4 Beginner Tips for Producing Rap Vocals – By RENEGADE EL REY (Big Boi, T.I.) Waves Platinum Plugins
I really enjoyed this run-through of Mr. Renegade El Rey’s method for producing polished Rap vocals. I have been mixing hip hop for a LONG time, and was able to learn a few new ways to look at things, which was incredibly helpful.
Renegade is a natural teacher! Let’s go over some of the juicy knowledge that he drops, in the following timeline.
1:10 Mixing Chorus (Hook) Vocals
Creating the Hook: Stacking Vocals – He talks about determining how “fluffy” or thick a hook needs to be. He usually stacks 4 vocals for the same part. He busses his vocal hook tracks to an aux, choosing to do this so that he can affect the group of tracks, and still maintain the option of further affecting the tracks individually.
He chooses to pan two tracks dead center and two tracks out to the left and right 80%. What I found cool is that he chooses NOT to pan out fully (100% Left-Right) because he feels that this separates the tracks too much and removes the cohesiveness that he is going for. It makes sense!
The center double and two panned takes are significantly lower than the main, centered lead (between 15-18db lower!). This ads amazing nuance!
4:29 Mixing Lead Vocals
In his verses, he only stacks two vocal tracks, with a 16db difference in level. and uses a Renaissance Compressor to level things out first. He busses these leads to an Aux track where he applies Compression (Renaissance Compressor), Equalization (Renaissance EQ), and De-essing ( Ren Deeser). Does the order matter?
Yes it does! He likes to level things out with a ratio of 4:1, lowering the threshold to get no more than 4 dB of reduction (fast attack, medium release). He is right to mention that this compressor gives warmth and body, in addition to better leveling.
He then brightens things up, or polishes to a nice sparkly shine, with Renaissance EQ. He rolls off from the male fundamental frequency of about 150Hz, boosts some of the meat and potatoes (thickness) at 400Hz, slight.
Any added siblance added by the eq, he then tames with a Renaissance De-Esser. As he rightly suggests, a De-esser is a “cousin” of the compressor, in that it is a frequency dependent compressor. Two much will make the vocal sound muffled, and gives the vocalist a magnificent lisp, so the goal is to do only as much as needed. He usually chooses 11kHz as his target frequency and lowers threshold judiciously, he will then shift the frequency around some more just to see if things can be approved upon. The range of choices is usually between 7kHz and 13kHz.
And what about those critical ad lib tracks? He uses the Waves Q10 Eq to find the frequency in these ad-libs that should stand out to make the track stand out, however prevents them from being “in the way.” By taking a medium Q’s boost, he sweeps to find this frequency, the experiments with Q to see what works.
Reverb and Time based Effects:
He is going with a Renaissance reverb, for a spacey vibe. Not wanting his time to be too, long, he wants it to be felt, but not clearly heard. He solos his vocal track with reverb. As with custom, he has his reverb and delay on auxes, set to 100% wet, Yes…..no time based effects as inserts usually. Timing for both the reverb and the delays are rythemically set. He is smart to roll off low end on his H-Delay to prevent delays from muddying the track. He gets the roll off right by listening to the delays louder in the mix than he would later have them sit, and thinning them out appropriately, he then lowers the send level to place them properly.
I really enjoyed watching RENEGADE EL REY break down his mixing technique, in very clear, step-by-step terms. It is important to note that he does indeed CHOOSE to use Waves Renaissance plugins, which are included in most of the higher tier Waves bundles. It seems like he makes this choice based upon the color, flexibility, and ease of use available in these truly classic and timeless tools.