Engineer Nickie Jon Pabón helps Jack Harlow

On “Like a Blade of Grass” from Jack Harlow’s latest album, Come Space the Kids Cross over You, he raps, “A couple of of those ladies throughout the mix more than engineers.” Then again no person’s further throughout the mix than Harlow’s longtime engineer Engineer Nickie Jon Pabón, who chuckles at the “nutty ass line.”

“Some other folks aren’t going to remember the fact that, then again he did it for the people that do,” he tells Billboard over Zoom during rehearsals for Harlow’s potency at Forecastle Festival in his Louisville, Ky. fatherland over the weekend.

Describing himself for the reason that “creative backbone for everybody throughout the room,” Engineer Nickie Jon Pabón earned writing/production credit score and mixed a part of Come Space The Kids Cross over You, Harlow’s sophomore album that was once introduced on Would possibly 6, 2022, by means of Generation Now/Atlantic Data. The set debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and reached No. 2 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and Top Rap Albums tallies.

They’re impressive marks for Harlow, who, merely within the last few years, ascended from a glasses-wearing MC with boy-next-door attraction and quirky raps to a well-known one that’s had just right collaborations, sharper bars and, in reality, is “nevertheless out proper right here gettin’ cuter.” Releasing an album in between hip-hop heavyweights Long term and Kendrick Lamar sounds daunting, then again one of the vital album’s government producers Rogét Chahayed discussed in a previous Difficult interview that “it’s the echelon that Jack deserves to be standing in.”

The 24-year-old rapper in the end reached the upper echelon of the Billboard Scorching 100 for the reason that lead artist with the LP’s second single “First Elegance,” which samples Fergie’s 2006 No. 1 harm “Glamorous.” The only has been No. 1 for three nonconsecutive weeks – all while Harry Varieties’ five-week No. 1 “As It Was once” stayed at No. 2 (now once more to No. 1 throughout the week completing June 4) and Bad Bunny and Kendrick Lamar were dotting the Scorching 100 with a few songs from their chart-topping duties, Un Verano Sin Ti and Mr. Morale & the Large Steppers, respectively. The long term White Men Can’t Jump celebrity is taking part in throughout the huge leagues, and his teammates have long believed in his ability to do so while envisioning how so much better he’ll change into.

And with Engineer Nickie Jon Pabón doubling as Harlow’s are living audio specialist, he enjoys the unusual perk of with the ability to see the songs he sat down and worked for hours and hours on in the end come to existence during the rapper’s performances. Emerging up in Atlanta with Puerto Rican parents, he always imagined himself singing on degree and fantasizing over being at the back of the curtain ever since he was once 9. Now, at 26, “I’m on the an identical degree off to the side, correct at the back of that speaker, then again I’m up there with Jack and I can see the objective target market increase and catch that energy,” he says. “It’s like, ‘In truth, I want to do this.’”

Billboard caught up with Engineer Nickie Jon Pabón to discuss the making of Come Space the Kids Cross over You, the significance of a cultured nod throughout the studio, and the family unit supporting Harlow from the studio to the extent.

How did you get started operating with Generation Now?

I started going to audio engineering school on account of I wanted to learn how to file myself. I graduated [from SAE Institute Atlanta], and I ended up starting to file other folks, and noticed a zeal for with the ability to have the same opinion someone and offers them a standpoint that they didn’t have. While in school, I was interning at Method Side road Studios, which was once DJ Drama and Don Cannon and Lake Sheezy’s studio, for kind of six months – all of the operating protection at the door, cleaning, the entire thing.

That was me getting my first session, [which] was once [Lil] Uzi [Vert]. Uzi was once recording there at the time, his family was once in town and his cousin wanted to file. The managers knew I was in school for it, so they simply wanted to appear how I would possibly care for that delicate art work first. From there, it was me starting to get classes for the studio and a large number of label classes as neatly. I got thrown into the fireside rapid on account of one in every of my first classes was once Cardi B during all of the “Bodak Yellow” issue. Sean Garrett was once throughout the room, The-Dream was once throughout the room. It was once J. White producing.

What helped me is that creative background. I’ve recorded throughout the studio myself previous to, like singing, and I know straight away the problems that I wouldn’t like that an engineer would do. Or problems that can throw me off my vibe, or what an engineer would possibly do to have the same opinion me lose myself further throughout the tune and not be so fascinated about reminding him that he’s recording a tune, then again to remind him that he’s taking photos a potency.

When did your journey with Jack get began?

Jack got signed perhaps a one year into me in reality operating as an engineer. It’s funny on account of he had two engineers previous to me and loved them. And for this particular day, they weren’t available and he was once roughly being reluctant to making an attempt a third engineer at the studio. Then again we ended up getting throughout the room and I let him understand how I felt about him. I discussed, “Man, I’m not proper right here to kiss ass. I merely want to can help you know, bro, you have the makings to be a Billboard No. 1 artist.” I swear, this is among the first problems I discussed. I merely had that original consider in him. It didn’t take a rocket scientist – I would possibly see the vision. So we got to work and we haven’t stopped operating since.

“First Elegance” spent 3 nonconsecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Scorching 100. Whilst you were throughout the studio making that tune, at what degree did you assume, “Yeah, this one’s different. This one’s about to transport up?”

I would possibly say Jack evidently did. The rest of us loved it for what it was once, not necessarily considering, “Oh man, this is going to be crazy.” We were further so looking at each other and saying, “Hi, we love this tune.” Then again I believe he was once the one that in fact spearheaded the decision of making it a single throughout the first place. Once we spotted how passionate he was once, we knew this was once going to make him happy as an artist. I don’t assume that we spotted it coming, no less than from the producers and other creators, then again I’ll give credit score rating where credit score rating is due — and Jack evidently knew that it was once going to do.

From a technical point of view, the way in which by which Fergie’s “Glamorous” development is cut back throughout the chorus – “I been a (G), throw up the (L), sex throughout the (A.M.)” – how meticulous do it is a will have to to be with the mixing for it to sound like one, simple practice versus two songs coming together?

That’s the dynamic that I proportion with Angel Lopez and Rogét Chahayed, who are the executive producers on the album. We merely have that connection where it’s easy for us to keep up a correspondence. Angel will chop the development up and he’ll give it to me and he’s conscious about that I know what pocket to put it in. He’s conscious about that I understand how to EQ it. And if there’s something he will have to strike a cord in me of, or a standpoint that he has, he comes up to me and taps me on the shoulder and says, “Hi.” And then we throw it on. I look once more and say, “What do you assume if we do this?” And he’s like, “Oh yeah, take a look at it.” And we check out each other like, “Oh my God!”

It’s not a one-man staff. It’s evidently a combination other folks once more there, feeding off of each other, dancing with each other while we’re making the tune. It’s not merely me being in my own little corner. I’m looking once more at them, so if I’m looking and I see that he’s roughly looking at me, I give him a handy guide a rough little look [Nods] like, “Certain” and then I am going once more to being in my world. And that dance is just what’s very important, so that he can in reality really feel like he’s not merely throughout the room by way of himself with the facility, and he’s conscious about that he has creative improve next to him.

There were heavy-hitting guests on the album: Pharrell, Drake, Lil Wayne, Justin Timberlake. What selection of of those verses were recorded while Jack was once throughout the room versus sent over digitally? And the way in which does the mixing process vary you probably have the vocals sent in?

I would possibly say all of them aside from for one were specifically individual. The ones are the artists that are at the top of the game that in point of fact, when Jack walks throughout the room, they love him. It’s not merely, “We’re getting on what’s scorching.” The tune is one thing, then again the conversations and the relationships are what’s in fact, in fact very important. Jack would meet the blokes face to face. When Jack went over to Turks with Drake, that’s what makes it so original. It was once like, “Jack offered a tune where he was once getting his shit off. I adore it. How can I hop on?”

Ideally, you’d like to have a conversation with each the other artist or the artist’s engineer and not transfer into it blindsided. You open the conversation up, like, “Are the ones vocals about the way in which you guys want him to sound?” And then you definitely definately get began opening up dialogue: “Oh no, you are able to care for them. Do what you want to do with them,” or, “Oh yeah, this is kind of in regards to the position we would love them.” It’s very so much about not merely other folks sending me stuff and I’m tucked off in a gloomy corner somewhere – I want to be throughout the face of the people that recorded regardless of I didn’t file, and that we no less than keep in touch.

A big blessing in and of itself was once FaceTiming Justin Timberlake on free up night and him looking at me and saying, “Thank you guys for caring for my vocals and caring for the environment, the beat, how the entire thing was once mixed.” He was once singing our praises. Justin Timberlake is my favorite artist of all time. I stored it exact temporary and sweet, I knowledgeable him, “Hi bro, I have to say it: You’re my idol.” Once I can help you know that I sang and that I danced, it was once on account of I grew up gazing *NSYNC. The ones dudes, they’d been kids that gave the impression of me. And I was in a position to keep up a correspondence that to him. I was in a position to tell him that Justified changed my existence when I was six years earlier. I knowledgeable that to my parents.

That’s the blessing of all of this – is coming into front of your idols and sharing that look. Timbaland were given right here into the room a couple of cases, and we’d be operating on stuff, and he would check out me and be like [Nods] and I would possibly look once more at him. And he’d transfer over to Angel, our producer that were given right here up underneath Timbaland, and say, “He’s a young Jimmy,” in the case of Jimmy Douglass, which was once his engineer. That’s what you are living for. Those are the moments that are gratifying.

I realized a large number of beat switches on this album. Why were those very important to embed throughout the album’s DNA?

Jack loves the a part of surprise. And it happens other ways: Perhaps you’re making two songs on two different nights, and then the light bulb comes on and likewise you’re like, “Clutch on, what about this with this?” Or perhaps you create with the purpose of switching it up at some point. There’s no laws to it.

Since you always give credit score rating to Jack where it’s due, I spotted him do that for you on his Instagram Story where he wrote next to a picture of you two, “Due to my brother for taking us to the tip line and ensuring that I sound pristine. Such an important explicit individual in this process.” What does “taking us to the tip line” look like when you were wrapping up Come Space The Kids Cross over You?

There are such a lot of roles, and such a large amount of tasks that want to be completed. A big issue is making sure that the mixes translate, like we in reality really feel them throughout the headphones how we felt them throughout the studio. Part of it is what I was telling you about, where I can look once more at Angel and he’d be looking at me and easily that creative process in and of itself, taking a look to offer energy to a number of people that may well be quite bit further depleted. I went via that myself, then again he’s conscious about how so much I care and he’s conscious about that there isn’t anything I would love more than this. And not most simple that — I know that the harder that I am going, the brighter that he shines.

It’s essentially not breaking down, finding a technique to the entire thing. If I want to to find inspiration by some means some way, then I want to search for that inspiration by some means some way, whether or not or now not that’s taking a walk or taking part in basketball, then again changing up the routine so that I consider refreshed. There can also be days where we would possibly do a show and then transfer to the studio afterwards, so I’m caring for his show, doing his in-ears, operating all of the tune and then we finish, I set down and then get Ubered at once to the studio to organize the microphone and then transfer do another 4, 5, six hours, alternatively long we can ultimate. Ideas you, it’s already late, it’s nearly for sure already 12 a.m. So yeah, it’s such a lot, then again anytime that I consider like that, I merely remind myself, “Man, I wouldn’t want to be doing the remaining these days.”

Allowing for you’re moreover Jack’s are living audio specialist, what was once it like to have the same opinion put across Jack’s debut album That’s What They All Say to existence during the Creme de la Creme Tour?

That’s my first time ever happening tour. I didn’t know if it was once in fact something I would possibly do, in particular being so grounded at the studio at Method Side road for three years at once operating. Then again as quickly because the pandemic hit and out of doors closed down, I was caring for Jack’s stuff and there were some songs that it was once merely me and him throughout the room. And then now, it’s in front of everybody. You go back and likewise you imagine those little details of once we discussed, “Oh let’s do that proper right here. Let’s do that there.” And then [there are] those moments you bear in mind when you listen them. It’s just a constant reminder of not merely making superb songs, then again of our enjoy making them.

What are you looking forward to one of the during the Come Space the Kids Cross over You Tour?

We’re doing better venues and that’s always cool, then again my largest issue regarding the are living shows is the relationship that I have with everybody on the tour. It’s not merely me finding out what I can regarding the are living shows from them, then again merely being with them. Somehow, we got the sickest 12-to-14-man personnel that was once with us for the Creme de la Creme Tour, they normally’re all nevertheless proper right here. I am going throughout the bus and I merely see [production manager and front-of-house Anthony] Cotton there and I can already tell I’m merely gonna transfer crack a shaggy dog story with him.

Jack’s so busy and he does this type of lot, then again he nevertheless takes the time when he can and says, “Hi, let’s transfer out on a walk throughout the the town. Let’s transfer bowling throughout the the town.” And we sit down within the ones moments, and there generally is a host of other folks, then again we’ll sit down next to each other and we’ll merely say, “Man, you bear in mind 4 years previously when I discussed that issue throughout the studio where I thought in you this type of lot? I thought in you and likewise you believed in me, bro.”