Secrets Of The Mix Engineers: Manny Marroquin - Inside Track: Kanye West 'Stronger'

Secrets Of The Mix Engineers: Manny Marroquin

Inside Track: Kanye West 'Stronger'

Eleven mix engineers tried their hand at Kanye West’s ‘Stronger’ before Manny Marroquin finally turned it into a record. He was rewarded with one of the biggest hits of 2007.

Rappers Kanye West and 50 Cent intentionally put their latest albums under starter’s orders on the same date, September 11, 2007, so they could slug it out in the charts, 50 Cent sulkily declaring that he would stop releasing records if he lost the race (a statement he since appears to have retracted). As both artists had enlisted the services of celebrity producer Timbaland, the whole thing felt rather like a family feud gone public. There appears to be no clear winner yet in their who–sells–the–most–albums stakes, but West has had one of the hits of the year in ‘Stronger’, which was a UK and US number 1.

‘Stronger’ is constructed around a sample of ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’ by French duo Daft Punk, itself based on a sample of a song by ’70s funkateer and keyboardist Edwin Birdsong called ‘Cola Bottle Baby’. Daft Punk strongly quantised the beat and added vocoded vocals, giving the song a Kraftwerk–like robotic feel. They also added a melodic chorus with a descending chord sequence, which was the section West sampled. The American rapper and producer then slowed down and loosened the rhythm, and overdubbed pulsating synths, evocative rapping and singing, transforming a robotic feel into something much more soulful.

Sculpting ‘Stronger’ to its rousing and ear–catching final shape was reportedly not an easy process. Eleven mixers are said to have tried their hands at mixing the song, each of them creating several different versions, but all were found wanting. Enter star mixer Manny Marroquin, who has regularly worked with West for several years, including mixing West’s first solo album, The College Dropout (2004), and West–produced material for Slum Village, Dilated Peoples and Twista.

Over a gestation period of several sessions, beginning at Marroquin’s room at Larrabee Studios in Los Angeles, and ending at Battery Studios in New York, West and Marroquin finally managed to knock the song into a shape they were content with.

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