Tha Carter III is finally here, leaked online and now in stores, too. The overall reception has been favorable, though there’s been some rumblings over whether Lil Wayne properly delivered considering the sizable buzz he built. According to his engineer, however, Young Money/Terror Squad family Fabian Marasciullo, TC3 is even better than intended.

Plenty of songs leaked to the Internet that could have made the cut. New songs were added literally days before the product was shipped. But the end result, he says, is a quality album.

Here, Marasciullo, who rode shotgun for the entire making of the album, speaks to about the records that didn’t make the album, mixing and mastering the album, and the pesky leaks that slowed down the project in the first place.

On meeting Lil Wayne…

I’ve been working with Wayne since the 500 Degreez stuff. I was working with Rodney Jerkins and we were doing shit like Michael Jackson and stuff like that. I was Rodney’s exclusive engineer and I met the Cash Money guys including Lil Wayne and we hit it off well. I didn’t really start working with them until Tha Carter, the first one. The first record I mixed was “Go DJ.” So I been with Lil Wayne as an artist for a while now.

When we started with Tha Carter III and seeing all the leaks, there was frustration because we had been working on this for years. When it came time to mix, the first record that we mixed was “Lollipop.” In the past, Wayne was never involved in the technical process before this album. He just gave us the songs and we mixed it, compiled the album, and put it out. We, meaning Slim, Baby, and me.He would give us the songs he wanted, and Baby and Slim had more input on the original albums. But Wayne always gave us the records. And then we would mix, put the spacing and do all that shit. But this album was really more hands on for Wayne. The first record we mixed was “Lollipop” and it was kind of a weird situation. It was Wayne’s first time really being involved in the mix process and at the time there also was a couple different version of the record, so there was confusion getting started. We might have mixed that record three times before you guys even heard the final product; there were three different versions of where we were going. From that point, me and Wayne had a meeting about the vibe he had and what he wanted it to be. We kind of pushed the envelope as far as rap stuff goes. He kind of did it a little funkier, wild, and far out for rap shit, as opposed to the typical straight up, rap album. His manager left me with Tha Carter III drive and they left overseas to do some shows. They were gone like a month and while they were gone I just started mixing stuff.

On getting started on Tha Carter III

When it comes to Wayne it’s always been more of a family thing so I always go in a little bit different for him than for anybody else. So they left me with that and we started going in. We did “La La,” the David Banner record. I mix records every day, but then you get someone like Wayne and just because you know it’s a more anticipated thing, not to mention it’s my brother, so you have to go in a little bit more different and you got to think about things differently. When we were working with Michael Jackson, it was like, it’s Michael, we got to go in. So we’re looking at Wayne in the same light nowadays, really, because he’s who everyone is looking to. So to go in on that means to just give things a 10th listen instead of 9. We go in with more passion and more heart, just because it’s a family thing. And we knew this was the most important one so we had to make it perfect. So we did “Lollipop then we did “La La,” then we did the Alchemist record. From there, I did a record called “Phone Home,” which was produced by Cool and Dre. And it was dope, because I kind of took Wayne’s lead on that. In the first verse he said, “We are not the same, I am a Martian.” And he sounds crazy, like a Martian when he says that word. So in the intro, the record didn’t have any of that computer shit, the space and all that stuff. So I listened to the record and I was like, We need to take this up to the next level. I got a bunch of sound effects, I created the countdown at the beginning, the spaceship taking off, that’s what I mean by going in. The next step. So I went in and added all those sound effect and Wayne heard it and was like, ‘You’re retarded.’It was great.

The whole time it was just so stressful. We had a safe in the studio. Because I knew I was the only person that had a copy of these records at the time. So it was so stressful we literally had a safe. I locked everything up every night, leave. No one had the combination. Nobody had access to this thing, not even Baby and Slim. In fact, I got married in the middle of the process and went on my honeymoon; I was in Italy for two weeks. They were calling because they needed a record to send over for clearance. And they couldn’t even get it, because I had the key on me. It was funny. This shit was literally under lock and key. They were like, ‘Damn, we can’t even get to it.’ From there, we mixed a couple of really dope records that didn’t make the album. I’m sure they’ll be out on mixtapes or on the Internet in the next month or so, you know how that shit goes?

Fabian Marascuillo mixes records for Young Money and Terror Squad.

On leaked records…

The way I look at it, everything happens for a reason. As far as the stuff leaking, I was always Cash Money’s mix engineer. And Andrews Correa was the tracking engineer. There was always two guys that they could always go to. Baby and them were still in old-school world and Wayne was never too into the technical process before. They would have to come to us to burn a disc, do this. It was always more of a pain in the ass for us, but it was good because no one had access to things and you didn’t have to worry about much. So now Wayne blew up, he goes all over the world, he goes here, he goes there. So of course now there’s more margin for error. As opposed to being in the studio in New Orleans, we record here, or we’re in Atlanta, you send it to me and we mix it in Miami, then it goes to mastering. But now he’s all over the world, so there’s 10 engineers doing 10 different things. So of course there’s more of a margin for the shit to get leaked. But anybody that hears this stuff can tell you that the records that got leaked were always super dope. But the final album…it’s like, thank God for the leaks. Because the final album is killing what would have been the final album, in my opinion.

On what made the album and what didn’t…

The “Playing with Fire” joint, the Streetrunner record. That originally was a Rolling Stones sample that they used and there wasn’t no way it was gonna get cleared and everyone was tripping about it. Streetrunner went back in, unbeknownst to Wayne, got Betty Wright, replayed the guitars on the record. Up until the day before mastering it wasn’t on the album. We were in New York paying the album and I was like, What about “Playing with Fire?” It was one of the records I really enjoyed listening to the whole thing. Wayne was like, ‘We can’t get it cleared, We can’t use it.’ I told him he re-did it and Wayne was so excited. It cost Universal so much money because the artwork was done already; they printed almost 2 million copies of the album to ship out. And Wayne was like, ‘No, make it happen.’ I was watching people from the label scrambling to put the shit on there. But that was another thing that people probably don’t know about. Literally we were mastering and adding songs. Like Jay-Z, I didn’t get that verse until the day we were mastering. So I mixed that record. I was in New York and I had to go over to Quad and mix Jay-Z’s vocals into the record literally within minutes of completing mastering.

There was this record that Develop produced, and it was called “American Dream.” It had a Mike Tyson sample on there, when he was going crazy that one time talking about I’ll eat your children. They couldn’t get the sample cleared but it was crazy hearing Mike, and then Wayne talking about he’s the baddest and on that level, that eat your children type of shit. It was dope, it was extreme, it was really hard, but obviously they couldn’t get it cleared, they had to call HBO, they had to call Don King, it was like 10 different clearances that needed to be done. So it wasn’t worth putting it on there.

On his favorites…

Definitely my favorite record on the album, there’s two, “Mr. Carter” and “Tie My Hands” is just such a dope record. The ending is so legendary [on “Mr. Carter”]. But it’s kind of like a milestone where we are in the rap community. There was always Biggie and Pac, you got Nas…then you have Jay-Z. That’s the king, but I think people are starting to, if they haven’t already, obviously compare Wayne and Jay, so to hear them together is just so legendary. And to hear Jay give Wayne his props and say, ‘Go ‘head, go get it.’ Just the whole presentation was legendry. And Drew and Infamous killed that beat, it was retarded. “Tie My Hands,” that’s like a movie, its theatrical. He could be talking about the soldiers, the hardships, people trying to make it, and your hands are still tied. So I know we’ve all been there, we all could be doing better but something is holding us back. And the collaboration between them two, that’s something you’ll continue to see. Robin Thicke is an incredible artist and Wayne already respected that. I think that’s a collaboration that you’ll always see from here on out whenever anyone of them puts an album out.