“I had the great pleasure of mixing “Robbin,” a track produced by my brothers; Flaw The God, The Olympiks, and Smitti Boi. The Olympiks and I have been doing quite a lot together lately and as we both have heavy roots in Detroit, it’s great to be collaborating with Detroit’s own Tee Grizzley and Affluent Management Team. Between them, Helluva, and Chop Squad, they’re really putting it down for Michigan right now. It’s also dope that “Robbin” isn’t your average Grizzley record. He really stepped outside of his comfort zone and added something special to his catalog with this joint.

“When I stepped back and noticed just how many instances of iZotope products were in the session, I was like...” yeah, I should call Dave at iZotope.” Dave Godowsky was the one that introduced me to Neutron 2 Advanced, and now my staff and I use it religiously. I wanted to offer some insight as to how I and Rob Thomas used the iZotope suite in the song’s mix. Glad Dave didn’t ream me for using iZotope’s old-school reverb. I just can’t shake it. Lol.

Plug-ins used

Neutron Advanced: EQ (27 instruments, 14 vocal tracks)

Nectar: 6 Saturation, EQ, Compressor, De-esser, Limiter

Ozone: Reverb (9 instruments, 7 vocals)

Ozone Imager: 2 instruments

Ozone Imager: 6 instruments and hook vocals

Tonal Balance Control: Final mix print bus

“One of the most challenging things to teach people about mixing is the relationship between sounds and their respective harmonics. Every individual harmonic affects the rest of the harmonics in any composition, be it film or music. After a session is prepped, 70% of my time is spent EQing . That's why I'm super picky about EQs.

“Currently, my favorite is the iZotope Neutron 2 Advanced EQ. It’s extremely powerful because of its flexibility and speed in implementing ideas. In fact, I used 41 instances of the Neutron EQ in this mix. I have a hard time imagining mixing without it. I’ve yet to see another EQ that can communicate with all the other EQs in a session. Neutron 2 Advanced has made more impact on my work as an audio engineer than any software I’ve touched, to date.”

Knowing when enough is enough

“From the offset of the mix, the elephant in the room was clearly the recording of the cell phone, which kicks off the record. That’s not a filter, it’s a real phone call. In the original mix session, Grizzley can be heard ending the conversation by saying ‘I’m gonna call you as soon as I leave here.’”

“I loved it. Some people give the ‘Now’ generation a hard time for their supposed “lack of creativity,” but to me, that's trash. Grizzley using a real phone call feels no different to me than the things we used to hear during the Wu Tang era. We didn’t observe any rules. We just made music we liked. It’s lowkey one of my favorite things about the song.

“The call added an abrasive texture and an authenticity that made the song feel even more personal. My goal wasn’t to clean the recording up, but instead to make the words more clear and discernable for the fans. I used the Neutron 2 EQ to fine-tune his voice and reduce the external noise in the recording. Beforehand, there were things like, music playing in the background from what sounded like a car in the recording. In most songs, I would have simply removed everything other than the actual human voice using iZotope RX, but each song is its own universe and this element of the song needed to remain as close to raw as possible.

“As an engineer, you have to stay mindful that you can clean a record too much. When you’re new to engineering, or at a place in your career where you’re trying to prove yourself, you’ll often do too much “cleaning’ instead of focusing on “clarity.” I’m a giant overly-technical audio nerd so it may seem contradictory, but I don’t place any value on how clean something is. Clean is often boring and impersonal. Clarity, however, is king.

“Once you get to a place where no longer need to, or feel the need to prove yourself, you start to let go of the idea of perfection and truly begin to appreciate the things you used to see as flaws. Those ‘flaws’ in a song are what make them feel truly human. You start to weigh things like noise as a ‘does it add value to the record,’ or ‘does it not’ type of thing. Hendrix and Michael Jackson records, for example, would have been robbed of all their life if there was no “noise.” It is about focusing the noise that's good for the song and reducing or removing what isn’t. The emotional content of a song is literally 100% of its value to people who consume music. The way a song makes people feel is the only reason they’ll listen to it even with no one else around.”