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.
Rah Swish is one of the biggest artists in the New York drill scene — in part from sharpening his skills by collaborating with rappers like Pop Smoke.
In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” Swish discusses the making of Mayor of the Streets, recording with Pop Smoke, and what he learned from the TrackMasters. Peep the conversation below.
When did you work on Mayor of the Streets?
The way I made the project was by recording a lot. After a while, I realized I had enough songs to put together a project. I would say one song on the project was recorded at the end of 2020. Everything else came this year. Most of it was recorded this year. I just have a work ethic that’s crazy. I was locking in almost every day for this project.
You worked with legendary producers The TrackMasters who have worked with legends like Nas, Puff Daddy, and Foxy Brown. How did they help shape your project?
They let me know which beats hit harder, and what flows and cadences I should try instead of just sticking to the traditional style I do as far as being on the drill beats. They showed me how to switch it up and get different sounds and energy.
Which song did they inspire you to try to have a different sound?
I’d say “El Otro.” That right there was more of a trap beat and the flow I gave is a little slower for me. I did one of JAY-Z’s schemes in there. That was a real switch up from me to take it slow like that.
One of my favorite songs from you was “Feel Like Pop,” your tribute to Pop Smoke. What was your mindset in the studio while working on that song?
I feel I was in a different zone. That was a really dark time, but I was really in my bag. That was the point when I really started freestyling. I didn’t freestyle like that before. But, I freestyled on “Feel Like Pop,” and ever since then I’ve been freestyling. Everything was heartfelt on that song. Whatever I felt or had on my head, I said on the song.
What was your chemistry like in the studio with Pop Smoke?
It was pure competition because I first met Pop as me being the nigga that was rapping from the ‘hood. This was before he was rapping. He always told me, “Yo, I’m going to start rapping. I’m going to be the hottest nigga in the ‘hood. You’re going to see.” Every time I came to the studio with him, it would be that type of energy like, “Yeah, Rah. I’m on your heels.” He helped keep that competitive spirit in me because every time I had a session with him, I knew I had to talk that shit because I knew he was going to be talking that shit.
What’s your favorite session you ever had with him?
It’s a song that’s not even released or leaked. We did it the day he dropped Meet The Woo 2. We went to the studio after his album release party. We recorded some shit. That was one of my favorite sessions. It was a competition. He was on me while I was writing my verse. He kept annoying me like, “Yo, you’re still writing? Nigga, you’re wack.” We were drinking and partying. He was just like, “You’re not done yet? Nah, I’m about to violate you.” I was doing the same shit with him when he was having a hard time…coming up with stuff.
What’s a typical session for you?
When I walk in, I’m walking in with my favorite snacks. Those get the party started, M&Ms and apple juice. Definitely have to have some Casamigos before we start recording to get my mind right. Other than that, it’s just calm vibes. I’m usually with the gang. I don’t like too many people around me because when you’re recording and sometimes people will have their own conversation on the side. I’m like, “Nigga, you don’t hear me recording? I need a reaction. Is this hard? Is this shit weak?” I just have a couple of different people around me. I’ll have some weed, liquor, food, and shit like that. That’s it.
Were you able to be in the studio with Smokepurpp when you made the song “Knotz”?
Nah, I sent it to him because it was during [the pandemic] so he was in Miami and I was in New York. There was just a lot going on. But, his people and I are really cool. His manager tapped in with me. So, I got on FaceTime with [Smokepurpp] and he was like, “Yo, dawg, we got to do something. I fuck with your whole New York shit.” We got together like that. He probably sent the record back in about two weeks.
What was your creative chemistry like with Fetty Luciano when you were making “Woo Back (REMIX)”?
Fetty and I have a bunch of songs together. We’re always in the stu. The energy is created off of us just seeing each other. It’s a family vibe. We’re excited and hype. We’re just like, “Put this beat on.” What we’re coming up with is off pure energy. He’ll be like, “I’m about to say this,” and I’m like, “Oh shit. You’re going to say that? Aight, I’m coming like this.”
Who is somebody you’ll take advice from in the studio?
The whole TrackMasters team because those are the legends, so you have to take their advice. It’s not some miscellaneous friend being like, “Nah, bro, you should say this.” I’ll just be like, “Nigga, shut the fuck up (laughs).” If the Trackmasters are talking, you have to take note. Whether they want you to change a couple of words for your flow or if you have to rap fast or anything, all of that shit.
Who is an artist you’ve been in the studio with that would surprise people?
People would be surprised that Rotimi and I have a song together. That’s my boy right there. That’s an unreleased song. That shit going to shake the summer. We still have that coming, too. That’s a big summer vibe. It’s a lot going on. Rotimi and I speak all of the time. We’re both excited about that song coming out.
How involved are you in the production and mixing of your music?
I’m all the way involved with it. I have a template for when I record, but there are days when you’ll record and your voice will just change. I like to sit down and be a part of the mixing part. I’ll be asking to raise certain vocals and put a drop in the beat in other places. If I’m not there, someone tweaks my shit [and I] don’t like it, I’m going to have a fit. I just like to be part of it as much as possible. That’s part of the reason why I’m always in the studio. I’ll go to the studio six days out of the week, record for three days and I’ll be fixing up other shit on the other days.
How does Mayor of the Streets fit in your 2021 plans for music?
Honestly, I’m not sure if this will be my only project. I’m going to try to not make it my only project for the year. But, it’s another stepping stone to where I’m headed. In the beginning, I came out with a few singles and put on for the city. Now, this is the Mayor of the Streets tape and me coming like I’m the mayor in these streets. I have so many records, I’m just trying to figure out how we roll these out and how we go about them. It’s a lot going on, but I’m going to be here in everybody’s face for the rest of the year.
What was the last session you had with Pop?
Last time I spoke with him was like a week before he passed. He used to call me and talk about how he was buying cars and jewelry. He’d be like, “Yo, we have to go crazy. We’re about to go up.”