Westside Gunn and Griselda have crafted a signature sinister sound with the help of producers like Camoflauge Monk, who has been working with Gunn since his 2014 Hitler Wears Hermes 2 project. Monk knows anything can happen in a session with the leader of Griselda.
“[Westside and I] always invited people over to listen to what we had going on. A lot of those people were actors, directors and people like that. I remember some of the cast from ‘Scandal’ was in the studio with us,” Monk told REVOLT.
In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” one of Griselda’s primary producers talks about what it was like watching A$AP Rocky and Westside Gunn record their first joint effort, recording an entire Westside Gunn project in one day, and what he knows about an upcoming Tyler, the Creator collaboration with Westside Gunn.
How did you first link up with Westside Gunn?
Back in 2013, my dad passed away and my mom ended up moving because I think her sister was sick. I moved to Atlanta with the woman who would become the mother to my kids. I knew of the music West was doing. I heard of Hitler 1. I hit him on Twitter like, ‘I brought my studio to Atlanta. We might as well link up and work and keep that Buffalo shit going.’ He didn’t have to pull up on me or nothing. I was way out in Gwinnett [County], which is far as hell from Atlanta. It took an hour just to get to me on a good day. He pulled up on me that weekend, and we started Hitler 2 in our basement.
What was your basement studio like?
We recorded it in two different places. We recorded all of Hitler 2 in my basement. I had a simple portable setup — computer, interface, headphones, mic, speakers. Then, we ended up linking with Masspike Miles and Gunplay at their studio. That was a real studio. They had a side A and side B so if you booked side B, you couldn’t tell who booked side A. I remember they were doing the soundtrack to T.I. and Chris Brown’s movie Takers one day. West was one of those dudes who always had bottles and food at the session. We always invited people over to listen to what we had going on. A lot of those people were actors, directors and people like that. I remember some of the cast from ‘Scandal’ was in the studio with us. When it came time to drop music, it was nothing for us to get retweets and love on Twitter from those types of people because they were actually there with us.
What was the creative process like early on for you and Westside?
He’d pull up, and I think we were drinking Cîroc around then. We’d just chill and go through music for hours. He always had beats on deck. He always had a phone full of beats. We’d go through beats for hours, mapping out what he wanted to use and what he didn’t want to use. I was pretty much engineering everything. This is how I became a producer. Daringer was making his beats at the time, but I think he had a job in Buffalo. So, he would send beats when he could get to it. Me paying attention to what West liked and didn’t like helped me figure it out. My goal was to make sure he had the hottest shit possible at all times. That’s where the 500 beats a summer came from — me.
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How quickly were those songs for Hitler Wears Hermes 2 made?
We did Hitler 2 in one day. We sat down with that bottle, and West had all of the beats he wanted to rap on. I had my little folder in the cut. Once I played with my little folder, it was the cherry on top to finish it off. We already knew what we wanted to do for Hitler 3. I didn’t know I was making beats for Hall & Nash and Hitler 3. My workflow became so simple; I produced so much music I had three albums worth of beats ready to go. All we had to do was include whoever else he wanted to include on production.
You were instrumental in creating the foundation of the sound Westside Gunn is now known for. How involved was he in crafting that sound?
He really had the vision for all of that. Everything he does is so far ahead of its time. As far as the beats, I have a process where I make them by myself. I don’t have any crazy machines or anything. I might sit on a tennis court and make beats. From him picking and deciding which of my beats he likes, it sculpts the sound from there. I then know what drums I need to play and what sounds to use. I try to deliver so many different elements to it because I know West is big on less is more, but he loves stuff that is super intricate and slightly different. I like putting different shit in my production, different sounds. I like mixing three or four different samples in one beat and making it sound crazy.
What was the first session with the entire core Griselda team — Benny the Butcher, Conway the Machine, and Westside Gunn?
I was in the studio with Conway and West at Daringer’s house a lot. When we were recording Hitler 3 and Hall & Nash, Conway was recording his first LP. The chemistry was crazy because we had three beatmakers between me, Fahim and Daringer. There were hundreds of beats floating around. You had Conway in one corner, West in another corner, and Benny may come through here and there. That’s when Benny was doing one feature here or there. He would pop up every now and then. With West and Conway, the chemistry was crazy. Nine times out of ten, it would be NBA season, so the game is on. We’re going back and forth between whatever game is on and then going back into the studio, locking in on this project.
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Westside is hilarious. What are some of the funniest things he’s done in the studio?
When he gets to singing, he loves to sing. People don’t take him seriously, but I really think he wants to do an R&B album. I want to help deliver on that if that’s something bro wants to do. I’m big on creating a lot of music just for my headphones that I don’t share with many people. I still got certain stuff I haven’t even played for West yet because the timing ain’t right. It’ll happen when it’s supposed to happen.
One of my favorite productions from you is Westside’s “327.” How did that song come about?
Salute to Kit Andrée, the original singer of the song we sampled. She’s a friend of the family through my mom’s side. My mom had that record for a while. She has a lot of records. I got a lot of my records from my mom. The record was pink so it stood out, and I gravitated to it. We named it “327” based on the New Balance 327, but it was also the 327th beat I made that year, which was crazy. I made that pack while Billie Essco and Westside Gunn were in Paris for the Virgil [Abloh] Off-White show. Next thing I know, Essco was calling my phone like, ‘Listen to this shit.’ West had the hook laid down. I was on FaceTime with them like, ‘That hook is wild.’ Joey [Bada$$] was on it by the time West got back to the States. West went to Alchemist and Tyler was there, and he threw his verse on there.
You recently were in the studio with Tyler, the Creator. What did you guys discuss?
He was working on a new project. It was a whole other vibe. He had West on one of those songs. West was there doing a feature for the project. He’s one of the coolest dudes I’ve ever met. Outside of the music, you could see how genuine and passionate he is about not only music but also friendship. I think his friend graduated from school; Tyler couldn’t be there, so he brought his friend a car and cried on FaceTime. Shit like that is shit you can’t pay for. That shit is real.
When I was in the studio with him, it was a totally different vibe. It wasn’t like what you see. He was on some cool, chill vibe. It wasn’t any out-the-box weird shit. It was different for me because I didn’t expect it. At the same time, he has these moments when he’ll just blurt out some crazy shit. He got songs in his head, and he’ll just start singing shit. Outside of that, he kept it a buck. So we had some real moments.
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As much as you can share, what did the collaboration between him and Westside on his new project sound like?
It sounded beautiful. West is singing on it, too. People are going to love it. He takes that R&B shit seriously. He initially said something wild and crazy, and I think Tyler wanted him to switch it up because it was a little too off the wall (laughs). Other than that, it’s a beautiful song.
Mach-Hommy’s Pray For Haiti was arguably the best album of 2021. You produced on that album. He’s so mysterious. What was it like making that album with him?
I know the real Mach. He was the cameraman when we first started Griselda. We never worked in the studio together before we flew to Puerto Rico to do Pray For Haiti. He’s the only person I could just email beats to. I got two email addresses — Camouflage Monk email and another one called ‘Finesse the Goofy.’ Between which email I send him beats from, he knows what type of time it is.
What were those first sessions like with Mach during the making of Pray For Haiti? What was the creative chemistry like?
It made everything easier. We had a fire ass crib with a view of the whole beach in Puerto Rico. When Mach pulled up, he had a camera crew with him. We were on go time. All the beats I had were designed for Pray For Haiti. He already had songs ready. I ain’t never seen him go write or anything. That’s what’s wild to me. He picks a beat and already has a song ready. He has a bunch of songs created in his head; he just needs the right beat to fit them.
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I saw Westside Gunn and A$AP Rocky linked up recently at some basement recording setup you all had.
That was one of the many places Westside has in Atlanta. We were there chilling at first. We were getting the clothes together for Bochella. West told me, ‘A$AP going to pull up to the crib tonight.’ We went back to doing what we were doing and then West got the phone call from Rocky like, ‘We’re pulling up. What’s the address?’ He slid through with the big security. They secured the porch and all types of shit. He came in and kicked it on some normal chill shit. He has a new whiskey that just came out. He brought a couple of bottles of that. He got a couple of pieces of merch.
How did that lead to him recording?
Michelle Records is on the way. Rocky is definitely a part of it. We needed a verse, and he knew he had to come and lay one. I think I played a Madlib beat for him. He gave me like six verses to a Madlib beat. He did some other shit, too. But, for the most part, we were just chilling and chopping it up. Rihanna FaceTimed him a couple of times to check on him and make sure he was good.
How have you gotten better as a producer over the years?
I’m at a point now where I spend days just searching through sounds and samples to store. So, when I go into a realm where I’m like, ‘I’ll spend the next two days making beats,’ I know I’m dealing with a folder of shit I know I want to use. If I got in there with 100 samples, I might get 80 beats done that day. That’s how my workflow has changed. I’m glad I don’t have to do too much, get a 9 to 5, or do something that’s going to take away from my craft. I could literally give 100% of my day to my craft. That’s what allows me to stay ahead.
What else are you working on in 2022?
Michelle Records is about to be the hardest shit of the year. Also, myself, Conductor [Williams ], and Denny LaFlare are dropping a project together. I’ve been bugging Jay Worthy to finish the project he and I started. Hopefully, we’ll be able to do that. For 2022, there’ll be a lot of touring. I want to see more and be inspired more.
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