For two weeks, LANDR took over a house and studio in the Hollywood Hills to foster the creation of Bartholomew, the forthcoming mixtape from Jesse Boykins III.
JESSE BOYKINS III — BARTHOLOMEW
02 . 14 — 29 . 2016
Los Angeles California
Everywhere I went in LA, all I heard out of car windows was Fetty Wap, everywhere it was Fetty.
Maybe it was the only thing that could cut through the heavy humid air. I was on my way to the LANDR Artist in Residence house—a live-in music studio rented for two weeks to allow an artist to produce their work. Oddly enough, when I pulled up to the iron gates flanked by palms, the address read 1738, the namesake of Fetty’s squad.
It’s funny to think that in any house, anywhere, there could be a classic album being made.
I walked through the front door. The artist with whom I’d be sharing this creative space was already inside. It’s funny to think that in any house, anywhere, there could be a classic album being made. And on this day, this was one of those places. I let myself in and found the familiar clicks, rattles and thumps that come with setting up gear in a new recording space.
I had met Jesse Boykins III before. But now — in his natural domain of the studio — he was in a whole new mode. Sessions needed to be cleaned up, the space needed to be readied for guests, and tracks needed to be laid down. There was a thick layer of determination mixed in with the sweet smell of smoke store incense.
Boykins is a hummingbird. At once a joyous kid and cutthroat captain. His unifying force is his art. With Love Apparatus (2014) under his belt already, Bartholomew —Boykins’ upcoming mixtape — was on the edge of being born. The energy was already in the room just waiting to be plucked down and moulded into the final versions of the tracks that would become Bartholomew.
There is a curtain that hides the processes of artists like Jesse. And it’s not often that you get to peek behind it. I realized quickly that what goes on behind Jesse’s curtain is masterful. The typical day would start around 8:00am when Daniel Rowland (in-house audio engineer and producer) would roll off the couch from yesterday’s late night session. Tracks would be cleaned up, new sessions would be prepared, and coffee would be brewed. Jesse followed shortly after with the same goal he had everyday: create.
From the second Jesse entered the studio until the early evening, him and Daniel would lay down the foundation of Bartholomew, aesthetically, technically and sonically. Edits were carved, vocal takes would pile up, and ideas were hammered out. The intense one-on-one seemed to be the core of any good piece of music. It was the heavy lifting of turning your own vision into sound. And Jesse knew how to navigate it better than anyone.
Mid afternoon the other key element of creation would begin: collaboration. The revolving door of creative minds was dizzying. Collaborators that graced the studio included Trinidad James, Machinedrum, Willow Smith, Syd the Kid, Melanie Fiona, Alex Isley, Bridget Kelley, Amaire Johnson, Meloextra and so many more.
I had never seen such a fluid production process that included so many people. After 4PM every day, the driveway was filled with cars, trucks and SUVs. But the word ‘work’ never came to mind. It was more organic than that. It was about the love of the craft, more than it was about “getting things done.” What resulted was an organic creation that’s as relatable as it is new. Anyone in the house was invited to participate - I even got to throw down guitar on a track.
Despite everyone that came through the studio, it was always Jesse’s ship. Pictures from his childhood hung on the walls as a constant reminder not only of where he came from, but where he was going. It was a space that was all him — the only space to create a work as sprawling as Bartholomew.
Two weeks isn’t long, though. And distractions are the devil’s playground. The house had a pool, but not once did anyone jump in. Any time the project was threatened by external forces the crew banded together to keep it on track and moving.
The house became a constant conduit for recording and capturing creativity — every and any kind of technology was used: MIDI guitars, OP-1, the out of tune piano in the hallway, the rag tag drums, various guitar pedals and of course a Neumann U87. Producers took turns at the helm.
As Jesse himself put it: “At times I am the captain, at others Daniel is the captain”.
And after two strong weeks and countless hours of recording, tweaking, and joyous singing, there was blood, sweat and tears but no fears. Everything was tracked and the creations had come to take their own form.
I locked the door, climbed in my rental car that still smelled like ‘new car,’ and drove away for the last time.
The homes of Hollywood flitted through my field of vision, and all I could think was: “An album could be born behind each and every one of those doors.” I pulled up to a stop sign. The humidity settled onto me. As a car drove by, all I heard was the distant cry of Fetty.
The car passed and I drove on.
No beginning and no end.