Interview: Producer Bud’da Talks Creating Aaliyah album, Producing for Tank, Working With Static Major
Bud’da is a name many West Coast rap fans will recognize as he’s produced for the likes of Dr.Dre (“Been There, Done That”), Westside Connection (“Bow Down”) and countless other rappers. What people may not know about him is that he was also involved with Aaliyah’s last album. We had a chance to catch up with him in this interview to find out about the process of that album and also discuss the work he’s done with some other artists including his own artist Eddie Gomez.
YKIGS: You did some work on Tank’s first album. What was like it like working with a young Tank on his debut?
Bud’da: To this day, I can definitely say Tank is clearly one of the best male vocalists, if not the best I’ve ever worked with and just in general. His range and voice. Sometimes records don’t necessarily capture just how talented Tank is. I think the people who get to see him live and get to see the entire process of when he records, people would have even more respect for him.
YKIGS: And did you see the potential from him then to become the writer/producer that he is now, basically on top of R&B?
Bud’da: Definitely because at that time he was filling a void. He’s evolved from being more than an artist with him being a writer as well. He’s just evolved, and I definitely saw it then. As a new artist, a lot of them have to do so much work in order to have them sound a certain way, but Tank as a new artist was stupid from the door. And another thing, he was open to doing different things. There wasn’t a stigma or industry block that he put on himself. He was open to try different things and sing different music. It was fun all the way across the board.
YKIGS: Another artist I know you worked with is Static Major. Talk to us about what it was like working with him and what he was like in the studio.
Bud’da: I’m definitely honored that I had the opportunity to not just work with him, but just to meet him in general. His presence, in general, as a person always stuck with you. When I came in the studio, he would be like “Ay Dawg!” He had the Kentucky accent. It sticks to my brain now and forever will and whenever I hear Kentucky, I think of Static. Static was amazing. Gifted and another person you could not put in a box. When he was feeling something, it would be on. One thing I can say that is hilarious when I think about Static, I think about being in the studio with Static. When Static was feeling something, he would have his bop and get on his own rhythm. Say you guys are both in the studio together jamming and bopping, he would be on his own rhythm and it would be an intricate part of his genius. He could hear something that nobody could hear, and you couldn’t look at him and bop at the same time because Static would be on his own thing. He would then lay it down and the notes and harmonies he would hear along with the content. The subject matter he chose to write about and the way he would articulate them with the melodies and harmonies was incredible. I miss him personally and I think in general, as dope as a lot of writers there are now, I think the industry is missing Static Major as well because he wasn’t in the box. He would go outside the box and for the most part, everyone else would always have to catch on.
YKIGS: You’re known for your work on Aaliyah’s 2001 album. First, how did you get the opportunity to work on the album?
Bud’da: I got the opportunity to work on the Aaliyah album because at the time, I had a production and label deal with Blackground. And Static had been over there for years prior to me going over there. I had worked on Tank’s record and it allowed me the opportunity to meet Aaliyah and hook up with Static and begin to submit joints for Aaliyah’s record. I was definitely fortunate Static was feeling the joints that I given him and we cut a lot of joints, not just for Aaliyah, but for Playa, a couple of groups that Static had and just individual artists like Musiq Soulchild. Static was a key element along with me being involved with the family that allowed me the opportunity to work on Aaliyah’s record. But yeah, for the most part Static and me cut so many joints. He was all over the place. He would be at multiple studios at a time to work for the record.
YKIGS: What was a studio session like with you, Static and Aaliyah? What was the feeling like?
Bud’da: To be honest, it was surreal. I think I’ve been fortunate enough, as much as God has allowed me to do, and be around certain people in the industry, and I may be weird for this, but I’ve been able to be around certain people in certain situations and after it’s over, it’s like “Did that really happen?” Like I remember seeing Michael Jackson at Record One studio in California and I was like “Was that Mike?” It’s silly but with the fact that they’re gone now, you almost want to kick yourself for not taking more pictures with them. But we had special moments in the studio, especially Australia. We went to Australia because Aaliyah was filming “Queen of the Damned”. So we went to Australia for a little over a month recording. I was already cool with Static because we had been working prior to, but to be there for a month to where Static, Aaliyah and the rest of us were there. We got to bond on different levels because we were in another country and you guys are all you got. You may know some different folks and you may go here and there, but it comes back to who you were there with. So I just remember me being in the studio with both Static and Aaliyah, just having conversations about life. It’s something that was a learning experience for me and it’s something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life and remembering just how special those times were.
YKIGS: I want to ask you specifically about the three songs you have on there: “Never No More”, “Read Between The Lines” and “I Can Be”. Could you give us the background on the recordings of the three songs you worked on?
Bud’da: All three were cut in Australia at SingSing studio. It was amazing. Static and Aaliyah fit like a glove together. I know you’ve heard some of the demos Static has done for her. They fit like a glove to where once she got on it, it wasn’t exactly the way you remembered it when Static would do it, she would put her own touch on it and it would work. All of the songs came from Static’s writing, but both he and Aaliyah had been talking about direction on where she wanted to go, and she talked with me about direction on vibe and the sound she wanted it to be. I know that “Read Between The Lines” started out musically as a whole another thing and so did “I Can Be”. Once Static laid his vocals, I was able to flip them and I’m pretty happy with how those songs turned out because as a producer, I’ve always wanted to not necessarily be pigeonholed in regards to what my sound is like “That’s Bud’da.” I would be rather known as “Man who did that?” and then you go see the credit. I want to be attached with excellence. I was happy with all three songs because they showed diversity. I think “Read Between the Lines”, in the content that Static put and the way Aaliyah was able to articulate it, the vibe with it being somewhat Latin and the live percussion and horns that it just added something fresh that not only would be good for her, but something fresh. It had been done before, but not in that way. “I Can Be” started out one way and then I wanted to flip it so we wouldn’t deal with a sample issue. Tank had laid that California and he wasn’t able to come to Australia because he was doing promo for his album at that time. We cut the song without him in Australia and with her doing it so well with Static, she was able to understand ‘Okay this is what the person that laid it down is trying to articulate’ and she was able to put herself into it and be able to do it to where when she redid it, it’s not like Tank would say “No, that’s not working.” So I enjoyed working on that song as well because it had an element musically for me to where it had been done before, but the element of doing Hip Hop/R&B with a tinge of Rock had been done before but not in that way before. It seems like someone may lean too much to the Rock side so it doesn’t feel like organic or they might lean too much to the Hip Hop side and Rockers might not appreciate it because the guitars don’t fit right. So I think it was a happy medium between all the genres that made that song, along with the content and her beautiful voice made it what it was. It was like sweetness singing over chaos. “Never No More” just in itself…I was honored she ended up picking up that song because when Static wrote to it and wrote what he wrote, I was excited when I originally did the track because I did live strings and other things on there. The melodies Static chose, everything just worked out perfect. And thinking about those three songs, I was just happy with all three because they showed different ability and it showed different approaches to accent Aaliyah.
YKIGS: There are two more songs that I’d like you to shed some light on which didn’t make the album and we’ve had the chance to hear Static’s demo of them, and that’s “Questions” and “CEO”. Do you remember if Aaliyah had recorded those songs and what do you remember about those songs?
Bud’da: J-Dub did questions. That song, oh my goodness, will make you cry. Musically it was beautiful and on top of that, what Static wrote was just dumb! CEO was a song where Aaliyah was super close to doing the song. We cut the hook and Static finished a couple of other things on there and then we ran out of time, and then she just never got back around to cutting it. I think that was a big song though. It was a girl empowerment song. It was pretty cocky honestly, but the way it was done was great. We only cut the hook on that though and didn’t finish the whole song. We may have cut the hook and the bridge. We did a couple of songs like that like a song called “True Entertainer” which Static did. It was one of those songs where he was definitely feeling it. And he was doing it for her, but was he? *Laughs* Static was like “Dawg, this is me!” We cut it and then one night, it was real late, she ended up cutting the hook and we didn’t get around to the verses.
YKIGS: So just to confirm, she did the hook on both songs?
Bud’da: She did the hook on both of them. I got a version with her singing the hook, not on CD though. They’re on some pro tool files. He’s under there with her, but it’s her on the hook. It’s interesting too because you know how aggressive that song is. The song sounds crazy.
YKIGS: Are there any songs during that session that he recorded for her or she was working on that never ended up making it?
Bud’da: Yeah, title-wise I don’t remember the titles, but we cut all type of songs for her during that time. My goal was to not just have diversity on the album in regards to the music content, but I was working hard. I was trying to get as many joints on there as I could. Along with the joints I cut with Static which might have been six or seven, I probably cut 15 or so other joints, trying to lock down as much as much as I could with different writers. I think Tank and I may have cut three and just one made it on there. With a couple of other writers, we were trying to do as much as we could and try to put an album together for her to be able to hear and see what she felt.
YKIGS: What are you currently working on and what are you up to?
Bud’da: Currently, I have an artist named Eddie Gomez and he sings. I hate to put descriptions on different artists or what they sound like, but in a rough sense, he’s a combination of John Mayer, Lauryn Hill and maybe Justin Timberlake. He’s not only an artist, he’s a musician. He’s Latin. We just finished mixing his album and I’m about to approach some labels. Look out for Eddie Gomez. For the last 6 years, I’ve been doing a lot of television stuff. I did the new Muppets that was on the new Disney channel and a couple of other shows on Disney. I’ve also been doing independent movies and had my first feature release this year with a movie called “The Heart Specialist”. I’ve kind of just switched gears a little bit because I honestly wanted to be able to do television and at my discretion do artists that I wanted to do and not necessarily beat chase. There are a million people trying to do beats and submit for projects, I know what I bring to the table. Not trying to blown my own horn or being egotistical or anything, but I know what I can bring to the table and it’s not just beats.
YKIGS: Thank you so much for the interview. The readers are going to love to hear all of this history and it’s great.
Bud’da: I appreciate it. It was good going down memory lane. Now I’m going to have to dig up some music and reminiscence.
Make sure you visit Bud’da’s official website to find out the latest about him and projects that he has coming up.