Gearheads, man! Always getting so emotional about their gear. As someone who’s played guitar since fifth grade and hacked away in multiple bands over the years, I’ve never developed the appreciation for musical equipment that sets certain creative minds on fire. But producers are gearheads almost by default, and Noah “40” Shebib, the sonic architect who teamed with Drake to develop hip-hop’s most influential aesthetic of the past five years, is no exception. So it’s vaguely humorous but not surprising that when 40 gets wistful thinking about all his success this past half-decade, his mind veers directly to he ways developments in home recording technology helped him spearhead his feels-inducing production revolution. In a post at the October’s Very Own blog, 40 got his technological all mixed up with his sentimental. Read it below.
After H.A.W. I started to do a lot of thinking about those early days in Drake’s career. “So Far Gone” specifically and how we got here today. One of the things that will always stand out to me is the timing of how we put that project out from a technical perspective. It was the beginning of a lot of new realities and we were right there to exploit them.
The thing is that in the past ten years all the rules have changed and recording has moved from studios to living rooms. Faster processors, more ram and bigger hard drives started to make Native and LE systems real. My own personal testament to that is recording, mixing and mastering “So Far Gone” in 2009 on a macbook pro with 4 gigs of ram and all the Pro Tools LE boxes you can think of. M-Box 1, M-Box 2 Pro, M-Box Micro, whatever I needed for the job. M-Box 1 had USB protocol. M-Box 2 Pro had the I/O options and the micro was for the plane (which is now obsolete as of Pro Tools 9). Although the speed of Firewire 400 is greater than USB 1.0. I always liked my M-Box 1 and used it the most. The whole album was done in hotel rooms, condos and the occasional studio. But at the end of the day, the album was mixed in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on the M-Box. So, with all the success of that project and all the weight on a Pro Tools 7 LE system, I had solidified that reality for myself forever. That was 2008 and 2009, fast-forward and now it’s tough for studios in 2014 because of that reason.
So in-turn studios are not quite what they used to be and in a new industry with new rules, new equipment and new methods, it’s even harder to find the right balance of quality and flexibility. The 2 things I needed on the road. I look at any old laptops or M-Box’s like gold and that’s where it starts. The hungry kids with what they can get their hands on making it not just work, but work at a professional level. That aligned with technology was the beginning of the Naitive revolution. Now it started far before “So Far Gone”, around 2004 is when I was personally fully functional on a Toshiba laptop running XP and Pro Tools 6 with my M-Box 1. Pro Tools 6 had really made leaps in its MIDI sequencing from 5. So at that point I was able to produce, track and mix all on the run. Anywhere, anytime. Quality and Flexibility.
Now this may not be anything overwhelming in 2014. But in 2009 to be nominated for a Grammy and have multiple # 1’s, it was still fairly astonishing that it wasn’t an SSL 4K or a 1073 with a C800. It was a Neumann TLM 103, an amazing reasonably priced mic that gets the job done, a laptop and an M-Box. That’s it. I taught myself how to use Pro Tools on an M-Box 1, but now you can download Pro Tools 10 and 11 and kick open new doors and make all the things I’ve said here even more true. So the point of all this is to deliver one simple message. Anything is possible. And with what technology has done for us, it makes it a reality for almost anyone. Thats how we did it. Go on YouTube, watch some videos, save some money, download anything you can get your hands on and learn. It’s an amazing thing and by far the greatest satisfaction in the world to be creative and impact someone somewhere.
That’s actually pretty inspiring.
[Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images.]