“Kingdom Come” Jay-Z

Gimel “Young Guru” Keaton — engineer, vocal engineer and co-mix engineer for “Kingdom Come” — insists that the catchy track came down to, as usual, the unique genius and immense talent that is Shawn Carter (a.k.a. Jay-Z).
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(click thumbnail)“Kingdom Come” | Jay-ZAlbum: Kingdom Come (Roc-A-Fella)

Date Mixed: Summer 2006

Single Producer: Just Blaze for F.O.B. Entertainment/N.Q.C. Management, LLC and Hip Hop Since 1978

Single Vocal Engineer: Gimel “Young Guru” Keaton for Loreal Inc. at Sony Music Studios, New York City

Single Tracking Engineers: Andrew Wright and David Brown for N.Q.C. Management, LLC at Baseline Studios II, New York City

Single Mix Engineer: Dr. Dre at Ocean Way Recording, Hollywood

Single Co-Mix Engineer: Gimel “Young Guru” Keaton for Loreal Inc. at Baseline Studios II, New York City

Mastering: Tony Dawsey at Masterdisk, New York City

Other Projects: Keaton has worked with such artists as Kanye West, Ludacris, T.I., Linkin Park, Beyonce, Talib Kweli, The Neptunes and Memphis Bleek.

Single Songwriters: S. Carter, J. Smith, R. James, A. Miller, L. Parker

Console: Solid State Logic 4000G+ (Baseline Studios II)

Recorder: Pro Tools|HD

Vocal Pre-amplifier: Avalon VT-737SP

Vocal Microphone: Neumann U87

Select Outboard Processing: Solid State Logic SL 4000 mix buss compressor, Empirical Labs Distressor and API 550BENGINEER’S DIARY

Gimel “Young Guru” Keaton — engineer, vocal engineer and co-mix engineer for “Kingdom Come” — insists that the catchy track came down to, as usual, the unique genius and immense talent that is Shawn Carter (a.k.a. Jay-Z).

“Jay’s a phenomenon,” begins Keaton. “He’s not a normal rapper. You can present him with a new track and within a half-hour he’ll have a verse. By the time he steps into the booth, he’s said the verse about 10 times to himself. Then he gets the performance — the swagger — down. About two or three takes, and he gets it … and he never punches. Then the process goes again for a second verse, then a third verse. In an hour or two, you have a song done.”


(click thumbnail)Gimel “Young Guru” KeatonKeaton added his own expertise to the “Kingdom Come” track, which used “the most pop sample ever,” he explains; Rick James’ “Super Freak,” which begat MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This,” was transformed “into something for the most urban of artists, Jay-Z. I had to break the loop into three or four different frequency ranges, then combine them back to control them a lot better. That [sample] is a great sound; it reminds me of those mid-90s records that defined our sound in hip-hop. It’s about making a new arrangement with the sounds that were originally presented in a way that wasn’t thought of by the original artist.”

Jay-Z, a “very controlled” rapper, says Keaton, is most often recorded via a Neumann U87 and Avalon VT-737SP to Pro Tools|HD. “If it’s my session, I have a U87 set up for him going into an Avalon VT-737SP with extremely light compression with a semi-quick release time,” he explains. “If you look at the wave on the oscilloscope, those higher-than-average bumps in the hills are what I’m trying to tame. My compression ratio is normally 3 or 4:1 and the threshold is really light, maybe going -2 or -3 dB on the majority of the words. But Jay’s a calm rapper, so he doesn’t have the sharp transients that someone else — like DMX, for example — would have.”