For someone whose production discography is full of hip-hop bangers meant to incite dancefloor mayhem, Swizz Beatz' Oven Studios on the West Side of Manhattan is downright hushed. In the two years since moving into the space--which contains two seats and barely enough room for three adults to stand in--the veteran beat-maker and rapper has presided over a modest setup while having access to an expansive view of the midtown skyline.
"I'm able to easily bring people into my world in here," says Beatz (real name: Kasseem Dean), who began his career as the Ruff Ryders' go-to producer and has since helmed hits like DMX's "Party Up," T.I.'s "Bring Em Out" and Beyonce's "Ring the Alarm." "There's nothing here--no TVs, no chairs, so you know that when you come in here, you come in here to focus on the music." So far, artists like Beyonce, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Timbaland and Beatz' wife, Alicia Keys, have all entered the stripped-down sanctuary to bang out new tracks, and Beatz' latest solo hit, the boisterous "Everyday Birthday," was created in the humble studio.
The space reminds the Bronx native of his first recording area in the late '90s, which featured a Dr. Rhythm drum machine, TR-808 beat composer and a Technics 1200 with a Gemini mixer. His current setup includes a lone Studiologic VMK-188 Plus keyboard, one Neumann microphone and an MPC Renaissance production machine that the producer says is crucial to his craft. Nearly everything else, he says, is handled by his engineer: "All I want to know is how you turn it up, and that's it."
Beatz made sure to get the travel version of the Renaissance--after all, his deals with global brands like Reebok, Monster Headphones and Lotus have made it necessary for the jet-setting producer to construct beats outside of his New York haven. When asked how often he buckles down in Oven Studios, Beatz replies, "I can't say I've been in here for a straight week yet this year. I can't say I've been in the United States for a week yet, either."