We’re excited about Camp, the new album from Childish Gambino (aka actor/comedian Donald McKinley Glover — you might know him from the NBC sitcom Community), which was released on Glassnote Records this week.
Personally, I’ve heard about this album for a little while now, since it was mastered here at Masterdisk by Vlado Meller. Peter Cho, Vlado’s booking manager, had heard it a number of times over the course of the mastering process, and he was blown away by the record, and told me so. He flagged it right from the start: this album is going to be a hit.
Check it out for yourself. I’ve got some links below to listen to the album (I’m not sure how long it will be streaming at NPR, but it still is as of today), and to some early critical response as well.
PRESS: Consequence of Sound gives Camp 4.5 out of 5 stars and says “Gambino can really rap. Scratch that; he can really, really rap, plus sing and emote and put on a show better than 90% of his hip-hop counterparts.”
XXL gives Camp an “XL” and has this to say: “Taken on the whole, Camp is full of top-tier lyricism, honesty, uncertainty and triumph. Childish Gambino is on his way to becoming a real hip-hop force, heading in a direction all his own.”
Paste gave Camp a 9.1 and had this to say: “No song seems out of place and every single one will be your favorite the moment you listen to it because of extremely quotable songs. Childish Gambino provided an album that is so raw and still so peaceful that even after a dozen times listening to it, Camp still doesn’t get old.”
Alternative Press gave Camp 4.5 out of 5 stars and said “Childish Gambino is more than just a rapper, and Camp is more than just an album: It’s a stone-cold classic.”
Tony Dawsey is a Masterdisk mastering engineer with a long list of hit records under his belt. In the interview below, Tony discusses his experience mastering Jay-Z’s 2009 hit record, The Blueprint 3.
Tony, you’ve got a lot of fans online — people who love the records you’ve mastered.
I hear that a lot, that people like the way my records sound. And it’s a compliment, it makes me feel good, but I realize it’s not just me, it’s a group of people that come together to make the record sound right.
Did you hear a lot in particular about The Blueprint 3?
Yeah the last Jay-Z album I got a lot of people sending emails and just showing love and saying that they love the way it sounds, that it was loud but not too loud and so on and so forth. It definitely makes you feel good when you’re part of a project that people admire for different reasons.
When you work with Jay-Z does he attend the sessions?
He normally comes at the end to go through everything and make sure it’s the way he wanted the spacings from track to track. Out of the 9 albums we’ve done together, he was only here for the whole album once. That was American Gangster a few years ago. I came in on a Sunday, spent the day with him, and went through the whole record. Other than that normally it’s Guru, his engineer, and myself, and Jay normally comes in at the end just to make sure everything’s okay.
“Empire State of Mind” was huge.
Yeah, it was! Jay was in and we were going through the album just making sure everything was the way he wanted it. We got up to the 5th track on the album — “Empire State of Mind” featuring Alicia Keys. I said to him, “This could be an anthem for New York. With the Alicia Keys hook I find it’s so uplifting and motivating. You need to get the word out to your people!” And little did I know, not only was it Jay-Z’s first #1 record, but the Yankees did pick it up as an anthem for New York on their way to another Word Series championship. They even invited in Jay-Z and Alicia Keys to perform it during the play-offs, so, it was kind of special. I’m not going to tell you I “know” what record’s gonna do well out there, but I know what moves me. I was born and raised in New York and I loved that record — it really moved me in a positive way. It was my favorite record that year. I felt really glad that I got to work on it.
Did you do anything particularly different in the mastering of that record?
The equipment I used on Jay’s record I tend to use on all records that come my way. I know Guru is a very good engineer, so I know for the most part it’s going to come in sounding very very good, and I’m just hired to enhance what he’s done already. I can’t say I do anything special or use any type of equipment on that record and not on anybody else’s record. Most of this gear you can find in mastering studios all over the world. There’s nothing secretive when it comes to the equipment — it’s how it’s used. People gave a lot of love for that album, winning Grammys, so on and so forth, and I let people know it’s not just me. I’m just one of the engineers that worked on it.
You’re extremely modest.
At my stage, at the mastering stage, I have the last word on the EQ and so forth. But people need to know that Guru has a lot to do with the sound of the record and I just represent the “icing on the cake” which is what I’ve been saying for years when it comes to mastering.
This wouldn’t be an interview about mastering if we didn’t touch on loudness.
Whether or not I use compression really depends on what I’m given. Sometimes you need some compression just to push everything out front and so forth. But these days a lot of people mix very very loud, so a lot of times you don’t end up needing compression because of that. But it really depends on the project. You just gotta take ‘em individually and deal with them. And try things. I use trial and error. I’ll listen to something. I may try to put in the NTP compressor and see if that works, or I may try and use a Manley compressor or something to see if it works. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t.
Thanks Tony. One last thing: How did your relationship with Jay-Z start?
There was a referral. At the time I had did about 3-4 albums with Ruff Ryders. The artist was DMX. Then Lenny Santiago, who worked over at Def Jam as an A&R man, had asked the guys from the Ruff Ryders who they used for mastering because they liked the way the DMX records always sounded. They told him, “Check out Tony at Masterdisk.” The first Jay-Z album we did was La Familia. That was kind of a collection of different artists under Rocafella Records. It’s been a wonderful relationship, doing a lot of albums for Rocafella Records and 9 albums with Jay-Z.