Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Making of "Aaliyah"



As I was re-watching Tim's behind the scenes discussion of "Are you that Somebody?" I was reminded of an article that The Chronicles meant to post last year, but somehow forgot. Last summer, the folks over at YouKnowIGotSoul.com published the dopest interview with the producers behind Aaliyah's classic self-titled album, Aaliyah. They interviewed Digital Black from Playa, Tank, Bud'da, Rapture, J-Dub, and Tim Barnett (Static's personal assistant). The in-depth interview not only goes into the writing and recording process of the album, but also a song-by-song (including unreleased tracks!) analysis. I'm telling you, I was blown away by this article. You can read the full interview here, but below are some highlights that I think y'all will find interesting:

How Static became the driving force behind the album, Aaliyah
Tim Barnett: “Static came in the picture when Timbaland and Missy were having disagreements with Blackground. If Tim and Missy were there, Static probably wouldn’t have had a chance to work as many records as he did.”

Aaliyah's spirit
Digital Black: “She was fun. Me and Static were blessed to go to prom with her, Playa went to her prom. She was family, she was our little sister.”

Tim Barnett: “She always had a glow about herself that made everyone feel comfortable and equal. I think her energy made people like Timbaland and Static to not feel like they were better than anyone else, whether it was me or a friend who was with Black. It was like ‘If Aaliyah is this humble, there’s no way I can’t be that humble.’”

Direction of the album
Digital Black: “We were blessed to be able to tailor make songs and basically just knowing the person and being around the person. We know what they’re thinking and what they like. In the studio, she was like a sponge. Whatever we had to do, it was never ‘I don’t like that’ and I’m still there were times she felt like that but she chose to at least try it. It was just like working with a family member.”

Bud’da: “We were trying to do as much as we could and try to put an album together for her to be able to hear and see what she felt. It was amazing. Static and Aaliyah fit like a glove together. They fit like a glove to where once she got on it, it wasn’t exactly the way you remembered it when Static would do it, she would put her own touch on it and it would work. All of the songs came from Static’s writing, but both he and Aaliyah had been talking about direction on where she wanted to go, and she talked with me about direction on vibe and the sound she wanted it to be.”

Recording process of Aaliyah
Rapture: “...On that particular album, we collectively just wanted to make the best possible album that we could. It was really like a family type of thing, there wasn’t any hostility recording that album and that’s why the album came out the way it did. No one was competing to try to out produce somebody else. Everybody had their own style to bring to the table, so that made it a collective effort from everybody because we knew each person was going to bring fire to the project, so it wasn’t even an issue. It was almost crazy because in the studio we would be in one room, J-Dub would be in another room and Bud’da would be in another room. So pretty much between Static and Black, they would kind of just bounce around to the various rooms. It’s funny because they don’t write lyrics down, so it was almost amazing for them to work on like 10 songs at a time[...]She was very precise and very fast in the booth. For the most part, Static hardly ever had to write the words down for her because she would come in the studio, she would listen to the song one time and she would be like ‘Okay, you just give it to me line for line while I go in there.’ And he would just go in there and sing her a couple of lines and then she would lay it. It wasn’t even a long drawn out process. She had so many other things she was doing, so she wouldn’t really sit in the studio all day. We might go in around two in the afternoon and she would come in around seven and she would stay for three hours and lay a whole song.”

How Tim finally got involved with the album
Tim Barnett: “We went back to New York and did them in either Sound King or Manhattan studio. We did them right after the New Year. Part of the problem was Timbaland and Missy weren’t even going to be on the album because of problems with Blackground. Aaliyah talked Tim into producing records for the album, so Timbaland did it out of love for Babygirl.”

The making of "We Need a Resolution"
Digital Black: “We Need a Resolution” was about relationships, a lot of songs with her were about her becoming a woman and coming of age. A lot of records dealt with stuff that people actually had to go through."

The making of "Rock the Boat"
Rapture: “That’s actually a funny story because when Seats and I were doing that track, we were at the studio earlier before Playa came to the studio, we were working on that track, but the funny thing is we didn’t like it the way it was. It was just the beat and a couple of sounds and we were like ‘It’s cool, but we’ll come back to it.’ It’s funny because as we were going to something else, Static had just got there and they heard the song coming down the hall, so when he got there we already cut it off and he came to the door and was like ‘Wait put that back, what is that?’ He told us to pull it back up and he instantly got the melody and he went right in the booth and he didn’t do any words, he just put the melody down. And then the next couple of days, he did the whole song.”

The making of "More than a Woman"
Tim Barnett: “One night, Static was vibing to the track and the following day he recorded the first version. He went back and kept listening to it and didn’t like it and said ‘I can do something bigger and better to it’/ So he rewrote the whole record the next day. Aaliyah wasn’t at the studio at the time when Static did the first version, so she never got to hear it.”

The making of "I Refuse"
J-Dub: “I don’t know where that came from. I was on one and I was just zoned out. While I was doing that track, I was working with Static Major and Static wrote the hell out of it. That’s the story on that one.” *laughs*

Just like Tim's video that we posted a couple of days ago, this interview just makes me miss and appreciate Aaliyah and Static so much. RIP...

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