Late Registration. Graduation. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. All Grammy Award-winning Kanye classics, and all engineered and mixed by Minnesota-born, L.A.-based engineer and producer Andrew Dawson, whose credits also include work on Beyoncé’s 4, T.I.’s Paper Trail, Rick Ross’ Teflon Don, Snoop Dogg’s Doggumentary, Jay Z’s Blueprint 3, Nas’ Hip Hop Is Dead and a stunning list of others that span hip-hop, pop and rock.
2013 has been another massive year for Dawson, as he’s worked on three of the biggest and most diverse hip-hop albums that have dropped this year; Tyler, The Creator’s Wolf, Kanye West’s Yeezus and, most recently, Childish Gambino’s because the internet, which dropped today (Dec. 10). “A lot of hip-hop records I’ve been working on this year have been really, really good ones,” Dawson says via a phone call from his L.A. studio. “It’s cool, ’cause I definitely catch a lot of energy from an artist like Tyler, Kanye or Gambino, and channel it into exactly what the vision they’re trying to create is. It’s a huge challenge, but it keeps me on my toes and keeps my day really interesting.”
Breaking into the game as a mixer for Kanye’s College Dropout, Dawson became ‘Ye’s go-to engineer up through MBDTF, mixing them from start to finish and winning three Grammys along the way and picking up valuable knowledge in an industry that tends to cycle through its veterans. “When I first started out as an engineer and producer the rock world was so incredibly closed,” Dawson says. “But when I first started doing stuff with ‘Ye or Common or Destiny’s Child—the first artists I started working with—they were very open to, ‘What if we tried this? How does this sound? This is this new thing! That is awesome, keep doing that.’ Whereas in the rock and pop world, there are a certain number of things you can do and that’s it.”
With because the internet hitting stores officially today, XXL spoke to Dawson about mixing that album from start to finish—during which Gambino’s core team was holed up in Chris Bosh’s mansion in the Palisades, and Gambino would record every day wearing a t-shirt and boxer shorts—his work in Paris with Yeezy before Rick Rubin got his hands on Yeezus, and why creating a perfect album for Tyler, The Creator doesn’t make Tyler very happy. —Dan Rys (@danrys)