“Give It That Sauce”: Smitti Boi and C Gutta Deconstruct Nick Grant’s “Drug Lord Couture”
There’s no set creative timeline for producers. Some people can crank out a finished track in 20 minutes while others spend months tinkering with the bells and whistles. Collaborative efforts add another layer of complexity, as different schedules and workflows often add weeks, months, or years to the process. For Atlanta-based producers Smitti Boi and C Gutta, the three years it took for their first co-produced song to transform from initial idea to final product was well worth the wait.
The song — which eventually became Nick Grant’s “Drug Lord Couture” — started with a simple ear catching vocal sample from Vicki Sue Robinson that Smitti Boi discovered in 2014. “I started out with the sample that I had in a folder,” he explains. “I dropped it in Fl Studio, then proceeded to chop the parts of the sample that I liked.”
Once the sample was sliced up to his liking, Smitti moved on to the bassline and percussion. “After I chopped it I threw some drums on it,” he tells me. “I actually had the sample filtered for the baseline. I was going to do a boom-bap type record initially.”
Though “Drug Lord Couture” started out as a straight forward boom-bap instrumental, a change of course happened when Smitti connected with producer C Gutta online. C, who produced Young Dro’s multi-platinum smash “Shoulder Lean” and had his music featured in the film Furious 7, suggested that they work on some tracks together. “C and I had never met but chatted via text message mostly,” Smitti remembers. “He asked me to send him stuff to work on and I sent him that beat and a few others.”
“I think a lot of the time people get caught up in trying to be a master of everything.” — Smitti Boi
C thought they had a potential hit on their hands as soon as he heard what Smitti was cooking up. “Smitti sent it to me with the sample already chopped and the drums,” he says. “I fell in love with it and felt like it needed some live instruments.”
To beef up the sonics of the song C brought in musicians Ricky Fontaine on guitar and Walt-Live HD on bass — layering their instrumentation over Smitti’s rough draft using the multi-tracking program Logic. “I brought in the guitars and strings to give it that sauce,” he says.
C’s affinity for live instrumentation dates far back to 1991 when he developed an interest in percussion at a mere four years old during weekly his church visits. “Drums is my first love,” he says. “I learned to play by ear and started in the church.”
After many years of honing his craft, C’s repertoire keeps expanding as he constantly seeks new instruments to add to his arsenal. “Man, I try to mess with everything,” he says.
“I brought in the guitars and strings to give it that sauce.”
— C Gutta
While C added his own flavor to the song, it completely fell off Smitti’s radar as he immersed himself in other projects. “I actually had forgotten about the record,” he admits.
He was pleasantly surprised when C contacted him with some exciting news — their song had been chosen by rising talent Nick Grant for his official debut Return of the Cool. “After I heard what C Gutta did to the record I was like, “This is crazy,” because he made it bigger,” Smitti says.
For Smitti, the experience of making “Drug Lord Couture” reinforced how essential collaboration is in the often isolated, singular world of producing. “A lot of times they hear things you may not and because of the collaboration you and that other producer have a dope record,” he says. “I always try to collab with people who can do something unique that I can’t. I think a lot of the time people get caught up in trying to be a master of everything.”
“I’m hearing ten different things so I’m like, ‘Hey, why not do them all.’” — Smitti Boi
Now that the record is complete and out for public consumption, both find themselves leaning on live instrumentation and original samples more than ever. “I use mostly original samples unless I come across something that’s just crazy,” Smitti says. “Other than that I’m not touching it at this point.”
To get the right sound he uses a combination of custom samples from his peers and live musicians that he brings into the studio. “I get original samples from producers like DJ Burn One and G Koop,” he says. “I use a lot of live instruments now because it gives the record more of an organic feel.”
C agrees with Smitti about the organic qualities of live music, explaining that much of his creative energy is now directed at making his own samples. “I’m all about making my own samples,” he says. “The last three to six months that’s all I been doing.”
“I might go in and make a sample, then make five beats with that sample.” — C Gutta
When asked to describe the keys to getting just the right sound for his hand-crafted samples, C emphasizes time and patience. “Not rushing,” he tells me. “It might take me a week to make a sample or it might take me a day.”
He also stresses the value of using one sample for multiple beats, as it can stretch your creative muscles and make you realize the vast potential of one small piece of music. “I might go in and make a sample, then make five beats with that sample,” C says.
Smitti also likes to reuse the same sample on different beats, often finding it a useful part of his creative process. “I’ve flipped the sample more than once as well,” he says. “Sometimes I’ll make it trapped out or a more soulful hip-hop vibe depending on the sample. I’m hearing ten different things so I’m like, ‘Hey, why not do them all.’”
With Smitti’s brand new original sample pack Breaking Samples out now and C Gutta’s music appearing in SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical, both producers have been hard at work on their own independent endeavors in the year since Return of the Cool dropped. When reflecting on the success of their first collaboration, however, they foresee another Smitti/C Gutta production in the future. “I don’t collaborate with a lot of people, but I felt a vibe off the top with Smitti,” C Gutta says. “This is definitely not the end.”
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