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Solid State Logic For Rapper Future & Atlanta’s 5 Star Production Studios

With four SSL consoles including an AWS 948 δelta desk, Future’s GRAMMY-winning production team says it’s all about an intelligent workflow.
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The SSL AWS 948 δelta SuperAnalogue console in the A room at 5 Star Production Studios in Atlanta.

In working with artists such as Future, the 5 Star Production Studios complex in Atlanta employs a Solid State Logic AWS 948 δelta SuperAnalogue console joined by the analog workflow of an XL-Desk and DAW integration of a Nucleus2 controller.

Three years ago, Future moved his team into a building that had originally been producer and songwriter Dallas Austin’s DARP facility, which he opened in 1993. “We took it over and did a whole renovation, top to bottom,” says Eric Manco, Future’s engineer. “It’s a compound with business rooms, a lobby, entertainment room, a pool table room. It’s like a club. I haven’t been to a studio like it. Future has a suite there and when he’s in town he’s there pretty much 24 hours a day.”

Acoustician Ross Alexander, owner of Florida-based Synergistic Services and former chief engineer of Criteria Studios Miami, oversaw the rebuild of the four studios, which all incorporate SSL consoles.

Manco was previously based in Los Angeles, working with Future whenever he came to town. “Then he took me on the road for three years straight. I became part of the team and moved to Atlanta,” he says. The artist and the engineer both won a Grammy Award in 2018 for their work on “King’s Dead,” a collaboration between Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Future and James Blake for Marvel’s Black Panther soundtrack.

Future’s engineer Eric Manco.

Through his former colleagues at South Beach Studios in Miami, where he used to work, Manco contacted SSL’s regional sales representative and ordered an AWS 948 δelta for the A room, an XL-Desk for the B room, and two Nucleus consoles for the C and D rooms. While rap and hip-hop productions typically require minimal channel counts during the tracking phase, Manco says having the AWS 948 in the A room is key, in particular when it comes to mixdown.

Manco, who attended Full Sail University in Florida, prefers to work on a compact desk. “My main problem with using a big board is I don’t want to be running around from one side to the other,” he says. “But with the AWS I have 48 faders in the space of 24 channels. The fact that I have everything within reach, and I can control 48 channels if I really need to, is insane. You can do a mix in there, sitting down with everything within hand’s reach. Your mix can be done very, very fast, compared to somebody who has to run around a big-ass board.”

The AWS 948’s hardware control of Pro Tools and plugin integration via SSL’s δelta-Control software also prove useful during tracking sessions. “Having the digital control side is really the main reason I got the board. It’s cool to be hands-on with stuff,” he says.

Guap Tarantino recording himself in room C.

“I’m able to track on it and run it as a controller,” he continues. “I’ll have a lot of my stuff set up to be automation ready. I can grab a fader if I want to do some fader rides, or mute or group automation. Even though you can do that in Pro Tools, having the fader in front of you while you’re tracking allows you to drop the beat in a way that you wouldn’t be able to do if you were just drawing it in with a mouse. That’s something that some of the younger engineers need to experience and see why we do it this way.” Plus, he says, “Having the bus compressor built into the board is just great.”

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In the B room, the ability to select outboard processing directly from the XL-Desk helps speed up the workflow. “Being able to do inserts on your mixes without having to patch out — you just hit a button — makes it easier for people to discover the benefits of analog. And the faster you can get this stuff done, the better,” he says. “That’s exactly what I like about the SSL boards.”

DJ ESCO and Artist Young Scooter put finishing touches on a recording.

Compatibility between the four rooms, which are all similarly outfitted with SSL consoles, Pro Tools rigs and Augspurger main monitors, has become essential to the creative process. “I’m Future’s engineer, but I was also working with DJ Esco, High Off Life’s executive producer. We were putting the album together while another engineer was recording Future in another room. And we’ve got other artists coming in and working in other rooms,” says Manco. Having similar equipment in all four studios, he says, “It’s cool to have everyone in the same building and be able to go from one room to the next and it sounds like you’re still in the same room.”

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