“Brian!!! Thank you so much for making this sound so good! You are a legend! Be safe out there!”
This note, written on a Post-it, was penned by SaxKixAve, a New Orleans duo made up of Alfred Banks and Albert Allenback (of Tank and the Bangas). It was attached to a vinyl copy of their debut EP, I Don’t Wear Suits, and placed neatly on the futon in Brian Kidd’s home studio.
Kidd, a Raleigh-based music engineer, has established himself as the go-to person for mixing-and-mastering needs in the Triangle over the past four years. He has worked on projects for Pat Junior, theDeeepEnd, Nance, Defacto Thezpian, LesTheGenius, SkyBlew, Millie Vaughn, Kelly Kale, and Tab-One, just to name a few.
He’s also mixed and mastered more than 10 albums that have reached the iTunes charts. Five of them were in the Top 5 Hip Hop charts, and three projects charted on Billboard: Eshon Burgundy’s For the Love of Money, Call Me Ace’s Airplane Mode, and Alfred Banks’s The Beautiful.
I recently visited Kidd’s home studio, which he says was inspired by Common and the late J Dilla’s basement studio when the two were roommates. On walking in, I was immediately impressed by the professional setup. I was curious about how each machine operated, which switches controlled what. Most of the gear is for engineering, but there’s also a Maschine Studio DAW, or digital audio workstation, that’s more for producing original music than for perfecting existing music.
“Probably about to get back into production,” Kidd says. “I haven’t produced in like ten years.”
Originally from Hampton, Virginia, Kidd grew up as the son of a pastor and a choir director. His interest in music was first sparked by his upbringing in the church.
“Because of my parents, music was all throughout the house, so definitely that’s what sparked the bug in me,” he says. “What evolved into me thinking where I wanted to go with it was when I heard Little Brother’s first album, The Listening. I was like, ‘I got to do something in music.’”
His affinity for Little Brother led him to major in audio recording technology—and to get out of Virginia.
“I was looking at North Carolina Central, Elizabeth City, Barton College, and ODU [Old Dominion University],” he says. “I crossed out ODU because I didn’t want to be home … It’s right down the street.”
After comparing the three North Carolina colleges, he landed on Barton. From the start, he had his parents’ full support. They took him to tour the college and were impressed by the professors and the school’s recording studio. While Kidd was in school, his dad, a schoolteacher who knew a lot of people on the scene and at the school, connected him with a local musician who offered a summer internship.
“There was a guy named Martin Blockson,” Kidd says. “He was a saxophonist, a jazz player, a recording engineer—just an all-around dope musician from Hampton. He went to Berklee College of Music, and he also worked with Lena Hathaway and other prominent jazz folks. He showed me the ins and outs of recording. I would just sit and watch for hours.”
After graduating, Kidd put together a plan that, in retrospect, was genius. Upon realizing that most artists included their emails on their Twitter bios, he emailed all of his favorite artists requesting to work with them.
“I always tell people, thank God for K-Hill,” Kidd says. “I didn’t know him at all. I just knew of his music, and he was one of my favorite rappers. He hit me back and took me under his wing. He was like, ‘Hey man, anything I got, you got.’”
K-Hill’s mentorship afforded Kidd the experience he needed as an emerging audio engineer. K-Hill had a production deal with a label, Neblina Records, and passed on Kidd’s name.
“At the time, I was doing stuff for free to get my name out. And K-Hill was like ‘I’ma see if I can get you paid by the label,’” Kidd says. “I always thanked K-Hill for that.”
That connection led to many others, and now, Kidd has worked with artists all over the world—from North Carolina to New Orleans, Los Angeles, Texas, South Africa, and Australia.
Over the past few years, Kidd’s ability to network and seek out opportunities has proven to be his biggest strength. An email he sent to Nashville emcee Dee Goodz paid off years after he sent it when the rapper finally reached out.
“I had hit them up prior, but in 2015, he was like, ‘Yo, B Kidd, I got this project. It’s about done. You down to mix it?’’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, of course,’” Kidd says.
Grammy-winning producer Chase N. Cashe—whose prior credits include Drake, Beyoncé, Brandy, The Pussycat Dolls, and J. Cole—produced Dee Goodz’s project. Kidd’s work and work ethic impressed Cashe, and the two began to build their own relationship, which has now gone on for five years.
In 2016, Kidd relocated from Wilson to the Triangle. Prior to moving, he would rent a car for one day, knowing his unreliable car could not make the hour-long drive, just to network at local music shows and events. Now, during the day, Kidd works as a service specialist for the City of Raleigh, but with his increased success, music has become his primary source of income. His knowledge of music and sound, coupled with his ability to build and sustain relationships, has led him to become North Carolina’s engineer extraordinaire.
Her Take: On Carolina Hip Hop is a recurring column by Kyesha Jennings.
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