i like the way its goin down. all around me, i see dudes (and females) gettin up on some i'mma get it myself shit. clothes, promotion, media and music. they tryin to compete with the big boys, and a lot of them have the ideas that will make them competitive. sometimes, they just drop the ball on execution.
as an audio engineer, i can't begin to tell you how many times people get this whole notion fucked up in regards to their music. they think that talent is enuff. i mean, it does count for a big portion of the equation. but there is an already established standard as to what constitutes "professional" in every discipline. therefore, if a person is gonna call theyselves goin for it, they should try to aim as close to that standard as possible. like i don't see how somebody could think they was gonna start a magazine and aim at takin down XXL, and their magazine is some stapled color copies. i mean, they could have the most talented writers in the world. some amazing photos. excellent and informed editorials. but i dont see nobody takin a chance on spendin some real money on advertising. because the format suggests that the people puttin the magazine together don't fully realize what it takes to put a magazine together. you see where i'm goin' with this?
a lot of rappers think they can put out stuff and it not be mixed and mastered. that would've been true back when Too Short was makin his tapes in Oakland. the standard for the sound in rap music wasn't fully established. "South Bronx" by KRS One was originally done on a 4 trak recorder, and was played on the radio just like it was. thats why when you play it today, it almost has no bass in it. because it wasn't MASTERED. but with A Tribe Called Quest's "Low End Theory", a whole new level for the sound of the records had been reached. consistent, polished, levelled, present, resonant, and balanced. the next major turn was later in the same year, with "The Chronic" by Dre. Dre, which is even more impressive because he is also co-mixed the project. and since then, rap music has never been the same. even though records by RunDMC, LL Cool J and the Beastie Boys ushered in the big label sound into hip hop, they didn't serve as the turning point in the overall application in the sound of the recordings. there were actually "worse" (and i mean that in the level of quality) sounding records after that that were still hit records in hip hop. as an ardent fan of Marley Marl production and production techniques, i am amazed that while listening to those records these days with much better informed ears, how much distortion is in a lot of the classic Juice Crew records, especially in the vocals. with the advent of these two records and probably even more so "The Chronic", most labels made it a point to aim higher. even the seminal productions of DJ Premiere at D&D Studios (along with "Enter The 36 Chambers" by Wu Tang Clan) were regarded as a style of mixing, or more widely accepted as the sound of "real hip hop", the gritty hard core sound that characterized a break away from the more audiophile offering of the Death Row catalog. even Bad Boy records followed suit with well produced, mixed and mastered records that set them apart from the typical offerings of the day. and since then, with the rise of digital format recording, the sound has been pushed even further in it's sonic character and clarity. the standard has been set. anyone wishing to compete has to come correct. even a listen to DJ Premiere's work will show a gradual improvement in sonic clarity and definition, even while recording at D&D.
so now with digital audio workstations in everyone's home, the dividing line that existed between that superior professional sound and the home demo has been blurred, if not completely erased. or has it? the difference still lies in the attention to detail. how well are your recordings captured? how good are the sounds you use? there still is no replacement for a good microphone, and mic modelers are just really eq settings. and most people need to realize these things. because no matter how much more accessible quality recording equipment has become, the laws of physics involving sound ARE STILL THE SAME. no matter what version of Pro Tools, Cue Base, Nuendo, or Logic you have, you will not get professional audio if you dont know how to manipulate sound. in other words, if you don't KNOW what the fuck ur doin, you gonna fuck shit up. and thats as strait up as i can put it.
mastering is a whole 'nother thing. cause your record will not come together, or have that polish if it isn't mastered. this is what makes your recordings sound like records. you can't skip it for budget reasons; put it in the budget! i have a client that used my service for his first record. he sold pretty good in the streets and figured that he could bypass mixing and mastering with his second effort because people were already down with him. he started to hear people say, "it doeasn't sound the same", or "it don't sound like a record", or worse yet, "nice mixtape". people can't get all geeky like i can explaining why it doesn't sound the same. but they know it when they hear it. and if THEY can hear it, what makes you think that the music PROFESSIONALS who do this for a living, and who you're trying to get a DEAL from, are gonna think when they hear it? and with the playing field so broad now a days, you're gonna need every advantage you can get. that is, if you're serious about what you're doing. if it's just a hobby, then don't worry. it will sound like it.
the legendary engineer Tommy Dowd once told a story of bringing Ray Charles into a modern recording facility. the engineer there was eager to explain all that the studio offered. so he went on about all the trax at their disposal, the outboard gear names and models, how it was the newest thing out and all that. Ray Charles stopped him in the middle of all his gear spittin and asked one question; "Yeah, but how does it SOUND, baby!?!"
now, in the words of Gangstarr, ask yourself the same question.