After cutting his teeth recording sessions for some of Miamiâ€™s biggest acts, Drew Correa was drafted by Lilâ€™ Wayne to be the exclusive engineer for the Young Money and Cash Money camps. Manning the boards for Wayneâ€™s last two albums and Like Father, Like Son, Correa moved on to produce countless Tha Carter II tracks in the making, eventually striking gold (or platinum to be exact) with â€œMr. Carter.â€ Recently heâ€™s been in the studio with Gym Class Heroesâ€™ frontman, Travis McCoy, for his first solo album and an English album for Spanish pop sensation, Paulina Rubio. So when Wayne decided to venture into the waters of rap-meets-rock-meets-autotune, itâ€™s no coincidence that he enlisted Drew Correa to guide his vision, and take on the bulk of the production on The Rebirth. Your favorite rapperâ€™s favorite engineer / producer took the time to talk to Format about his biggest project to date, working with Wayne and the future of the industry.
â€œI donâ€™t think I receive more recognition because of it. I doubt if I introduce myself to Busta Rhymes heâ€™s going say, â€˜Holy shit, Drew, youâ€™re the dude who won that Grammy.â€™â€
Format: How was the transition from engineering to producing?
Drew Correa: I always wanted to produce but I went through the engineering thing to get my foot in the door. I was Lilâ€™ Wayneâ€™s exclusive engineer for three years and traveling and getting paid, so when I left it was really rough. Engineering was where I was making my money so I no longer had a steady source of income. I was really struggling and it took me a while to get back on my feet. It was a very tough transition.
Format: Do the engineer instincts still kick in during sessions?
Drew Correa: I have totally separated myself from engineering. If Iâ€™m engineering and producing at the same time I get less creative because I have to sit there and engineer. The artists usually bring their own engineers and thatâ€™s great for me because I donâ€™t have to record, I can just create. I know the engineering aspect very well so it does come out time-to-time, but I think itâ€™ll limit me creatively.
Format: I know Wayneâ€™s work ethic is kind of crazy, what was it like working with him exclusively?
Drew Correa: He works like a madman! Weâ€™d be locked in the studio for 18 hours straight sometimes. He just wants to work. Itâ€™s not even work for him; I guess thatâ€™s why he can do it for so long. Heâ€™d go to a club, do a concert and head straight to the studio until 2pm the next day. I went everywhere with him. If heâ€™d be in Houston heâ€™d call me up and fly me out. Weâ€™d be there for a couple of days and then heâ€™d be in LA and Iâ€™d fly to LA. Wherever he went, I went.
Format: Where did you find the sample for â€œMr. Carter?â€
Drew Correa: Everyone thinks itâ€™s a sample. People were like, â€˜I canâ€™t imagine how hard you had to dig for the sample.â€™ Honestly, I got my friend to sing the hook and sped it up to sound like a sample and built the beat around it. Thatâ€™s how I sold it to Wayne; I told him I found this crazy sample from some old record. I donâ€™t think he ever found out.
Format: When producers have a big hit on their hands they get requests to recreate that sound, are you afraid that this will become that song for you?
Drew Correa: My biggest fear is to have a sound that defines me. If I were to play all the beats I have, you would see that none of my stuff sounds the same. Who wouldâ€™ve thought that the person who did â€œMr. Carterâ€ was the same person who did â€œProm Queen?â€ I did some stuff with Travis from Gym Class Heroes for his solo album that is some really weird leftfield shit. Stuff you wouldnâ€™t expect from me.
Format: You won a Grammy for your work on Tha Carter III. Are things a little easier for you now?
Drew Correa: It changed things financially because now I can charge a lot more for a beat [laughs]. Thatâ€™s pretty much all it changes. I donâ€™t think I receive more recognition because of it. I doubt if I introduce myself to Busta Rhymes heâ€™s going say, â€˜Holy shit, Drew, youâ€™re the dude who won that Grammy.â€™
Format: What was your reaction when you heard Lilâ€™ Wayne was working on a rock album? Did you have any doubts? Were you like, â€˜Dude, what are you doing?â€™
Drew Correa: I feel itâ€™s a great idea. He already conquered the hip-hop world so with this heâ€™s trying to reach a different fan base. Itâ€™s something totally different and I think itâ€™s a great move on his part because Iâ€™ve seen him progress from Tha Carter I to Tha Carter III. If he wouldâ€™ve told me this during Tha Carter I or II, I wouldâ€™ve told him that it wasnâ€™t going to work. But now he really knows what people want to hear. I believe he has the ear and intuition, and I know people are going to dig it.
Format: You have delved into the rock realm and now you are doing some pop stuff for Paulina Rubio. Of the three genres, which is your favorite to produce and how do you approach each one differently?
Drew Correa: Definitely hip-hop; I enjoy rock and pop but Iâ€™ve always been a hip-hop fan. Sometimes I experiment and fuse hip-hop with rock sounds like Iâ€™m doing on The Rebirth. Itâ€™s definitely a different mindset for each, especially when producing. I like to vibe out, maybe listen to a couple of rock records. Itâ€™s a lot like when it comes to producing hip-hop and you have to make a grime-heavy club beat. Itâ€™s all in your state of mind.
Format: You work with a lot of down south artists; what do you think of the emergence of the Miami movement and its impact?
Drew Correa: Itâ€™s great! Miami really moved up and so many artists are coming from everywhere like Rick Ross and Flo-rida, you also have people like Trick, Trina and Pitbull, who have been holding it down. I think Khaled unlocked the door for a lot of people and stepped up the movement, even for producers like The Runners. Now heâ€™s the president of Def Jam South so you can expect to see a lot more artists coming out.
Format: You came up during the whole transitional period to digital, do you think all the new technology available to producers affects the quality of the product?
Drew Correa: Itâ€™s cool for the fact that there are programs you can buy for people who canâ€™t afford stuff [hardware]. When I was growing up I was buying thousand of dollars worth of equipment like MPCs and keyboards. Now you can buy a program with everything built in, and itâ€™s cheaper. This opens a world of opportunity for all those artistic producers out there…
â€œIâ€™ve been here since the beginning so whatever does happen I think Iâ€™ll be able to adapt to it.â€
Format: But donâ€™t you feel there are any cons? Wonâ€™t the game hurt with all these producers coming out of nowhere, or is it all good?
Drew Correa: I see it as all good because at the end of day, all these producers, whether they use a drum machine or a workstation, if itâ€™s a wack producer itâ€™s going to be a wack beat. So I think it makes things a little more convenient, especially those of us who are really savvy on the computers and high-tech gearâ€¦ I grew up with workstations.
Format: So there was no transitional period for you?
Drew Correa: Exactly. I grew up in the digital age. For example, older producers like Dr. Dre came up using the SP1200 and ASR so they get kind of stuck in that, not that itâ€™s a bad thing because their beats are amazing, still. I donâ€™t know what he uses now though, maybe heâ€™s computer savvy and Iâ€™m totally wrong. But all producers will have a problem if they are not computer savvyâ€¦
Format: With the state of the shrinking budgets for labels, as a producer, have you felt this as much as the artists have?
Drew Correa: Yeah, 100 percent. Wayne is a perfect example; his records leak a lot because he is an in-demand artist. This is stuff that was supposed to be for the album, so thatâ€™s a beat that gets thrown away. We get a lot of money for a beat so once that happens itâ€™s, â€˜I lost X amount of money.â€™ And thatâ€™s not even counting all the publishing and royalties that are involved.
A beat leaked from me that was supposed to be on The Rebirth called â€œI am Not a Human Being,â€ and I was so pissed because it was one of my favorite beats and now itâ€™s probably not going make the album. A lot of it has to do with these DJs trying to make a name for themselves and they are fucking a lot of people up right now. Thatâ€™s why Wayne made that comment about a year ago about â€œFuck all the DJsâ€ and people didnâ€™t know what he was talking about. We only mess with a certain group of DJs so when other DJs steal his records everyone gets pissed; the producers do too.
Format: Where do you see the industry and producers in the next coming years?
Drew Correa: The way itâ€™s going now it seems CDs are going to be obsolete and weâ€™re going to move toward the digital world, selling ringtones, iTunes and downloading music. I donâ€™t want to say itâ€™s going into a bad place but itâ€™s going to a new era. I just hope weâ€™re still making money off it. When I got in it sales were already doing halfway good and the digital world was starting to profit. Iâ€™ve been here since the beginning so whatever does happen I think Iâ€™ll be able to adapt to it.
More Info: www.myspace.com/drewcorrea