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 2018, Sgt J and Erica Banks never worked on a single song together. By the end of 2020, he produced five of the 13 tracks on her self-titled project including the song that changed her life, “Buss It,” and has learned these hits come from discipline.
“She’s extremely picky with beats. If I play beats for her, she may like one beat. There’s plenty of times I played beats for her and she didn’t like any of them,” Sgt J told REVOLT.
In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” the “Buss It” producer explains how involved 1501 Certified Entertainment is with the rapper, a new project, and how the “Buss It” beat came to be. Peep the chat below!
How did you and Erica Banks link up?
We met in college at Texas A&M University-Commerce in 2018. I saw she dropped a freestyle to Tyga’s “Taste” on Twitter. We had mutual followers because we went to the same school. So, it was getting retweeted around and it was actually hard. I was thinking, “Next time I see her on campus, I’m going to go up to her and tell her what I do” because I was producing for a while already. After that, around January 2018, we started working. The same day I said something to her was the same day we started working… She’s always had the drive for this.
What was the first song you produced for her and how did you figure out her sound?
The first song I produced for her was called “Thousand.” It was a sort of R&B record. It wasn’t about trying to make a sound. It was me creating from my perspective, sending them out to her, and her picking out of that. I wasn’t hands-on with the recording process until June 2020. Before that, she recorded everything with an engineer named Max Media. During that process, I was sending beats to her.
I saw a video of you working on the “Buss It” beat. How did it end up with Erica?
I made the beat to “Buss It” in November 2019. I made it originally for BeatKing. He didn’t agree with the Nelly sample. The day after I made the beat and went home, I asked him if he wanted it and he didn’t respond. BeatKing and I were working and had that video of me making the beat on an IG story. Erica saw that and said, “Send me this beat. I like that.” After that, I sent it to her.
I’m also a DJ, so I made it from a DJ perspective. At my college, I heard DJ Sammy B loop that end part. He was playing “Hot In Herre” at a college party, looped that “butt getting big” part, and then mixed it with another song…After that, I went and made it.
What did you notice about how she made music?
Her first song was in 2018. She wasn’t too set in stone with a process. She doesn’t have to have it a certain way. She was flexible. She’s not strict with how she works. It was never a clashing of the way we work. We were learning from each other. I learned how she liked to be recorded over time. She’s extremely picky with beats. If I play beats for her, she may like one beat. There’s plenty of times I played beats for her and she didn’t like any of them.
What’s the usual vibe in the studio with Erica? What does she need?
Weed and Henny. She loves Hennessy, I don’t know why. She likes to drink to get in her element because most of her songs are fun and she embodies that. Of course, it depends on her vibe because she’s versatile, as well. She has different vibes and settings for whatever song she’s doing. If we’re doing a normal session, we’re going to have fun and enjoy ourselves. It’s usually me, Kelly T — the head engineer at 1501 — Carl [Crawford], D Boy, and Doe Doe.
When is the quickest y’all have made a song?
She finishes songs very fast. She’ll freestyle write. She’ll hear the beat for the first time, write to it right there, and have the song done in 30 minutes maybe.
At the peak of you two recording together, how often did she record?
She was coming every day or every other day. She was in there very frequently. But, she had to focus on more stuff, so that changed. She still is in the studio.
What’s your most memorable session with her?
I know when we made “Toot That” I lost my Instagram account that same day. I was locked out of it. I restarted my IG last January. I pulled up on her that same night and we made it from scratch. Me and Dee Mac made that right there in front of her.
How involved is she when it comes to crafting a beat from scratch?
She’s more of someone to say, “I don’t like that” or “take that out.” She’s not like, “We need to have a bell.” She’s not particular about what sounds should be in there, but she will nominate sounds like a cowbell. She’s not afraid of being vocal about the process. Some people will let the producer do what he doing and they’ll work with it. She’s not going to work with it.
Erica is the first major artist being pushed from 1501 Certified Entertainment since Megan Thee Stallion. How involved were they in the studio?
A lot of this music y’all are hearing now was already recorded before 1501 was involved. Some of them were after. The ones recorded before were “Hell Naw,” “Buss It,” and “Toot That.” The music going forward has everyone hands-on. D Boy, one of our A&Rs, is hands-on. Carl is in the studio with us giving his opinion, as well. “Beat It Up” and “All Of These Hoes” were after 1501.
Did she get involved with 1501 in April?
How has her recording schedule changed because of her live performances?
It happens when necessary. I duck off to the studio, but she has a lot to take care of as an artist. For me, I’m a producer, so studio time is the main objective. She has other elements she has to focus on: clothes, makeup, hair. Most of the time, we don’t have time on the road to sit in the studio. We’ll schedule to get in the studio, but it’s not usually the focus, as of now.
Are you working on a full-length project with her now?
Yeah. We’re two years better now. We’ve been working this whole time to refine the sound and give a more polished version. That’s the goal with the next album. I’m trying to give a refined version of what’s already out.
How did the studio help develop your relationship together?
Overall, that’s like my little sister. It started on business, but she ended up becoming my little sister.