Jermaine Dupri is one of the most successful hip hop/R&B producers working today. He has created Platinum hits for the likes of Jay-Z, Mariah Carey and Usher, as well as artists such as Kriss Kross, Da Brat, X-Scape and Jagged Edge on his SoSo Def Records label. For years, he produced these hits out of his home studio, then booked commercial facilities to finish projects. Longing for a place where he could do everything in-house, keep the creativity flowing and remain in hometown Atlanta, Dupri envisioned SouthSide Studios.
Last September, Dupri moved into SouthSide, a 10,000-square-foot recording facility just minutes from downtown Atlanta. The complex comes complete with a pre-production room, main control room, three adjacent vocal rooms and a rehearsal hall, not to mention a list of amenities including bedrooms, showers, a kitchen, security access and an arcade. "It's a full spot for everything," Dupri says. "I don't have to go to New York or L.A.-nothing's wrong with that, but if I'm home, I got to be home.
"I built it for the bigger superstars who would come block it out," Dupri points out. An artist can record in one room, practice vocals in the rehearsal hall or take a break in one of the private bedrooms. "If a Mariah Carey wanted to come book the studio, she could have the whole facility. We've got one room, but you've got the whole facility, with stuff that you could use and keep yourself occupied."
The design of the facility is the result of a unique collaboration between George Newburn of Studio 440 and George Augspurger. Newburn created the overall design, doubling the size, dividing the space and choosing the materials. Augspurger designed and created custom monitoring, fine-tuned the iso spaces and control room, and created custom bass traps, diffusors and ceiling clouds.
"Through a series of meetings with Jermaine and his engineer, Phil Tann, we refined the room adjacencies and sequences to allow for the most efficient use of the studio's spaces and the greatest privacy," says Newburn, adding that Dupri wanted the production room to resemble his home studio.
The production room is cozy and private, yet large enough to house all of Dupri's gear, including a Minimoog, a few Roland keys, the hip hop favorite Technics 1200, and a special favorite of his, the Akai MPC 3000, just to name a few. When pre-production is finished, everything is sent to the adjacent machine room on two Studer A827 24-track machines, which Dupri likes for their sound quality as well as familiarity.
SouthSide's control room houses an SSL 4064 G-Plus with Total Recall, which Dupri likes for its edgier sound, and a supporting cast of mic pre's by John Hardy, Tube-Tech CL-1B compressors, and near-field monitoring by Yamaha NS-10s. The main monitors are a custom Augspurger design, with two 18-inch subs and two 15-inch horns. With an emphasis on "hard-hitting" sound, the control room is geared for urban and hip hop production. "Even the ballads that we do, most of the time, have a certain edge to them," Tann explains.
To preserve this sound, the bottom end of the studio was given custom acoustic treatments. "George Augspurger designed a system of multiple tuned low-frequency tube traps on the rear wall of the control room, which we placed behind undulating perforated metal panels," says Newburn. "The perforated metal is becoming one of our favorite materials. We like both the industrial look of the material and its acoustic transparency, and we often use it instead of fabric. In the studio, the perforated metal conceals a variety of absorption materials." This same perforated metal design can be found in the adjacent main iso room.
SouthSide has three iso rooms, varying in size. Although built for "smaller groups," the largest is spacious and large enough to fit a four-piece band. The next in line can hold a trio of singers, while the other is more compact, accommodating a vocalist or drum kit. Artists can record in virtually any room if called upon, via mic tielines throughout the facility. "You never really know when creativity is gonna hit," Tann says, "so it could be somebody in a bathroom, and the room sounds cool, so you might want to mike it in that room."
SouthSide reflects Dupri's desire to have a facility that is designed around the way he works, promoting creativity in his own backyard. "No one out here in Atlanta, nor in the Southeast, has that type of studio," he says. Keep an eye on the charts. Dupri and SouthSide will be there.