Recording Connection mentor RENEGADE EL REY on Hiring Student, Big Boi Album & Having the Drive
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Catching up with RENEGADE EL REY of Stankonia Studios (Big Boi, Outkast, Dungeon Family) is not easy. The sought after Recording Connection mentor, audio engineer/producer/artist has been firing on all cylinders these past few months. He lent his talents to the Big Boi album Boomiverse which has been climbing charts since the “All Night” track became a surprise hit after it was featured in an Apple iPhone X ad which ran during the NFL playoffs. His own album My Way Out, was released earlier in the year, and he’s currently working on tracks for multiple hip-hop artists, as well as mentoring a number of Recording Connection students in the skills they need to achieve in their music industry careers. In a recent conversation, we delved-in to talk about his journey, the upcoming album, the Recording Connection student he hired, and more!
What got you into music and then audio?
“I’ve always been into music. My pops and my mom were both into music, and my pops sang a lot. So he’s been in different bands and stuff. It’s been just in my blood from day one… As an artist, you know, we’re always trying to get into right positions and things of that nature. And I just realized that I needed to add some value to myself. One thing [me and a buddy] always knew about was that going into the studio we always needed an engineer. So why not just make ourselves the engineer? Then boom! We can play our music for people as we build our relationships. And that’s exactly what we did, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
Once you got in at Stankonia you quickly made yourself an asset. How did you do that?
“I prayed. Let’s start there. I prayed a lot. But as far as the actual, physical work that was done, I made myself valuable, and that was one thing that my professors always told us was to always make yourselves valuable, make people want to need you for whatever the case may be, and that’s exactly what I did. So you know, I learned how to do several things, and that was just something that I always did…I don’t write my rhymes, my lyrics, but I keep pens and pencils, just different things that people need, so whenever they need something, they think to call you. I just made myself that guy, and it just took off from there.”
Would you say you’ve been proactive in building your career? You haven’t sat back just waiting for things to happen for you?
“Oh yeah, definitely. I’ve always been the type to look ahead and try to say, ‘Okay, what’s going on next and where do I need to be?’ because, you know, things don’t happen overnight. I’m always trying to reach out to the type of people that I need to reach out to ahead of time…You’ve got to get the ball rolling one way or the other.”
Have any projects you’d like to tell us about?
“Right now Big Boi has an album out called Boomiverse, and he’s actually about to rerelease it because he just signed up with…Hitco. So he has a project that he’s going to be rereleasing in a minute. I think he said at the end of September or something to that nature. But we’re definitely pushing hard for that, because, of course, I worked on that. I did the whole entire album and I wrote on a few songs, too…
Then I have my own album that I dropped in February, which is entitled My Way Out because music was just my way out…Other than that, there will be plenty of other records and plenty of albums that me and the people I work with are putting out.”
What’s My Way Out about?
“Being a young black man from Memphis, Tennessee, we have several options in life. But within those options and what’s on the road to those options, we have a plethora of things to throw us off and derail us. Growing up in the environment that I grew up in, you know, it’s all too easy for me to get derailed…It’s speaking on the hardships that we all have, that inner city youth go through. And some of the growing pains. You know, losing friends and people not being who they say they are or who they say they will be. So you definitely go through that, and just the pressures and struggles of trying to push a career, trying to push a dream. That is the album in a nutshell.”
You recently hired someone who also demonstrated a proactive mindset—Recording Connection graduate Chelsea George who’s now your assistant engineer. Why did you choose to hire Chelsea?
“She’s good, super talented, and she has the work ethic that I look for. So for me, picking up on the material is one thing but understanding the drive, to have the drive to do stuff…these are the type of people that I like to align myself with, people that are going to grind for life. Because nothing is going to be given to you no matter what your accolades are. Nobody really cares at the end of the day what school you went to but as long as you understand what’s going on, then, you know, you can move around once you get the opportunity. It’s about opening up the door for yourself.”
Are there other Recording Connection students or grads who have impressed you?
“Rion Teshon. That kid is awesome.
Brendan [Robinson] is perfect. This guy is on top of everything. He actually just came by here. He’s not my student anymore, but he came by to see me the other day and just play some of his productions that he’s doing and seeing is his EQ and mixing going in the right direction. So I keep a tab or at least try to keep a tab on all my students and check up on them, see how they’re doing and, ‘Yo, you still pursuing? What are you doing?’ And for the most part, the ones that had the stick-to-it-iveness to actually practice the things that I showed them, those are the ones that are still doing. They’re doing what they want to do.
Mario [Rice], he was here this morning. I had a class with him. He’s very talented and he’s catching on extremely fast. We’ll see in due time if he’s going to stick to it like he should. But he’s on the road to success, too.”
What can students do to make the most of Recording Connection while they’re in it?
“The way to make the best of whatever they’re doing is to stay hungry. Stay hungry and stay open to knowledge more than anything. Those just feed into each other. The hunger for knowledge in itself is going to lead you to keep running into roadblocks, which is going to lead you to keep asking questions, which is going to lead you to more knowledge.”
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