Words by @StanIpcus
One of the first performances I did as a rapper was a Battle of the Bands outside the Student Union at the University of Maryland. And during the show, I remember feeling like my vocals started to sound weird through the monitors. But it was my first big gig in front of mad people, and I was too focused on doing a good job to question what was happening.
A few days later, I was watching the video of the show with my friends, and I realized that I was right—the sound engineer had been fucking with my voice during the whole set! He was putting ridiculous effects on it, changing the pitch of my voice to make it dumb high or stupid low, and adding echoes and other shit that sounded completely wack. I was so tight, like, “Who gave this dickhead the creative license to toy with my vocals?”
So when I saw this tweet by one of my favorite rappers—Coney Island MC Your Old Droog— urging people not to watch his appearance during the BET Hip Hop Awards cyphers because the sound engineer had altered the placement of his vocals over the beat and delayed his flow, I immediately related to his frustration. What should have been one of the biggest—if not the biggest—look of Droog’s budding rap career had been tarnished by a seemingly out-of-touch sound guy. Ironically, a white rapper’s rhythmic delivery was de-rhythmed by the Black Entertainment Television Hip Hop Awards audio technicians. Go figure.
I’ve actually had this exact same vocals flub happen to me too, and I can vouch that it’s the fucking worst. This studio engineer once tried to fly my vocals in over an updated version of the instrumental I laid them to, and it was off just enough for me to be like, “What did you do to my bars?!” It sounded awful to me, but to him it was completely fine, which I found to be very disturbing. You mean to tell me that this professional sound engineer who’s mixed hit records for platinum-selling artists can’t tell that my vocals are slightly off beat?
But that’s what separates a decent rapper from a dope rapper, that slight difference in delivery. That minuscule amount of timing can change a flow from generic to Godly, so it’s important for those behind the boards to always handle with the utmost care and respect.
I know as a fan, Droog didn’t want me to watch his cypher. But as a day-one supporter and fellow MC, I had to see and hear for myself. Sure enough, he still came off nice enough for folks to say he ripped it (plenty of people on social media commented on how great he was), but as a true Droog head who’s listened to every track he’s ever released, I could tell that his vocals—and possibly others in the cypher—were most definitely laid down late on the beat in the final mix. And being a sympathetic MC who’s been in the same boat, I could feel his frustration as I watched. Sure, 99% of the viewers probably didn’t even notice at first, and the bars were still worthy of praise. But Droog knew right away that his art had been tarnished, and it needed to be fixed.
Which leads me to the worst part of this story. Okay yeah, people make mistakes all the time—we’re all human. But when Droog alerted the powers-that-be about the problem days before the show—which is when I assume he saw the final cypher clip—no one did anything about it. I mean come on, this is a man’s budding career, and you’re tampering with his craft without any remorse? Fix the vocals before they go on-air! You never know—this could be his big break!
I gotta stop writing because the more I think about this shit the more pissed off I get. My man Droog should be watching this cypher with his boys on repeat right now, flooding his social media with links so fans can retweet his killer performance on the biggest rap award show of the year. But instead, he’s telling people not to watch at all. FOH.