Studio Sessions | eMIX talks working with Megan Thee Stallion on ‘Suga,’ JT recording before her prison stint, Rick Ross and more
In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” eMIX details the twerking sessions that created Megan’s ‘Suga,’ JT’s last recording session before she turned herself in in 2018, and how hard it is to get JAY-Z on a song — unless you’re Rick Ross or DJ Khaled.
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.
For 17 years, Eddie “eMIX” Hernandez has helped mold the sound of Miami hip hop by engineering for Uncle Luke, DJ Khaled, and Rick Ross. So, when Megan came to the city to work on some music, which eventually ended up on Suga, he was ready.
“I think this was going to be for her album, but because of the situation, they pushed out the EP. Maybe it was because they wanted to make sure the music actually got released. We knew immediately after she recorded them and listened back that this is for the album,” Hernandez told REVOLT.
In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” eMIX details the twerking sessions that created Megan’s Suga, JT’s last recording session before she turned herself in in 2018, and how hard it is to get JAY-Z on a song.
You recorded Megan thee Stallion on “Savage” and “Hit My Phone” from Suga. When did you two start working together?
I met Megan because I probably did the last six Gucci Mane albums from top to bottom. She came in to do the “Big Booty” feature on Woptober II. She was hesitant in the beginning because she had her own engineer, but he couldn’t come. She didn’t know who I was. After we did that song, she immediately felt the connection. We all vibed. We worked well together. We did three more records that night. I did her feature on that “Pose” record with Yo Gotti and the “Diamonds” record with her and Normani. After we got that feature out that way and she liked how everything was sounding, and the vibe, she was like, “Hey, I got these other records. Are you down to do them?” I was like, “Yeah, let’s knock them out.”
How quickly did she record all of those verses?
She actually knocked them out. I think she had the other two written. I think the only one she didn’t have written was the “Pose” record. But, the other two, she had in the tuck. I guess she was waiting to do them when she felt comfortable. She’s a lyricist’s lyricist and a rapper’s rapper. She takes pride in that. She ain’t there to play or waste time. After that, we booked another session and she came down. That’s when we knocked out “Hit My Phone” and “Savage.” She did “Savage” on the spot…maybe took an hour.
J. White produced “Savage” and was in the building. So, he was actually producing at the same time. It wasn’t even like we were waiting on her. The whole collaboration was going on at the same time. We were building as the song was forming. While he was laying down the snares and the kicks, she was writing to the skeleton of the beat. Once he had the production all ready and sent it over to me, she was ready to go. She had all her writing done. Her recording? She knocks them things out. She tries to one take them for the most part. We might do a punch here and there, but it’s really minimal. This was a couple of months back. Maybe January or late December.
Did you know she was recording for a project or was it just recording songs?
You know the vibe in the room when you have solid records that are going to make it. We didn’t necessarily know when [it was coming out]. Because of the situation that’s going on now, I believe they pushed it. I think this was going to be for her album, but because of the situation, they pushed out the EP. Maybe it was because they wanted to make sure the music actually got released. We knew immediately after she recorded them and listened back that this is for the album.
Her personality is so big on TV and social media. What is she like in the studio?
She’s got that same energy (laughs). Honestly, at this point, I really don’t record a lot of people. I’m more of a mixer now. But, because of her energy, when she came in and how we vibed, she got me excited. She gets everybody excited in the room. What is it? “Drive The Boat?” She makes sure everybody takes a shot.
Wait, you drove the boat in the studio?
We all did. You had to (laughs). The session doesn’t start until that happens. Her energy is infectious. We really feel like a team. We want to do our best because we love the energy that’s coming from the session. If she’s liking the record, she’s going to twerk, her homegirls are going to come in and they’re going twerk. I’ve gotten in spots in the studio where I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing (laughs). She has a dope spirit about her, too.
Rick Ross has numerous songs with JAY-Z features. How many were you in the studio for?
Honestly, a lot of them were sendoffs. The timing is always weird because it’s when JAY is on vacation and he’s always in some exotic location. Besides “Maybach Music 1,” I’ve been part of all the other JAY-Z/Rick Ross features. I definitely was there with “F*ckwitmeyouknowigotit.” But, the thing about JAY is…JAY is JAY. So, he has everything going on. But, he always has a genuine love for Ross. JAY doesn’t really give a fuck about your release date. He’ll do it when he does it. So, to kind of put the pressure on him, Ross would go out of his way to say, ‘We’re going up to hit JAY. We’re going in the studio to play this shit for him.’ Since JAY has that respect for him, JAY would allow it. I’m pretty sure Ross has the most JAY-Z features from someone not on the Roc. It always feels like it’s not going to happen. We’ve had stories of him being in Paris or him being in Australia.
Let’s hear one of those stories.
“Free Mason.” JAY always waits to the last minute. He might’ve done the verse two months ago, he’s still not going to send it in until damn near the week of the deadline. In my humble opinion from working with artists, if you send a feature in too early, that gives the main artist time to retool and go back in on his verse. By waiting until the last minute, before anybody hears anything, they don’t have any time to go back in. You have to live with what you put up. Teflon Don was crazy. We had a lot of things going on with Teflon Don deadline-wise. We were waiting on Erykah Badu vocals. We’d get these reports from Khaled like, “He did the verse.” Okay, boom, that’s in the can. We’re excited.
Then, literally, a week or two before we had to hand in the album, we heard something happened with the hard drive. Apparently, the hard drive got corrupted or something and now the verse is gone. They lost a whole bunch of files. We’re thinking, “What are we going to do?” Khaled is freaking out. He gets on the phone with him and JAY is on vacation with no studio. They had to rig something up for him and make a mobile studio at the last minute, so he can redo his vocals. He redid his vocals and sent them to us. That was major on a few levels. Getting a JAY-Z verse is crazy. But, for him to go back in and redo them is damn near unprecedented.
For “F*ckwitmeyouknowigotit,” how did you feel while you were engineering and JAY was there?
Super stressed out to just hear that on today’s schedule is to see JAY and play him these records. These are my rough mixes. These are my works. I always took it as personal as Ross did. This is sort of like our work. At the end of the day, when it was me and Ross, it was just me and Ross. We’d have some people pop in, but this was almost like a Batman and Robin. He’s going to give me his vision of what he wants and I have to bring that to life. We’re in New York, go to Jungle Studios while he’s working on Magna Carta. JAY was the dopest person I could imagine him to be. When I walked in, I was behind Ross. As an engineer coming in with an artist, and you have no prep time, you’re just trying to scurry over to where you have to go and set up.
So, I’m trying to get around Ross to get to the desk to start plugging up. JAY says, “What’s up?” to Ross and then immediately went right to me, looked me dead in my eye, extended his hand and was like, “What’s good? A pleasure to meet you.” That surprised the shit out of me. At the end of the day, I don’t expect that from any of the artists. For the most part, I’m like the background crew. I’m just there making sure everything is moving smoothly. So, for him to go out of his way to extend his hand and sincerely greet me was major to me. It’s almost like he knows his power, so he wields it in a way where even I would feel welcomed.
Since you’ve worked with Ross for more than 15 years, what does he like to have in the studio?
A lot of pre-rolled blunts of grape Swishers with the loudest gas. A yellow legal pad to write on. He has a couple of pens, so he doesn’t run out of ink. He’s a writer writer. That’s really all it is. As long as you got that gas pre-rolled and extra notepads, he’s usually ready to go. Besides that, not a lot of people in the room. Sometimes when we had a lot of people in the room and he felt he couldn’t kick everybody out because maybe Puff was there, we’d be in headphones, so only he and I could hear what’s recording.
What’s your most memorable recording session with him?
One that always stuck out to me was the “BMF” record. That was a big record because we were working on Teflon [Don] at the time. Certain artists crank up when it’s album time. Ross works continuously throughout the year and we’ll compile music. We’ll literally have about 100 songs and whittle them down to 15 and whittle that down to 12. Then, we’d record more to try to beat that 12. Being that we had so much music, he wanted to release a mixtape. That was Albert Anastasia mixtape if I’m not mistaken. We already previewed some to Puff and he was already pissed because he was like, “This should not be a mixtape. This is too strong. This needs to be an album.” We already had “MC Hammer” done. We had one more song to do, “BMF.” We did it on a Wednesday after he flew in the night before, after doing a show and was super hoarse. We went right into the studio in his house in Miami, and went to try and knock it out.
It did not go well. His voice was shot. It was breaking up. He could barely talk. He had a flight in the morning on a six o’clock flight, so he was like, ‘Crash here. I’m going wake up at like 5 and we’re going to knock this shit out.’ I had to mix and master it and turn it in to our promo team so they could print up the physical copies because that was Memorial Day Weekend. He wanted them printed and ready on Thursday so we could have them circulating all weekend. He wakes up at five in the morning, still sounds like shit. We almost didn’t do it. Then, we both kind of said fuck it. I think he asked me, ‘If I just do it, do you think you can clean it up?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, fuck it.’ He just pushed it out. We figured since he was so hoarse, if he stayed at a lower tone it would break up. But, if he yelled it, it would push. His voice in that recording is probably the most hoarse it’s ever been, but I think it added to the energy and intensity of it.
At that point, I’m pressured because I need to put this project out. He’s like, “I need to get this shit done.” So, he’s flying to Atlanta, and I do my rough mix on it and I did those delays on it. There are gaps where he says, “I think I’m Big Meech… Larry Hoover.” When I sent it to him, the first comment I get from him is, “Take them delays off.” At that point, honestly, I told him they sounded dope, but whatever. Then, 20 minutes later, he hits me back like, “Yo, the shit’s kind of cool. Keep them.” That was a lot of how we worked. It would start out with me trying something and him telling me that wasn’t the vibe and then, later on, it grew on him.
You also recorded JT before she turned herself in to prison in 2018. What was that session like?
Their engineer couldn’t show up that day. I didn’t know anything about her having to turn herself in the next day. They just asked me if I could do it. I was like, “Cool.” it wasn’t just the night before she had to turn herself in. Drake’s Scorpion had just dropped with “In My Feelings” with City Girls on it. It was weird, bittersweet kind of moment. They showed up at midnight after the album dropped. So, they came in with energy and they were like, “This is big.” They made it on Drake’s album. They were super excited and super dope. She was there with Caresha for a while, but then Caresha left. I give JT a lot of props because the session was all about her knocking out her obligations before she had to go in. So, she knocked out about six records that night. She did features and entire songs. A credit to her is she did all her writing. They had people there to help her, but she was shooting them down. They were like, “Why don’t you say something like this?” She’ll be like, “Man, that shit is wack” and write her own shit. But, by the time we got to the second to last song, you could tell the tone went down and reality set in that she had to go home to get ready, and go straight to turn herself in.
What else do you have coming up?
I’m still working with Gucci. I’m also working with a lot of up-and coming-guys out of Miami. Right now, I’m doing Tafia’s first EP after signing to Dreamchasers. I’m mixing a guy named Bobby Fiscale who recently signed to Roc Nation. I like to work with cats I think have the potential to be big. I knew Ross before he had “Hustlin.” The first record I ever mixed or recorded Ross on was an Uncle Luke record called “Oh My God.” I’m in the last generation of cats from Miami that come from that cloth of Disco Rick, Trick Daddy, JT Money, and Uncle Luke. I‘ve engineered for all of them.
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