"Soldier" - J Musa
J Musa has been a long time friend and client of mine, since the genesis of our ground-up studio. I remember back in the first spot we had, “The Saugus Spot” as it’s called nowadays, I was just getting started with recording people, and I had no client base. Young Zoe had put me on with a lot of the local rappers in Somerville, and most of them were aggressive rappers, or some blend of singing and rapping, a lot of them over hard trap beats. And then I met J Musa. And I had the hardest time mixing the vocals. No one in our small scene was delivering vocals like Musa, so it was tough for me to find a good pocket for the vocals in the mixes.
At the time, I was recording through a few different setups – either a Shure SM7B to a Cloudlifter into my Apollo Twin, or a Baby Bottle from Blue Microphones to an ART Vocal Channel Strip. And I wasn’t getting the results I wanted with certain artists. The hard trap vocals from the drill and aggressive rappers sounded pretty good through my setup at the time, but for singers and softer vocalists, it just wasn’t getting the job done. The Cloudlifter was introducing noise, even though the equipment boasts +25db of “silent gain”. The compressors weren’t smooth like I wanted them to be, even after investing a decent amount of money into a few different brands. To be frank, the wordplay and delivery finesse from Musa wasn’t there in 2018 like it is today, and that’s due to nothing else other than dedication to his craft, and persistence.
Fast forward to today. J Musa is one of our favorite local artists. His delivery is always well thought-out, the words always have some subtle double-meaning or personal significance, and the MASTR Productions studio and equipment have been vastly upgraded. We’re blessed to record on a legendary Telefunken U47, an ultra-low-noise tube mic, which is fed to our Neve Shelford 5052 for truly clean gain staging and subtle high passing. From there, the signal is smoothed out with our Purple MC77, as recommended by my friend Adam Leeds in Nashville. This fast-acting FET compressor is perfect for sitting basically any vocal. After that, a CL-1B adds just a touch of color, and does just the tiniest bit of compression at a low ratio. Then all that is fed back into the Neve pre-amp for some final EQ before being sent into the Apollo X8.
J Musa’s journey as an artist has been impressive so far, and I feel that he’s developed in a similar way to MASTR Productions as a business. At first, things weren’t perfect. But the raw talent was there and the passion for the craft was there. After a few years of consistent work and staying in the scene, the pieces are falling together, even through the tough times.
Lately, Musa even has the visuals on point. Both Shot by Tanj and Genty Provisions have recently shot very professional videos that match the songs’ vibes, and I’m anxiously awaiting to see what Musa drops next. Rudy and I have been watching Musa steadily grow his catalogue of unreleased music over the last year, and it’s all heat. Stay tuned!