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Live Sound

Mixing Nicki Minaj Around the World

Engineers Kevin Brown and Marlon John have been overseeing gear from Eighth Day Sound on the international production, which hits North America this summer.

Highland Heights, OH (May 8, 2019)—Nicki Minaj has been touring the world in support of her most recent album, Queen, having just wrapped up a European arena run; with a North American summer leg up next, hitting the road teamed up with Chris Brown. Throughout the tour, Highland Heights, OH-based Eighth Day Sound has provided audio gear.

For the 22 arenas on the European leg, that meant providing a PA and control package that included a pair of DiGiCo SD5 consoles, used at both FOH and monitors, paired with five SD-Racks and an SD-Mini Rack, all on an Optocore loop.

Reinventing the Agora’s Audio

“We used a traditional splitter for some inputs, but also shared inputs via the loop,” said FOH engineer Kevin Brown, who has also mixed for Chris Brown, Outkast, American Authors, Toni Braxton, Kid Cudi, Joi and others. “Looping the consoles also enabled us to use the Con Send and Receive ports, which was particularly useful when I needed to send audio down to monitors; this could be talkbacks, FX or playback audio from FOH. I also used the new DiGiGrid MGR at my console for recording and virtual playback.”

New Console Rocks Caves

The tour marked the first time that Brown used DiGiCo’s 32-bit “Stadius” Mic Pre-Amp modules: “Using them on vocals gave me a big, clean sound. We also used them for keyboards. The guys on keys had a lot of analog synths to replicate the sounds used on the records, and I wanted to make sure we captured what makes us all love analog synths. We also shared another 16 channels of 32-bit cards that were located in the SD-Mini Rack mounted with our playback rig.”

Marlon John, who has been Nicki Minaj’s monitor engineer on all of her tours dating back to 2010, had already used them before. “I first used the new cards last summer with the Migos and loved them,” he said. “On this tour, we originally used them only on the vocal mics, and they sounded phenomenal—especially on Nicki’s mic. Having previously worked with her on various other consoles and DiGiCo desks prior to having the new cards, I noticed that her vocal was actually much easier to mix with the 32-bit Mic Pre-Amps. Her voice sounded bigger and fuller, and I required less gain to get her vocal to where I needed it to optimally sit in her mix.”

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For the Nicki WRLD tour, her backup band was comprised of a drummer, two keyboard players, a DJ, a backing vocalist and playback, which put the input count at around 80 channels for Minaj’s set. With all vocalists and musicians on IEMs, and no wedges for stage monitoring—aside from two d&b J-Sub and four J8 flown as sidefills—John was manning 20 stereo and six mono mixes on his sub-stage SD5. “With the spill set, I was able to configure and lay out the bank where everything was easy to access. Like FOH, we shared the monitor console with Juice WRLD on this tour, and with the SD5’s great snapshot feature, I was able to use one snapshot for him within my Nicki Minaj show.”

Nicki Minaj •

Eighth Day Sound •

DiGiCo •