You can’t predict when the magic happens, a fact engineer/producer David Kim learned working on the sixth Nas and Hit-Boy collaborative album, Magic 3. Having had his hand in all of their joint projects, Kim also had to mix the entire Magic 2 in just a few days.
“Some people think we had this in the hole or some of the songs that didn’t make Magic 2. No, they started recording Magic 3 the week after Magic 2 came out. And that was only a month and a half ago,” Kim told REVOLT of their latest offering.
In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” the Grammy Award-winning engineer explained how Nas and Hit-Boy put together Magic 3, working with Nipsey Hussle on his last single while alive, and how he ended up in a session with Floyd Mayweather and Young Thug. Read the exclusive chat below.
You connected with Nas thanks to your relationship with Hit-Boy. How did you and Hit first meet?
The first time we met wasn’t in a session. It was in the studio, but I was a runner. He wanted to order some Chick-fil-A, and at the time, we just got a Chick-fil-A… It was brand-new… That was the first one we got in LA. I took that opportunity to make this the quickest Chick-fil-A run of all time. His manager at the time set me up to do the run. I was back in 15 minutes. When I got back, he said, “I didn’t even know you left. How’d you get back so fast?” Then he asked me if I was a producer or an engineer, and I told him I was an engineer. He took down my number, and they called me a year or so later because they were looking for a new engineer. He had one, but he was doing too much. They invited me over for a session, and the rest is history.
How did that first session go?
It was actually at his home studio. He had a crib in Sherman Oaks or something, but he had a home studio. He had me come and touch vocals up to see my proficiency level with Pro Tools, mixing and recording. I didn’t even know till later that the engineer I was replacing was in the room. He had me touching up his work (laughs). I didn’t know and was saying things like, “Who did this?” The other engineer didn’t say anything.
Walk fans through the moment you got the call to work with Nas and Hit-Boy on King’s Disease.
I think Hit and Nas were trying to do one or two songs. Hit pulled me into the room, and I saw Nas there. I was like, “Yo, this is crazy.” I’ve worked with Nas previously but as a recording engineer. I was on staff at Chalice Recording Studio. Nas was a client, and he asked for an engineer. I was nervous because Nas made the first two CDs I purchased — Illmatic and It Was Written. Hit said they were going to lock in on a couple of songs. And then, as the week progressed, he was there every single day, and I knew this wasn’t one or two songs. Then Hit told me, “Yeah, we’re going to do an album together.” Six albums later, here we are.
What was Nas and Hit’s typical schedule?
They’d probably start around 2 or 3 p.m. and go until 8, 9, or sometimes 10 [p.m.] if they’re really feeling it. But it’s more of a consistency thing. If we’re locking in on a whole album, he’s coming in every day he can.
How did it feel hearing Nas shout you out on the outro of Magic 3?
For the last three or four albums, Hit would record Nas. But, when I got in the room, Hit played it, and I edited the vocals, so that they were all clean and everything was leveled out. He got to the credits part, and I heard Nas say, “Shout out to the engineer.” My ears perked up. That was crazy. Then he said my name and I lost it. I almost shed a tear in the room. Nas was in there, and I just looked at them and said, “Wow, that’s insane.”
Magic 3 came out a couple months after Magic 2. When did you know they were making the third installment of that series?
When Magic 2 came out, I was in Korea. Magic 2 was already recorded for months. I was hounding them and asking, “Hey, when are we mixing? What are the deadlines?” They weren’t really sure about it. I told them, “I’m going to Korea next month for three weeks, so let me know.” I jet off to Korea. The day before I returned to LA, they said, “Yo, Nas wants to put this out next week.” I’m still in Korea, so I asked Hit to send the files. He sent me the files, I went into the studio out there, and I started mixing. I mixed three songs in Korea.
I landed at 8 a.m. at LAX. I was at the studio from 9 a.m. until 3 a.m. I was in there for almost 20 hours straight mixing Magic 2. I continued mixing it the next day and the day after that. I had to mix the whole Magic 2 in two days. The week after, they said, “Hey, we need to do Magic 3.” Some people think we had this in the hole or some of the songs that didn’t make Magic 2. No, they started recording Magic 3 the week after Magic 2 came out. And that was only a month and a half ago.
Which Magic 3 record was made the earliest?
I think “Based on True Events, Pt. 2.” That was supposed to have made it on Magic 1, but he didn’t finish the story. It was about halfway done. We were in the studio, brought that back up, and we were like, “Oh, we need a storytelling joint.” We went to the archives, brought that up, and he said, “Oh, this is crazy.” And so he finished writing that after “Based On True Events, Pt. 1.” “No Tears” was one of the first ones, as well. And that set the tone for this album.
What was the vibe like while working on all of these albums?
It’s a real family environment in there, man. Hit has his son, C3, who comes in and watches stuff on his iPad or his phone, giggling in the back while he is over there, adding production. I’m sometimes recording Nas, and all of this is happening, and it feels like we’re just in the living room. We start with a conversation about how everything is outside of music. And then that leads to being inspired to write something or create something. Sometimes, Nas will leave the studio, and then Hit will start cooking up something new. When Nas comes in the next day, he’s like, “What is this?”
You’ve been in many exciting sessions. What was going on when you hit the studio with Floyd Mayweather and Young Thug?
Young Thug had an artist named Lil James. It actually might’ve been Floyd Mayweather’s artist or something. I recorded for him and Young Thug, and Floyd Mayweather just happened to pull up. I heard their phone call. Floyd Mayweather was in Vegas, and within an hour and 30 minutes, he was at the studio (laughs). They were talking about the private jet and blah, blah, blah. And then, an hour and a half later, he was there.
You also worked on “Racks In The Middle,” the last Nipsey Hussle single while he was alive. What insights did you give him about the song?
Nip was a one-of-one. He’s the type of person who comes into a room and demands respect. And he’s not a braggadocious person. He’s not a loud dude. He’s the type that will go into a room and see people who might be thirsty, jet off to the kitchen, come back with 10 waters and give it to everybody. I recorded that song, and the energy was crazy. At the conclusion of that recording session, I had to ask him if I could mix it because usually he has MixedByAli mix his stuff. He was like, “Oh yeah, of course.” He booked the studio the next week, and it was basically done in the day.
What do you have coming up for the rest of 2023?
I got a lot. I’m returning to Korea next week because I’m assembling a producer album. I have all of the A-list artists in Korea I’ve worked with as an engineer. They’re all jumping on it. I have 13 songs recorded. I’m going for 15 or 16. We’re shooting a video. I’m starting there and then going worldwide with it. This Saturday, I’m [doing] my first DJ set. I’m just trying to elevate in every single way. I don’t want to leave this Earth with any regrets. This is a year of empowering myself and trying to be the best version of myself possible. We’re mixing Benny [the Butcher]’s album. Half of it is Hit, and half of it is Alchemist. We’re working on that. Ghostface’s people just hit me to mix some stuff. It’s getting spicy, man.
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