Recording Engineers are some of the most important behind the scenes players in this music industry, and they rarely get to tell their stories. Steve Baughman recorded for the likes of Dr Dre, Prince, 2Pac, and 50 Cent and took the time to answer the questions of HHNM about working with the biggest names of the music industry.
HHNM: You’re closely associated with 50 Cent and as far as I know, you’ve worked a lot on his recent stuff as well. Can you share anything with us regarding his long delayed album Street King Immortal and when we can expect it?
Steve Baughman: To be honest with you, right now, 50 is just holding back a little bit and a lot of it has to do with politics over at Interscope. I know that he’s creating more because he wasn’t completely in a place where he thought the album is where it should be. So he’s re-thinking a little bit on how he wants his album to be. And the tragedy of losing his manager Chris Lighty really struck him hard. It’s been hard couple of years for him. As a businessman and as a perfectionist, he is trying to make sure his album is where he wants it to be as a product.
HHNM: And I assume he has recorded tons of new music over the past year or so?
Steve Baughman: Yeah, he’s always working and thinking of new ideas but he hasn’t been too satisfied with things at Interscope. Last few years, there have been changing of the guard over there with a lot of people coming in and going out. So it’s been a little difficult to work the system for him this time and he’s waiting for the re-worked structure over there to settle a bit. And I’m not trying to bash on Interscope, they have released some of the greatest Hip-Hop albums of all time but I can understand how frustrating it can be for an artist in these situations.
HHNM: I think he’s also been a lil unlucky. I thought ‘My Life’ and ‘We Up’ were solid singles but they just didn’t stick after the initial hype died down.
Steve Baughman: Yeah, it goes to show you how important that major infrastructure is to have, especially for bigger artists. Smaller artists can survive without it but when you are at the level of 50 Cent, anything less than his potential, he will see it as a failure. The major infrastructure is needed for bigger artists to sustain their brand. It’s a rough business.
HHNM: How was the experience of working on his first two albums, ‘Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ and ‘The Massacre’? Those are two of the biggest selling albums from the last decade.
Steve Baughman: Oh yeah. The first album, when I worked on that, that was my introduction to 50. At that time, I was working with Dre and that’s also when I met Sha Money. He’s been a a big influence on my career. So working on ‘Get Rich’ was a turning point for me because even though I had worked on big albums, I had never worked on an album that sold 10 million plus. The first two albums were.. jeez, amazing. The buzz for 50 during that time was so big, it was a like a fever.
HHNM: How was the experience of recording ‘In Da Club’?
Steve Baughman: You know, I still remember the time when we were mixing ‘In Da Club’. It was a song which originally went to D12 but it wasn’t fitting the way Dre wanted it. When Dre had a backup on the board over at Encore (studios), 50 heard the beat and came up with that little catchy intro “Go shorty, it’s your birthday” right there on the spot. When Dre heard it, he was instantaneously like ‘that’s it, get him in the booth’. We recorded the song and it became what it became rather quickly. It was just some great energy on that song which only 50 could bring. Just one of those magic moments where everything came together at the perfect time.
HHNM: Did you record and mix the entire two albums?
Steve Baughman: No, actually the first album, I recorded the entire thing but mixed only a couple of songs. Dre did the majority of the mixing on that one. The following albums, I did the majority of the mixing. And of course, every one of 50’s albums were mastered by Bryan Gardner. Mastering for me is relatively a new thing. I’m actually starting a mastering company along with my partner Mauricio Iragorri, who is Dr. Dre’s engineer which we hope to launch officially by the end of this year. It’s called Next Level Mastering.
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