right there live in your face. When I’m recording him, he’ll say some shit and you’ll see by my facial expression that I think, ‘Damn, that shit’s hard as hell.’ He’ll look at me and nod like, ‘Yeah, that’s what’s going on.
He dropped KIRK less than seven months after he dropped Baby on Baby. When did you know you were working on KIRK?
He didn’t even come up with the name until probably the week that it dropped. We were just recording. He doesn’t stop recording. He’s a machine. I’ll keep it hot with you, the nigga was so raw that you knew everything he was recording was going on the album. After Baby on Baby dropped, he was so hungry to drop some more shit, he was like, ‘I’m going to drop some more shit. I already see how good this shit going.’ He couldn’t wait to put out another project. He probably started recording again two weeks after Baby on Baby. After we did a couple of press runs and got on tour, we were recording.
On ‘INTRO,’ he said he lost his father the same week Nipsey passed earlier this year. How soon after that was he back in the studio working on music?
It may have been a week and a half after. Ain’t shit change about bruh and that’s the thing about him. For a regular person, something that dramatic would put a hitch in their character. But, bruh doesn’t change. Everything about him was still solid. He’s hungry. I haven’t seen anyone like this in a while.
He pulled out some huge features for this album. How did ‘GOSPEL’ with Chance the Rapper, Gucci Mane and YK Osiris come about?
He got those features off the strength of the relationships he’s built. People fuck with him because he’s a genuine dude. YK Osiris pulled up and did his part. I think we were there when Chance did his verse. We were just in another room working on a different feature. I think we were doing a feature with Stunna [4 Vegas] and somebody else. Kevin Gates pulled up and did his part [for ‘POP STAR.’]
What’s a typical session with DaBaby like?
We plug up. It’s a microphone, some water, he and I. That’s what it is.
What’s the most impressive thing he’s done in the studio?
He does all types of shit. People don’t understand that he can sing. He can sing, rap, freestyle. He comes off the dome and has these heavy ass bars that might take a regular nigga a whole day to figure out.
DaBaby has such a unique and animated voice, and the beats sound fit just for him. How important is it for you two to collaborate to achieve that sound?
He trusts me to the point where if I hear a drop and I take the beat out right there, he’ll be like, ‘Cool. I fuck with it.’ If he doesn’t fuck with it, he’ll let me know to switch it up. He’s a lot more hands-on with his shit than any artist I’ve worked with. He’ll let you know what he wants to hear. He knows his sound. When he made ‘THERE HE GO,’ people are probably not going to know what he’s saying in that one part of the hook. I ain’t going to say what it is because we have some plans with it. It just sounds so different. He practically crafted that sound where it sounds like multiple voices.
How has DaBaby made you better?
We push each other to be better. He definitely pushes me to be better by moving faster on the [mixing] boards, being able to mix on the fly and shit like that.
His celebrity is getting bigger and KIRK just officially went No. 1. Have y’all been back in the studio yet?
Absolutely. Bruh, we were recording the day before KIRK dropped. We made that song I produced — he put a snippet on his Instagram.
Can a DJ K.i.D and DaBaby collab tape work?
Of course. Come on now, bruh. We’re the hottest label in the game. Everybody over here is a superstar. Anything you think can work will work. The relationship between [DaBaby and I] is so tight that a tape together is nothing. That’s already on the way.
What’s your best talent? What do you have coming up in the next year?
I can’t really say what’s my best talent because I’m so multi-faceted. I’m good at everything. I can really say I’m great at being that nigga.