Los Angeles, CA (November 9, 2020)—From the moment Roddy Ricch’s platinum-certified debut album, Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial, existed as a thought in mid-March, 2019, until it was released on December 6, 2019, recording engineer Chris Dennis was at the artist’s side, helping him perfect its sound. The pair recorded in various studios such as Record Plant, Glenwood Place Recording, Ameraycan, as well as New York’s Jungle City, where “The Box” was created. That hit was celebrating its ninth week atop the Billboard Hot 100 in mid-March 2020 when the preventive measures against COVID-19 postponed or canceled virtually all shows—and shuttered recording studios—for the foreseeable future. The music industry had paused, but the need to build on Ricch’s success had not, so the pair got to work.
With a new personal studio in his Los Angeles home centered around a Universal Audio Apollo Twin interface, Redco Audio Little Red Cue Box, Yamaha HS8 studio monitors, and Sony C800G microphone, the 22-year-old chart-topping phenom and Dennis have mostly eschewed professional studio spaces while crafting Ricch’s upcoming sophomore album. The result is that while the multi-platinum engineer told Pro Sound News in May that they had recorded 45 new songs by early April, when we caught back up with him in late September, the number had ballooned to more than 100.
“We’re kind of slowing down on the amount that we record, and spending more time on the songs we have recorded,” says Dennis. “Adding second verses, maybe features, and just adding stuff on them. We’re really just exploring different sounds.”
That would explain why Ricch implied in an August GQ interview that he had enough material recorded to drop an album at any point, but wasn’t going to just yet. At the time, he reasoned he was looking to make a body of work. Dennis says now instead of simply getting beats from producers and finding how to fit Ricch into the producer’s already-completed sonic vision, he and Ricch have been reaching out to different musicians for specific sonic needs and congealing the disparate sounds into a complete statement.
Dennis explains, “I think he’s really trying to tell a real story from song one to whatever the last song may be, with not only the lyrics but also the actual music. He’s getting more into an executive producer role now.”
A typical recording session in a pandemic doesn’t exist for Ricch and Dennis. No longer having to partly structure their days around studio availability, Ricch records whenever creativity strikes and for however long. Dennis might get a call one night to pull up to the studio and they’ll lock in for three hours. The same thing can happen the next night, but the session stretches into 18 hours.
The results have apparently been undeniable. “We have some amazing records, but Roddy is a true artist,” says Dennis. “He knows his music and puts a lot of work into making sure it’s something he’s happy with and not making it sound like something he’s already released.” Dennis adds that outside of periodic check-ins on the progress of the album, Ricch’s label Atlantic Records “gives him a lot of freedom when it comes to his music and when he wants to release it.”
While the pandemic provides the pair with time to work, it can still fence a creative in. Recording from home hasn’t necessarily precluded Ricch from collaborating with artists, but it has limited the ways in which that collaboration can take shape. “Sometimes he would prefer an artist or someone he was to work with pulls up, so he could feel out their vibe, just like any other artist,” Dennis explains. “It’s mainly been people sending us stuff over email, text, or whatever I may be.”
Working in a home studio is, by its very nature, a more personal experience. That has revealed itself in the music being created—said to be more intimate than his previous album, delving deeper into Ricch’s personal life—and in the friendship between Ricch and Dennis that inspired the engineer to move to L.A. in August, during a pandemic, primarily so he could be closer to Ricch and be available whenever needed. “We used to pull up to the studio and we get into work mode right away. When I’m working at his house, it gives you an opportunity to see them in their own personal space and see them be more of themselves.”
Whether we get the new album this year or not, one thing is certain, it will be an effort influenced by the world around him, from the sequencing of the album to its reflection of the world that we’ll hear in it. “People can only write about what they’re experiencing and seeing,” says Dennis. “Right now, we’re all seeing this right now, so it’s going to influence you, the way you’re writing, the way you move. It’s definitely creeping into the music for sure.”
Chris Dennis • www.cdqengineering.com