Engineer Todd Hurtt Helps Bring Polo G’s No. 1 Hit ‘Rapstar’ to Life
Behind The Boards
Interview: Robby Seabrook III
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands now.
Well-known multiplatinum recording engineer Todd Hurtt got his start in the game as a DJ before enrolling in the Los Angeles Recording School in 2010 to become an engineer. After graduating a year later, the Battle Creek, Mich. native interned at Glenwood Place Studios, where he rose to assistant engineer. Hurtt worked with a litany of acts and on hit songs such as Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” which earned Hurtt one of his first assistant engineer credits and platinum plaques. In 2018, Hurtt began working with Polo G and they’ve been making history ever since. Their biggest look so far has been Polo’s “Rapstar,” which landed at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in April. XXL caught up with Hurtt, 37, to talk about his career, witnessing Polo’s growth and other rappers he’s collaborated with.
How would you describe your role as a recording engineer?
One day, I’m here with Pharrell, the next day, T-Pain, Usher [and] Busta Rhymes. Overall, it’s just balancing the session. We’re trying to make a song, how can we get there? I take engineering to the next level, ’cause I also know how to produce and vocal produce.
How did you end up working so closely with Polo G?
That has to go to my good friend, Chelsea Blythe. When she found out that I was at Paramount, she was [an] A&R at Columbia Records. She was like, “I got this new artist Polo G. From the beginning of his albums, he started working at Paramount with me and Chelsea, and that was kind of the nucleus of his career. Polo came in and he would have rhymes in his head. I took like, a mentor role to him. I’m there to teach him some song structure, how to hear a song, how to paint the picture. He had an epiphany one time in the studio: “You like Phil Jackson. I’m like Jordan.”
What can hip-hop fans expect from Polo’s new album?
This is his most diverse sound, yet. It’s a good mix of songs that are for the trenches, for the ladies, that are just feel-good. He’s got a lot more features on this one. I’m really proud of him. He’s getting better all the time. He still wants to record. I had to tell him to stop because I got a lot of work to do.
Outside of Polo, are there any other rappers that you really enjoyed working with during your career?
I worked with J. Cole on the KOD album; that was super dope. I like this new crop of young talent coming up. [Lil] Tjay is one of my boys. I just met NLE Choppa. That boy is good. [Polo] actually introduced me to a lot of these younger cats. I was [the] “O.G.” three years ago, but
I do feel there’s some respect there.
Check out more from XXL’s Summer 2021 issue including our Freshman Class cover interviews with 42 Dugg, Iann Dior, Coi Leray, Pooh Shiesty, Flo Milli, Morray, Rubi Rose, Blxst, Toosii, Lakeyah and DDG, producer Nick Mira's thoughts on producing the beats for the Freshman Class, an in-depth conversation with Ski Mask The Slump God about his comeback this year, Moneybagg Yo's candid discussion about his new music, family and indie label, a look at what the 2020 XXL Freshman Class has been up to since last year, Doin' Lines with Jack Harlow, Lil Tecca on what to expect from his We Love You Tecca 2 album, music video director Cole Bennett gives an inside look at his Lyrical Lemonade empire, Cordae talks about his upcoming album, 10 in-demand hip-hop jewelers' stories of creating rap stars' icy works of art, music executive Shawn "Tubby" Holiday's advice for artists, Kash Doll talks about her upcoming role in the Black Mafia Family series, singer Mahalia details being a Cam'ron fan, and more.