Kanye West - This is how he does it.
During the past eight years, the 26-year-old has racked up triumphs with such big-money movers as Jay-Z, Foxy Brown, Nas, Alicia Keys and Eminem. How does he do it? Not with any Digidesign Pro Tools or Emagic Logic rig, that’s for sure. “I don’t use a computer or a lot of equipment in my studio,” West declares.
“What do I need all that stuff for?”
West uses four primary pieces for sampling, sequencing and recording duties: An Ensoniq ASR-10 keyboard, an Akai MPC2000 MIDI Production Center, a Roland VS-1880 24-bit Digital Studio Workstation and a Gemini PT-1000 II turntable.
One of West’s trademarks, besides classic ’70s soul loops, is ample use of speed. Almost every other track on The College Dropout features a sped-up vocal sample, be it Dinah Washington on “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” or Chaka Khan on “Through the Wire.”
Kanye’s use the MPC sampler is inspiring. For all the musicians who wrestle with PC’s his process is liverating to watch.
“I sample them at regular speed, then speed them up inside the ASR-10,” he explains. “I just put the pitch up on the sampler, and it will go faster. The ASR-10 is like my left hand. I can chop samples into 61 pieces without wasting any memory. A lot of old songs are too slow to rap on. So I got to speed them up to a rappable tempo.”
Crag Bauer had this to say about him. “Well, Kanye takes the word meticulous to a whole a new level. The way he works he just isn’t content until he’s tried recording and mixing a song every conceivable way. I was getting calls from A&Rs in July saying, “We have to stop him. We have to cut him off because he’s going to miss another release date.” And my response was always like, “Well you guys have to tell me what you want me to do.” And that call saying, “OK, you’re done, send it in,” would never come. Nobody from the record company tells Kanye anything. To the point where he was in mastering at Sony in New York and ended up booking studio time to do some more recording during the mastering process. In fact, story has it that during the mastering he was listening to the final version with Jay-Z and LA Reid from beginning to end. After they finished listening to the album, Jay-Z and LA Reid both were talking about how much they loved it and Kanye said, “It’s not even done.” And they both were like, “OK. Do what you’ve go to do.” So he kept on going and my belief is that he would have kept on going forever if it wasn’t for the fact that the timing of the release coincided with the MTV Video Music Awards.