When a track contains nothing but beats and vocals, the vocal mix has to be perfect. Mix engineer Evan LaRay explains his role in taking Cardi B’s ‘Bodak Yellow’ to number one.
With no recognisable melodic hook or musical structure, and no bass, Cardi B’s ‘Bodak Yellow’ is one of the more minimal rap tracks ever to become a hit. Yet the fact that, besides Cardi B’s rapping, it contains nothing but some 808 kicks, trap-influenced hi-hats and a simple synth arpeggio hasn’t stopped it topping the US Billboard singles charts. Amazingly, in fact, Cardi B is the first female rapper to have had a US number one solo hit since Lauryn Hill in 1998 with ‘Doo Wop (That Thing)’. ‘Bodak Yellow’ also remained at the top spot for three weeks, which made it the longest-running number one by a solo woman rapper to date. Three times platinum in the US, it has had 357 million YouTube views at the time of writing. Declared Single of the Year at the 2017 BET Hip Hop Awards, it’s been nominated for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song at the 60th Grammy Awards.
Engineer and mixer Evan LaRay explains its appeal thus: “With ‘Bodak Yellow’ it is Cardi’s vocal performance that really takes the record to the next level. I don’t think anybody else could get on that beat the way she does, and then there’s what she wrote and raps about. The vocals are what makes it a great record, and the beat and the vocals together control the song. It’s a simple beat, really just the main synth, the 808s and the hi-hats. The producer, J White, put in some amazing drum sounds and 808 textures, with a lot of energy. The second 808 sound almost functions like a bass. When you hear that part in a club or in a car, it moves you. And as a mixer, I had to make sure to enhance everything and make sure that it translates.”
Evan LaRay is a young engineer and mixer who, like Cardi B, originates from the Bronx in New York. ‘Bodak Yellow’ is his first number one, and has helped earn him a nomination at the 2017 Pensado’s Place Awards for Break Thru Mixer: no mean feat for someone who has only been mixing professionally for a few...
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