Simply pressing the record button and cleaning up vocals isn’t the only reason Shaan Singh was chosen to engineer for two of the most prominent artists of the last decade — Young Thug and Kanye West. He also fostered an environment with their favorite interests and indulgences and did whatever helped them.

“Whenever [Kanye] needed something, he would just call me. When he needed a break from social media, he would have me hold his phones. We worked around the clock,” Singh told REVOLT.

In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” the Grammy Award-winning engineer explained how he worked alongside Young Thug without always knowing what he was saying on the mic, how Thug got on Childish Gambino’s “This Is America,” and the tireless work he put into West’s Donda 2. Read the exclusive conversation with Shaan Singh below.

Who was the first hip hop/R&B artist you worked with?

I started in Atlanta at Zac Records, and the owner, Jim Zumpano, changed my life and taught me to stand up for myself in 2010. My homie Sam Thomas and I had a studio together that we shared in Atlanta. He was Bryan-Michael Cox‘s engineer, who he’s been working with for 13 years. Sam plugged me in with him. My manager, Monica Tannian from Milk Money Consulting, helped set everything up, and that was the first major producer I locked in with.

Besides high-class producers like B. Cox, you manned the boards during many Young Thug sessions.

Yeah, I started working with him at Billboard Studios because that was around the time Alex Tumay stopped working with him. Thug was working on Beautiful Thugger Girls [in 2017] when I jumped in. One day, the studio manager called me because I was the chief engineer of Billboard Studios and said, “I need you. What are you up to? I got Thug here, and he just fired four engineers in one night. I jumped on the phone with my manager, and we came up with a game plan for how to make it work.

Over time, I became locked in with Thug. I started noticing through conversations with him that he’s very knowledgeable about random facts. He just knows so much about animals, animals from the ocean, the jungle, and history. Once we started locking in more and bouncing around to different studios, I created some consistency where I would put Animal Planet on the TV. That was one of the key things I started doing. Whenever he wanted snacks or food, I noticed what he liked. So, in the next stretch of those sessions, I would just tell the runner, “Can you grab a list of all these things — gummies, candies, Sour Patch Kids, Hot Cheetos, all that stuff?” Before he arrived, I would ensure we had all the snacks he liked. I knew the temperature of the studio that he wanted. I would put something creative on the TV that helps set the tone for each session.

What was the hardest part about his recording process?

I was a fast engineer and picked up the lingo because I started in Atlanta. I still had the hardest time for the longest time because I didn’t know what [Thug] was saying. I could just tell he wanted to punch this in. I picked up on wherever he messed up or if he was a little early on a bar. I would nudge it as I was going. Back then, he was still in the vocal booth. A couple of sessions later, he started recording in the control room. Sometimes I would ask him, “Yo, what’s the name of this song?” He would say something, and I labeled it something completely wrong. So, the next day he asked me to play it back. I would play what he recorded; he would see [what I named it] and ask, “What’s this? Why is it called that?” I’d tell him, “I don’t know what you were saying. I thought this is what you said” (laughs).

It was a funny moment there because he, for the longest time, was going with the flow. I didn’t know exactly what he was saying. I remember one time, months later, we were moving at 100 miles per hour, recording this song, when he stopped me and went, “Yo, bro, what did I just say there?” I looked at him and said, “I don’t know what you’re saying” (laughs). Then, we both busted out laughing. We ended up soloing the take, [so all you heard were his vocals], trying to figure out what he said. He didn’t know either. Those little moments helped our bond.

Thug records whenever, wherever. Do you know if he and J. Cole recorded any unreleased records during “The KOD Tour”?

I know of some, but I can’t say if they’ll ever come out because that’s not my lane. But there are a bunch. I hope they come out one day.

You and Thug have worked together on some big records, including Childish Gambino’s “This Is America.”

Childish Gambino pulled up to the studio one day, played that record, and I got chills. Then, Thug jumped on the mic and helped co-write. We created this outro that Thug did some vocals on. The next thing you know, it’s a huge record that won four Grammys. The foundation of that record was done when he came, but Childish Gambino wanted to bring in Young Thug because he’s such an icon, and he was perfect for that record. They were vibing and talking. It’s dope that Thug is singing on the outro of the song.

You’ve also done great work with another complex artist, Kanye West. What were the Donda 2 sessions like?

I was engineering for Kanye full-time during Donda 2. I was his main dude during Donda 2. We had a whole bunch of studio rooms set up. We had about 12 or 13 rooms. We rented hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gear and synthesizers. I was sleeping there, too. Whenever he needed something, he would just call me. When he needed a break from social media, he would have me hold his phones. We worked around the clock. I was the first up setting up for his meetings and stuff, playing playback, playing the correct versions, and ensuring all producers had the right files. At the end of the night, I’m backing up all the hard drives. I had a stack of hard drives for everybody, so I’m just backing them up each night. I’m working with Mike Dean to ensure he has backups and all the files every moment of the day.

What do you have coming up for the rest of 2023?

I’ve been working a lot with Cordae. He also has an album on the way that will come out this year. I’ve been working with Machine Gun Kelly on some dope music. I did a couple of one-offs here and there with A$AP Rocky. I have a couple more artists, too, that I’m working with. They’re A-listers, but I don’t want to jinx anything. I want to go with the flow until those records start coming out, too.