November 20, 2013

Did you help produce Kanye West’s new track? Are you sure?

Uh-huh, honey
Today I learned that Kanye West’s new single—you know, the one whose video features West dry-humping Kim Kardashian while she bonds with her new cheeks—has 6 producers.

Six. Producers.

As for writing credits, we’re looking at 13. 

Never mind that the video is pretty much a universal laughingstock at this hour: The sheer number of credits behind that four-minute bit of music confounded me. Why does it take six producers and 13 writers to mash up a bunch of samples while Kanye raps about wanting to bang Kim hard on the sink (and then give her something to drink)?

I had to find out.

First, I learned that samples have much to do with it. More of today’s (muthafuckin) singles sample songs from other eras or genres, or, in the case of Kanye, planets. And those samples all have writers, too. So for every sample used—"Bound 2" has at least 3, while Beyonce’s single employs at least 1—all of those writers need to be credited on the new track.

But that’s not the only reason.

Unlike the movie world, where producer credits can be jealously guarded, the music business isn’t so stingy. Especially nowadays.

“You could drop food off in the studio and get producer credit if they want to give it to you,” one former music industry heavyweight tells me. “I mean, if I had been hired to produce a couple tracks and this guy dropped off food and Kanye was like ‘IMMA LET YOU FINISH BUT THIS GUY IS HELPING ME CREATE MY JAM UHNNNN’, I would be like, ‘Fuck you’.

“But there is no reason the delivery boy couldn't get set up with a producer credit if the artist wanted and the producer allowed it.”

Uh-huh, hun-nee.

A seasoned A&R guy backs up that assertion.

“Welcome to an age where EVERYONE is a producer!” he tells me. “The engineer who tweaked the mix, producer. The dude who provided the soul sample, give him additional production credit. The label guy who makes it rain? Producer. The guy who picked up the coffee for the room? Oh, he's a producer too.”

As for writers, the crediting process is a bit saner—at least, for the music business.

“Multiple writers, I can say, have been co-writing your favorite radio hits for ages. A top line writer coming in to help fix a chorus melody or a verse lyric is quite common in the pop world, even after, say, an initial writing session between the artist and another co-writer. And more and more, record producers of all genres are co-writing in the studio themselves. 

“But how SIX producers can squeeze their hands into a surprisingly draggy 4:14-minute track? Your guess is as good as mine. I just sure hope the guy who recorded ‘uh huh, honey’ got his due credit.”

For the record, that guy was writer Ronnie Self, and yes, yes he did.

Got a question about the inner workings of the entertainment world? Ask it in that feedback module to the right. No, Kim, sweetie, your other right.

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