Seattle-based hip-hop artist and producer Sir Mix-A-Lot (www.sirmixalot.com) is perhaps most widely associated with his breakthrough 1992 single, “Baby Got Back” (from Mack Daddy, his first release on Rick Rubin's Def American label), which won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance. But although Sir Mix-A-Lot made his mark in rap music, he points out, “I had a lot of different influences, and it wasn't really rap that made me want to produce; it was more of that early new-wave techno, like Kraftwerk, Gary Numan, Devo — stuff like that. I bought my first drum machine, the [Boss] Dr. Rhythm DR-55, and [became] addicted to the technical aspects of music production.”
Sir Mix-A-Lot has maintained a D.I.Y. aesthetic throughout his career, including his three albums with Rubin. “I engineer most of my own stuff,” he says. “I built my first true home studio in 1986. But I never felt the studio was what it should be. I abandoned tape way back when it was uncool to do so. I realized the power of editing on a computer.”
Sir Mix-A-Lot's studio in Auburn, Wash., is his third project studio, and he is currently building a fourth in a new home. “Every time I move, I set up a new studio,” he says. “When I built [the current studio], it used to be a formal dining room, and I don't do much formal dining so I gutted it.” In recent months, Sir Mix-A-Lot has been producing artists on his label, Rhyme Cartel Records, including vocalist Tomeka Williams (The Black Hood) and artist Outtasite (Careful What You Wish For).
“I have no rules when it comes to making music,” Sir Mix-A-Lot says. “Whatever sounds good, that's what we use. [Laughs] I mix with the end-user in mind. I listen to my mixes at 16/44.1, which is how everybody else is going to hear it. And I'll make an MP3 and listen to it that way, too. It has to sound right that way for me to call the mix complete. It's all about what feels right, what sounds thunderous in a kid's car with some subs in the back. I have six subs in my studio alone.” Sir Mix-A-Lot monitors with KRK V88s and soffitted JBL 4430s. “I record myself right in the control room,” he adds. “My control room is pretty dead — that's how I like it. I don't want it live at all because then you have a tendency to mix to the room.”
Sir Mix-A-Lot's studio is based around a Mac Pro and a Pro Tools HD3 system with two 192 I/O interfaces, a 32-fader D-Control worksurface and D-Command Producer's Desk. He notes that he works primarily in the box, and has begun favoring software synths, samplers and drum machines — such as Native Instruments' Kontakt and Battery, and Spectrasonics' Omnisphere — over his collection of hardware synths and MIDI controllers. He turns to Roland V-Drums (with real cymbals added) for drum tracks, and handles effects processing with plug-ins. He cites the Blue Kiwi multipattern condenser as his favorite mic; he also uses a Shure KSM44 and Neumann models.
“I love what I do,” Sir Mix-A-Lot concludes. “Not many of us can get paid for doing something we love doing. It's a blessing. A lot of people sometimes don't appreciate it.”