Since getting her start through a chance meeting with Gucci Mane, Atlanta-based audio engineer Kesha Lee has worked on chart-toppers like Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” and Migos’ “Bad and Boujee” and is now the go-to audio engineer for rappers including Playboi Carti and Lil Uzi Vert. She spent the past two-and-a-half years working on Uzi’s Eternal Atake album in the artist’s native Philadelphia, before it was released on March 6 — mere weeks before the near-national lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus began.
As part of Billboard’s efforts to best cover the coronavirus pandemic and its impacts on the music industry, we will be speaking with Lee each week to chronicle her experience throughout the crisis. (Read the last installment here and see the full series here.)
Last week, Atlanta police officers killed Rayshard Brooks outside a Wendy’s and someone lit the fast-food restaurant on fire in protest. When I saw the news, I immediately thought of you and wanted to make sure you were safe. Have you been holding up okay?
One of my family members told me about what was going on — they were trying to see if I was near it. I wasn’t. I’m good!
How has the last week been for you?
I’m starting to get, surprisingly, calls for work. I haven’t been active on social media, so I thought people forgot about me. [Laughs.] Now, there are three projects I have to mix. But nobody has sent the files yet. They’re just seeing if I’m available. I just hope everybody doesn’t send at the same time. But yesterday, I mixed a song — one song came in, and I sent that in. A couple of people called for recording sessions. I’m not sure if stuff has calmed down and people are more comfortable [going into the studio].
Can you tell me anything about those projects?
One might be a mixtape. I’m not sure. But the other two are albums. They’re all rap.
How do you feel about the possibility of going back to the recording studio?
I’m still a little bit unsure about it, so I haven’t taken any sessions. I’m sure the studio has regulations, but depending on the genre of music you engineer, sometimes there are a lot of people in there and sometimes not. I’d only be comfortable if it wasn’t a lot of people.
What genres tend to have more people in the studio?
Rap. Singers tend to really just have themselves and their songwriter.
Now that Atlanta has been reopened for a few weeks, have you ventured anywhere new?
No restaurants, but instead of doing delivery apps, I do go pick up the to-go order now. I haven’t been going inside [food] stores, because delivery is very convenient, but it adds up over time. [Laughs.]
Have you made any more progress on the YouTube channel?
I’ve been jotting down my ideas for videos, but I haven’t moved forward with the stuff I was working on before, like the logo. Everything always comes together in due time. I don’t want to feel like I have to rush myself. I am getting a lot done, even though sometimes, it doesn’t feel like it. I’m just going to keep plugging at it.
Last week, you expressed an interest in working on protest-related songs. Do you have any news on that front?
Someone called me, who I worked with maybe five years ago. It’s crazy. It’s a local artist, and the session was so memorable. And they wanted to work on a song that talks about that. I think it’d be cool to work with them on it.
Do you feel like you’ve been paying more or less attention to the news?
More attention. I feel like if I’m not checking my Instagram multiple times a day, it’s easy to miss a lot of stuff. So I do feel like even though I watch the news and check my Instagram, I’m probably missing out on certain stuff.
I know what you mean. But based on what I’m seeing, it does seem like the protests are starting to spark real change.
That’s what I try to see when I do go online, and those are things that are hard to find. When I do come across it, it’s cool to see. People have different opinions about protesting and whether it does something. It is actually doing something and it’s so cool to see that.