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Inside Track: Beyoncé and Jay-Z 'Apeshit'

Secrets Of The Mix Engineers: Stu White
Published September 2018
By Paul Tingen

Inside Track

Beyoncé and Jay-Z topped charts worldwide with their album Everything Is Love. Stu White was the engineer who made it possible.

There are many celebrated break-up albums, but the Carters’ Everything Is Love is perhaps the first great make-up album. Beyoncé and Jay-Z participated equally in its making, and it’s released under the married couple’s shared last name. It comes on the heels of the pair’s most recent solo albums, Beyoncé’s Lemonade (2016) and Jay-Z’s 4:44 (2017), which in part trace their well-publicised marital discord.

The Carters: Beyoncé and Jay-Z.The Carters: Beyoncé and Jay-Z.The album is sonically and stylistically an extension of these solo albums, particularly Beyoncé’s experimental and widely lauded Lemonade. Beats were supplied by the distinguished likes of Pharrell Williams, Cool & Dre, Boi-1da, Mike Dean, Nav and David Sitek, as well as many lesser well-known writers and beatmakers. Stylistically, the big break with the past is that Beyoncé raps more than she sings, and, in a nod to Atlanta rap, with a very obviously Auto-Tuned voice.

Behind the scenes, the production involved renowned names like Tony Maserati, Leslie Brathwaite, Young Guru and Chris Godbey, all of whom have featured in the Inside Track series; but the main unsung studio hero was Beyoncé’s regular engineer and mixer Stuart White, who recorded large parts of the album, and has a mix credit on all but two of the album’s 10 songs.

Pulling Together

Everything Is Love was recorded and mixed in a large number of places around the world, including the U Arena stadium complex and Philippe Zdar’s Motorbass Studio, both in Paris; the Church and RAK in London; and, in LA, the Carters’ home studio Kingslanding West, as well as Record Plant and White’s own studio, Avenue A Studios West DTLA.

“I was the main tracking engineer,” reports White. “Tony was mixing at The Church, and I spent a lot of time at RAK, which has become my favourite studio. I brought in Chris [Godbey] as a tracking engineer in Paris, and we mixed ‘713’ together and he mixed ‘Salud!’ alone. Leslie [Brathwaite] is Pharrell’s regular mixer, and Pharrell wanted Leslie to mix his two tracks, but Leslie refused to mix ‘Apeshit’, as he considered my mix finished. So he mixed ‘Nice’ and ‘Friends’. As a general rule, I took the sessions to a certain place and then everybody helped finish them. There was no ego, and sessions were at times passed back and forth all the time with everyone trying to get the best results.

“Mixing as I go has always been my process, and I think it’s the best way to work. It’s how old-school guys used to work: they would get the right sounds there and then, and mixing was an afterthought. That’s also my mentality: let’s get it right now while it’s fresh, while we are all excited about the track, and while everybody is in the room. At that point I can ask, ‘What do you think of this reverb?’, or of the sound of this vocal, or this transition, or how this bass sits against that kick, and I get immediate feedback. It can be tricky doing this when tracking on a laptop in tons of random places, but actually it’s good to be hearing things in real-world environments.”

Headroom Is All

“I start with my Pro Tools tracking template, which is a slightly more basic version of my mixing template, and I load the sessions given to me by the beatmakers in that. We may initially get a two-track MP3 of the beat, and many...

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Published September 2018