Studio engineer Alex Tumay has seen a lot during his days behind the boards, working with artists like Young Thug, Travis Scott, Drake, and Future. He's grown particularly close to Young Thug over the years—to the point that Thug "would only listen to beats that [he] picked for him to listen to."
Sitting down for an extended interview with Red Bull Music Academy, Tumay outlined many experiences he's accumulated over his career: paying special attention to some revealing stories about Young Thug. Watch the full interview above and read excerpts from some of the highlights below.
On Young Thug's wild studio approach:
"He loses his mind in a booth. He's not one of those dudes that just stands there. He's dancing around, jumping up and down, and all that. You hear it in certain songs. You can hear his footsteps on quiet parts of songs. He's like stomping and I didn't pick up on it or something like that. I put on headphones and I go back, and I'm like, 'That's dope. I'm leaving that. I like that.' Bruce Swedien left Michael Jackson snapping... So. I'm not going to take out my Michael Jackson's stomping."
On Young Thug's incredible sense of timing:
"I've never seen him write. I think maybe he wrote something to tell somebody once and handed it to him. He doesn't write. He doesn't write in the booth. He walks in and he raps and that's it, and you better be ready. His sense of timing is so... Sometimes he wants to start before the song starts so he'll be like, 'Alright, just pick an arbitrary point for the song.' He hears it once. He's like, 'Alright, start it again from that point,' hits record, and it's 100% on beat with no click, no lead in. It's just an arbitrary, 16.387 seconds. He's like, 'Literally, just pick a random time.' I'm like, 'No, I'll put it on the grid.' He's like, 'I don't care.' I just move it and he raps and it's constantly on beat. Any time you hear him rap before the beat starts on the song, where it's him talking first, that's him just doing it."
"He has the craziest sense of timing. He can hear a half a millisecond. I'll nudge something like a millisecond, he'll be like, 'What'd you just do?' I'm like, 'Excuse me? What?' 'Yeah, what did you just do?' 'I moved it back a little.' He's like, 'Don't move it back. That's wrong. That's not what I wanted.' I don't know. His ears are insane."
On having to play the "Good Times" beat for two and a half months before Young Thug would record on it:
"For two and a half months during the Rich Gang shit the first thing I did every day when Thug walked through the door was play the 'Good Times' beat. He was like, not in that vibe. I think we did that song the same day we did 'Imma Ride,' which is like, a super, like, trap song, like super aggressive, like, it was just not... We weren't doing a lot of cross over stuff at that point and he was just like, 'Man, why do you keep playing this beat? It's too happy. It's too happy. It's too happy.'"
'Like two and a half months go by and I play it and he's like, 'Fine.' Comes in, raps on it, and it's the first thing we do that day and the one thing I'll say about it is they took my name out of it, like Jamie's people, because he says my name in the very beginning. I don't know if you know the song. He says, 'And he's running up the money on these hoes.' That line? He says, 'I've got Alex in this bitch with me,' and that's the second half of the line. I guess they didn't think it fit or whatever...I just cry about it at night and stuff. (laughs) I was like, 'Jamie and Thug on the same song with my name on it.' I was like, 'Imma frame the waveform.'
On Gucci Mane's sound:
"Gucci doesn't even rap. Gucci just says stuff that's baller as fuck and is amazing. He talks like that. That's like, how he talks. He could say anything, at any point, and you're just like, 'That was better than anything I could think of, ever, with an hour to write it.' He's amazing."