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.
Whether you’re streaming Baby Keem’s The Melodic Blue album or bingeing on FX’s “Dave,” it won’t take long to hear the production of Jasper Harris, a producer who knows what it takes to make classic music.
“[Kendrick Lamar and Baby Keem were] just shooting ideas off each other back and forth. They’re experimenting and freestyle. It was a very free creative environment. At one point, Kendrick gets on the mic and freestyles for 10 straight minutes,” Harris tells REVOLT.
In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” the 22-year-old producer explains how dropping out of school helped him work on “Dave,” Jack Harlow and Roddy Ricch’s recording speed, and working with Boi-1da. Read below!
What was the first studio session you had with a major artist?
Masego [in 2018]. It was very early in my career and I got a chance to do some production for him on a song called “Old Age” with this artist called SiR. He liked what I did on it. He was in New York and I was a freshman at NYU. He was the first artist I was in the studio with to witness the making of the music. Working with him is really hands-on and collaborative. It’s a lot of improvising and call-and-response along with us going back and forth musically. It’s like having a conversation musically. I’m originally a classical pianist. When I was young I did classical piano. In middle school and high school, I studied this instrument called the vibraphone. In high school, I got really serious about production and became a real nerd about music production.
You made the theme music for Lil Dickey’s “Dave” show at a really young age. How did you connect with him?
It was my sophomore year of college and I befriended this guy called Sam French. We connected on Instagram and he worked with a lot of people I had been working with, and I sent him a bunch of music. We developed this rapport and we would hang out all of the time. Eventually, he introduced me to Dave because he was a really good friend of Dave. He had been passing my beats along to Dave. He told me one day, “I think you’re ready to meet Dave and see where that goes.” I owe that to Sam, who is still my manager. I work a lot with my friend Jah. His real name is Jahnei Clarke but everyone calls him Jah. He and I actually did the “Old Age” song together for Masego. We actually did a bunch of songs together for Masego.
I make melodies, loops, and stuff, and Jah is really amazing at drums. I brought Jah along with me to Dave’s house for the first time and we ended up hanging out for a number of hours. We were being goofy and making jokes. It was one of my first big breaks in music, relationship-wise. Jah and I were super diligent about sending Dave our best stuff possible every week. We worked on his album all summer and at the end of the summer he told me, “I’m doing this TV show and I’d love for you to do the music for it.” I was like, “Cool, I’m going to go back to school and try to do it remote from New York.” But, a few days before I was supposed to go back to school, he literally called my parents and was like, “I changed my mind. I think you should stay and work on the show with me and see where it goes.” I ended up dropping out and it was the best decision I ever made. He introduced me to these guys Henry Kwapis and Jack Karaszewski, and they became my partners on the show for the music.
What’s your creative chemistry like with him?
He has a bit of a different process than different people. He’s never making songs in front of me. His process is very personal and he writes on his own. That’s how it goes. The way we work is we’ll get together and I’ll make 20-30 ideas in a row really quick. He’ll say what he likes, hum notes and melodies. He would guide me because he has a very strong ear. I’d send him 30 ideas a day, he’ll pick his 10 favorites and Jah would drum them up. Of those 10, maybe one song would come about. He’s very picky. Sometimes zen songs would come out.
Those sessions look like they get crazy at times. What are the goofy moments in the studio with a character like him?
We get really goofy in the studio. We’ll have laughing fits because everything he says is funny. We’ll also go on walks and drives to the store. Last week, we went to this comedy club and everyone freaked out. We watched amateur standup. We do shit like that. He’s down to explore, live, and get inspired. One time while we were in the “Dave” sessions working on the score we ordered $100 of chicken fingers (laughs). Who does that? That’s some pretty Dave shit.
You’ve also worked with Baby Keem, one of the most interesting new rappers of the last few years.
That has a funny story. One of the first people to ever give me the time of day in music is this A&R called Derrick Aroh at RCA Records. I somehow got a meeting with him when I was a freshman, and I was wide-eyed and wet behind the ears. So, I was asking him, “Can I send you beats and ideas for [Childish] Gambino?” He was like, “I don’t know about that but there’s this kid in Las Vegas who is a really good producer. His name is Hykeem [Carter]. I can connect you guys.” Later that day, I got a DM from Hykeem who told me, “Derrick told me we should work.” We started sending ideas back and forth. But, then the relationship sort of fizzled out a bit.
Fast forward two years later, I dropped out of school, was working on the “Dave” stuff, and Dave and I had become obsessed with this rapper called Keem. I used to listen to Keem’s album DIE FOR MY BITCH all the time. I think it’s the best rap album of the last few years. It’s a perfect album and the future of music. It was still early. “Orange Soda” hadn’t gone crazy. One day it clicked that Keem was the same dude as Hykeem, so we had this previous dialogue. I hit him like, “Congrats on everything.” The relationship fell away for a while, but I had his email from three years prior. So, I’d occasionally send him ideas. One day, six to eight months after that, he hit me like, “We should work on some stuff.” We developed a working relationship and the first time I went to the studio with him, we made a song with Kendrick [Lamar].
What song did you three work on?
One of the first songs we made was the original version of the end beat on “Range Brothers.” We made a song called “Rollie Gang” with Kendrick and it was really fire. But, they ended up subbing out the beat and changing the melody. I have videos of it too, it’s crazy.
What is their chemistry like making music together?
From my experience, it’s very positive. They’re just shooting ideas off each other back and forth. They’re experimenting and freestyle. It was a very free creative environment. At one point, Kendrick gets on the mic and freestyles for 10 straight minutes. In that particular moment, I was trying to take at the moment and be present.
Out of the artists you’ve worked with, who records the quickest?
Roddy Ricch always makes fast songs. Jack [Harlow] makes fast songs. Those guys have the quickest process I’ve ever seen. They’re prodigies in my opinion.
You produced Jack’s Big Sean collaboration “Way Out” from Jack’s debut album, That’s What They All Say. How did blend your creative process with Jack’s?
I love working with him. I think he’s the future, and I’d put all my money on Jack right now. I think he’s the best. Jack has a pretty solid creative process. He usually makes the song right then and there. At home, I take a really long time to make perfect ideas through and through, and that can be boring for an artist to witness so my process is much different when I’m around an artist. Usually, with an artist, I like to have tons of ideas ready to play for them, especially rappers. Jack pushes me to get outside of my comfort zone. We’ll use an idea I brought in, but he wants layers on it and ear candy. Jack’s all about ear candy and the things that make a record really tasteful. I try to keep up with him. For “Way Out,” I’ve been working with Jetsonmade for a long time before I knew Jack. I just saw Jetson was always in the studio with Jack, so I sent him that idea for “Way Out.” It was one of those moments when I saw he was in the studio, so I sent him a few ideas I thought would be good and the idea just ended up clicking. I originally thought the beat would be good for Rosalia. After I sent it over, I didn’t hear anything for a number of months. I was in the studio with Jetson six months later and he played me the record.
I have a good friend I work on a lot of stuff with named Angel Lopez. Angel and Jack had been working a lot and one day Angel was like, “Jack is in town and I told him you did ‘Way Out’ and he’s down to have you come to the studio.” In that sense, “Way Out” was how I ended up getting to meet Jack, and I really owe meeting Jack to Angel. After that, I locked in with Jack, which eventually became a working relationship. I went to Miami with Jack and Angel in August, which was fire. He’s so considerate, thoughtful, and cares about the music. He articulates his thoughts so well. He’s really an amazing all-around guy. He performed at Syracuse University a few days ago and was good with meeting my little brother. He’s a good guy like that.
You recently started working with Boi-1da. How do you two mesh in the studio?
That’s a very new relationship. That photo (see pic above) is the first time we ever met (laughs). We had talked a little on DM before a long time ago, but that was our first time working together and it was amazing. We had really good chemistry and I feel we like the same kind of beats. We also both like simplicity. A lot of producers like to overcomplicate their drums and stuff because they’re trying to prove themselves somehow. But, Boi1da is very tasteful. He understands less can be more. I love his sound selection. He understands when a beat is done. It was a great experience.
What do you have coming up for the rest of 2021 and 2022?
Working on Jack. Working on Roddy. I’m also working on Dave’s album. I’m working on all kinds of stuff. I’m interested in covering the whole spectrum of music.