Randy Lanphear isn’t just an engineer when he’s helping Rae Sremmurd turn thoughts into anthems; he’s a translator. The man who has worked on nearly every hit from the duo knows those songs only come when the person behind the boards can read the room.
“There has been stuff that happened with their family where they come in, and you can tell today’s not going to be a turn-up day. When they come in, you have to keep the vibe,” Lanphear tells REVOLT. “You can’t say, ‘Alright, today’s going to be a turn-up day.’ You really have to feel their energy.”
In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” Lanphear explains how Sremm 4 Life came to be, what happened to those A$AP Rocky and Swae Lee records from 2019, and more. Read our exclusive chat below.
How did you first connect with Rae Sremmurd?
I have been with them since 2014. I started interning for Mike Will’s engineer, Steve [Hybicki], and he liked what I was doing. One of my first sessions with them was at Tree Sound [Studios]. It was after Mike got done with what he was doing, and we just locked in, and we did “Lit Like Bic.” Swae Lee went in there and freestyled the whole thing. Not too long after that, we started knocking Jxmmi’s stuff out, and he was pretty simple too.
What’s the difference in how Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi make music?
Swae is pretty quick and likes to stay in the booth, whereas Jxmmi likes to write outside the booth, then go in and lay it down. You loop it for Jxmmi, but with Swae, you have a long 30 minutes of the beat, and just let him go in and do what he does. You can piece it together; nowadays, he writes as he goes. So, he’ll comp it and pretty much do all that kind of stuff himself. When I got with them, recording both of them was hard because they both wanted to be in the studio for eight hours, and I could only run like 12 hours before I’m exhausted and needed to rest. They both record differently, and they both record at different times, but they both want to record as long as they can.
Rae Sremmurd is known for upbeat music, but have there ever been any emotional sessions where their personal lives spilled over?
There has been stuff that happened with their family where they come in, and you can tell today’s not going to be a turn-up day. When they come in, you have to keep the vibe. You can’t say, “Alright, today’s going to be a turn-up day.” You really have to feel their energy. With Swae, he’s a lover, so he deals with girls and stuff like that. Some of his best unreleased music is stuff that has to deal with heartbreak and stuff like that.
You have your own life, too. Were there times you were working while dealing with personal issues?
I remember one time I was going through something with a woman, and it was a tough situation for me. Swae basically sang about it, but he did it in his own first-person point of view. But he was talking about a situation I was going through. After he was done, he asked me, “What do you think?” (laughs). I’m sitting there holding back emotions, telling him, “I love it” (laughs).
Sremm 4 Life recently came out after a five-year wait since SR3MM. What was the earliest song you remember being recorded for the new album?
Swae’s part for “Activate” was done years ago around 2017. “Royal Flush” with Young Thug was also one of the earliest. We were in New York around 2018, and Swae had already done his little part. Then, Thug came in with an engineer with him. Thug is a tough guy to record because he’s fast and talks softly when trying to tell you what to do. When he raps, he’s all energetic, and then he’ll say, “Run that back.” At first, I was starting to do it, and then he would say, “Oh, just let my engineer do it.”
Swae Lee posted photos of himself in the studio with A$AP Rocky in late 2019. What was that session like? What happened to those songs?
Those are in the vault. I don’t know if it was the label or just them boys connected and wanted to get in the studio together, but we locked in for a few days and got a few records done. A$AP Rocky is pretty creative, so he’s always like, “Let’s try this, and let’s try that.” I think these kinds of records are in the vault because they’re just waiting for the moment. I think the right moment is coming soon. That’s how I feel. I feel like there is a right moment to drop a record. I don’t know what’s going to happen with the songs. I just know they’re in the vault. Swae has [unreleased] songs with Post [Malone] and other artists. As far as Swae goes, he’ll just go to a session with somebody and do something with them. He loves being in the studio. He’ll spend 12 hours straight in the studio and do it for a whole few weeks straight, and then take a day or two off, and then go back and do it. But he really doesn’t take any breaks.
When are fans getting separate solo albums from Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi?
Swae is always recording. It doesn’t matter if it’s solo or something that will be for Rae Sremmurd; it’s just about whatever he’s vibing to. It isn’t like he’s going in saying, “This is going to be for my album today; I’m working on my album.” He might pull something we worked on two years ago while going through his phone and getting ideas. As soon as he starts getting ideas, he’s like, “Okay, I’m pulling up to the studio. I’m going to work on this one. Hey Randy, pull this one up.” And then we start working on it. He might revamp the whole thing. He might add a few bars. It all depends. As far as his solo album, it’s definitely coming. I would say we’ve already got the songs to drop it. It’s just a matter of getting them mixed and getting it all set up and rolled out. He probably has a thousand songs.
How often do Swae and Jxmmi record together? How has that changed over the last eight years?
Since they’re so different and want to record at the same time, it was hard, even in the beginning, to keep them in the studio together. They would be in the studio, but it would be like everybody meets up in this room where Mike is and then starts talking about records and stuff. Then everybody has a game plan, goes into their own rooms, and records what they feel like recording in the moment. Since Swae likes to be in the booth a lot, that sometimes can get in the way of Jxmmi. But then also, Jxmmi wants to stay in the booth to get his stuff done. There will be times when we’re all in the studio together, got one room, and gotta go back and forth and stuff like that. Then, there are other times when we have our own separate studios. They’re also their own men. So, one of them might be in LA, and one of them might be in Miami, and they might be recording the same song — just in different cities. They’re real brothers, so they still have that family bond.
What do you have coming up for the rest of 2023?
We have this [Post Malone] tour in Europe. That’s coming right now. After that, I’m not really too sure.