Ron "Amen Ra" Lawrence
You are a part of the world famous Hitmen production team. How many producers were on the team?
There were about 9 or 10 of us at the time, but throughout the height of the success, Me, Nashiem, Stevie J and D-dot produced the big records.
So how does the process work when doing production with a whole team of others? Is one producer assigned to an artists or do you all collaborate on an artist?
We usually partnered up on quite a few joints. D-Dot was my partner from day one so we always rocked together. Then sometimes he would work by himself and I would do the same.
Who was the first major artist you did production for?
I would say Salt n Pepa. That was on the DL. I was instrumental in records like "My Mic Sounds Nice, and "I'll Take Your Man". You won't find my name on the credits, but that was my introduction. I was young and didn't know any better, lol. Hurby did the the bulk of the work but if it wasn't for my ideas, those records would not have happened.
What is your current arsenal of equipment you use when doing a song?
Reason 4 and Protools 8, That's all I need right now. I like to move with the times
You have been in the industry for years so you got to see the switch from people recording onto tape, to everything being done in Pro Tools. Do you feel some of the fidelity is lost in some music because of this?
Yes it has been lost, but it's not about fidelity anymore, it's about HD. Live instruments worked well with high fidelity back in the days, but it never worked well with digital. As for how we make music today, I think HD works. but it's a matter of preference and what type of feel you are going after.
Do you think music today is mastered too loud compared to back in the day?
Yes, they're able to push the envelope higher because they don't have to bother with vinyl as much anymore. The grooves were to small on the albums, so there was but so much you couldn't do to raise the level before getting distortion.
How do you primarily work when doing a song or a whole album for an artist? Do you record everything then send it off to someone else for mixing and mastering? Or do you take a role in mixing as well?
Before the Pro Tools era, everything was pretty much hands on. You had to rent equipment to track your songs. You had to be in the studio to see what the engineer was doing. Now a days you can track songs at your own home with Pro Tools and charge the record company like you're the engineer. Everybody want you to send the the pro tools file over the net or something. It makes it cool if you are in NY and the Engineer is in LA. Those 24 track masters used to way a ton, now they don't way anything, just megabytes. I personally prefer to be in the studio. The producer is really supposed to give the engineer direction to mix a record. Some people leave it up to the engineer.
Do you prefer doing Hip-Hop tracks or R&B tracks?
I like them both. Different challenges, not so much the tracks anymore but the vocal ability of an artist and the flow of a rapper.
What piece of equipment do you feel is over-used in Hip-Hop and R&B production?
After your group with D-Dot, "Two Kings In A Cipher" changed focus in the early 90's, was there ever a moment you two were gonna release another album or were you both just too busy once things with Puffy took off? Once we laid the mic down, that was it. All I wanted to do was make beats, I never thought about rhyming again. We felt that what we couldn't accomplish sales wise as rappers, we could make it up by see the progress through other talents that we produced.
Are there some unreleased Two Kings In a Cipher tracks out there?
No, but there are unreleased tracks and I have them. It's at least 20.
So what are you working on now?
I'm into editing and directing. I just finished a documentary called Founding Fathers. It talks about the early influence of where Hip Hop could have sparked from, other than the Bronx. It is very controversial.
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