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  /  12.29.2022

When you hear music as dynamically as engineer-producer Roark Bailey does, legends like Diddy and Babyface not only welcome you into the studio, they value your input. 

“Puff is on the production side. He’s like, ‘Nah, we’re doing this. Nah, take this out, do that. Let’s get these chords. Nah, that’s not quite it.’ And then Face is like, ‘Okay, boom, let’s take it there,’” Bailey reveals to REVOLT. “When Face gets in the booth, he’s going so crazy. Then it’s like we have to think again and say, ‘Alright, how do we respond to what he just did?’”

In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” the Grammy Award-nominated engineer-producer talks about how Playboi Carti’s verse on Solange’s “Alameda” came to be, Diddy’s motivational speeches, and recording with Ye in a sports stadium. Check out our exclusive chat below.

Who was the first major artist you were in the studio with? 

I did a session with Sean Paul a long time ago. I was super hyped. That was right after I got out of college around 2011/2012. I was so excited at that time to see what a major session felt like. Of course, we were just punching some words in on a song then. But, it opened the gateway to the possibilities.

One of your earliest credits is recording Monica on her 2015 album, Code Red. Walk us through one of those sessions.

She’s one of them ones as far as when she gets in the vocal booth. She’s super prepared. She doesn’t sing with the tune on. She already got the lyrics memorized. She’s not doing 40 takes, she’s doing five takes, and all five takes are perfect. The team I was working with at the time was doing a lot of production. I was doing a lot of ghost production/co-production with them doing guitar on records and stuff. I got to do some stuff with Monica as well in that capacity. That was the era when I first started understanding what vocal production was in the studio. We had a couple of really dope writers on the team that was vocal producing. That’s how you help people do the little detail work on the songs. This is how you help ’em get to the final product when it comes to nailing those ad-libs and those runs. That was my crash course in vocal production.

I’m going to bounce around your career. How did you connect with Diddy, aka Puff Daddy, for the first time?

I got connected to Puff through my homeboy London On Da Track. London and I have been working for years, and then Puff called him in, and London and I were just working closely at the time, so he was like, “You know Puff wants us to come down and work on something.” That was a one-off, and it turned into a continuing series.

 

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I saw you in a session with Puff, SAINt JHN, Swae Lee, and Babyface. How did that come about, and what did you gain from it?

That was an incredible session, honestly. We were in LA working on Puff’s album, doing a session with Face. We did the song, and then, Swae popped in because he’s been doing some stuff with Puff. Then, SAINt popped in because he was also working with Puff. So, it was just one of those things where we were finishing the song, and then those other two guys popped in, and once that magic starts happening and the energy starts going, it’s a special session.

How do you show value around such legends?

One of my skill sets is adding value to any type of session. I know how to do many different things in the studio, from production to guitar, to piano, to vocal production. So, depending on who I’m with, I tailor what I bring based on what they need.

Puff and Babyface are two of the greatest producers in music history. What was their dynamic?

It’s like seeing the best of the best; the respect is there, and they push each other to go the furthest they can. Puff is on the production side. He’s like, “Nah, we’re doing this. Nah, take this out, do that. Let’s get these chords. Nah, that’s not quite it.” And then Face is like, “Okay, boom, let’s take it there.” When Face gets in the booth, he’s going so crazy. Then it’s like we have to think again and say, “Alright, how do we respond to what he just did?” It was really cool.

 

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What’s the longest session you’ve been in with Puff?

It’ll be a full 24 hours and then some. I’ll go upstairs to take a nap. He’s still in there working; he’s still hearing ideas. He might go outside and listen to the music on his speakers at the house, and then come back two hours later with the idea he was searching for. He has crazy stamina and natural energy when he gets in the studio.

We recently talked with Slimwav about being in Puff’s studio. How was your experience?

At all times, you’re going to feel elegant. You’re going to feel sexy. You’re going to feel inspired. You’re going to feel locked in. A lot of artists watch TV and this and that. We turn the TVs off. We’ll have the lights set to a certain color to catch a certain vibe. It might be all red and a certain pink if we need that energy. And it smells good. He got expensive candles (laughs). He got the DeLeón. It feels rich. I don’t care what your status is; you’ll feel wealthy when you walk into that studio.

Puff is known for his speeches. Has he given you any?

People see Puff on Instagram, and I don’t know if they just think he’s premeditated with the speeches, but every time you’re around Puff, he’s going to give you 25 gems. So you’ll want to take notes if it’s your first time (laughs). From the process to the business mindset, to how to move the right way, to pure inspiration. 

 

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You also did some work on Solange’s When I Get Home. 

I got to work with Solange with Playboi Carti. I was locked in closely with him at the time, and that’s one of my brothers in the industry. I’ve been on him for years. He got called in to do a feature. He only does features for some. This was just one of those rare moments. I was there with them in LA. We pulled up to the house and did that verse for “Alameda.” It was really cool because I sometimes think when you do features with artists, and they’re remote, you might get a FaceTime. But that time, they happened to be in the room together. You always get the most magic when two artists exchange energy.

What was Solange’s reaction to Carti’s verse?

We’re really private. We might not even play it out loud until we are done. She gave us the vision, we danced and vibed to it, and then boom, we locked in, and it was done. All you hear is the final product. By that time, it was probably nine in the morning. So I think everybody was in zombie mode by that time (laughs).

Carti is one of the most mysterious artists in the game right now. What’s his creative process like?

Everybody wants to know how Carti is in the studio, and I’m not going to spoil the mystery. That’s for him to say. But early on, working with Carti, he found out I produced and jumped on a beat early. So, our relationship just changed to where he might be jumping on my beats, or he might jump on somebody else’s beat. I think because we just developed such a real friendship and creative energy that I can’t even describe. It’s just a great vibe in the studio with him.

What would you say is your greatest talent in the studio?

I have a really great ability to bring the vision together. That’s the type of producer I am. I might not play the instrument. I can tell you what chords exactly to play, and I can tell you to change this note in that chord, you know what I mean? I come from a musical background. The best part about any producer is what they hear.

 

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What’s the most impressive thing you’ve seen done in a session?

The last time I saw SAINt, he did four songs, one take, back-to-back. He didn’t even hear the beat. He just said to plug it in and then goes, and the song falls out word for word. I think there’s no way he will do this again, and he does it again and again. 

What sonic fingerprint do you leave on your records?

I influence anything I touch whether I’m recording it, producing it, or just sitting in the back of the room. “Sex In The Porsche” just dropped. The way the kick and the 808 are balanced next to each other is because of me. It’s a certain way I hear music. Everybody doesn’t hear it the same. We all have the same tools, but it’s just how you paint differently. You can be sure I influenced anything you’ve heard that I’ve worked on.

What was it like making music inside of a sports stadium for Ye’s DONDA?

That was incredible. It was a once-in-a-lifetime recording environment. You’re in the visitors’ locker room. You feel like you’re at the playoffs; it’s a championship game, and everybody in the room is that guy. It was the who’s who of everybody pulling up, laying ideas, coming in with production ideas, whatever. It was very high intensity. It was like the All-Star game; everybody trained to get here. We were all balling at the highest level. 

 

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What do you have coming up in 2023?

I’m superstitious when it comes to upcoming releases. I only speak on things that are out, but I will say Puff is dropping. He’s been very vocal about that. I’m very excited about that. I got to work on this whole project with them, and I think it’s a really special project. I got this artist I signed named SVRITE. It’s amazing. He’s an artist-producer. He’s just a beast. I’m working on his project. We got a lot of stuff in the works that I just don’t want to jinx. You’re going to have to wait and see.

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