Mike Dean, the legendary pioneer of the Dirty South sound and producer to 2Pac, Kanye West and many others, recently caught up with fellow engineer Dave Pensado for the latest installment of his series Pensado’s Place. During the interview, Dean discussed his extensive work on ‘Ye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. He even gave up a few details about Kanye and Jay-Z’s highly anticipated collaborative album Watch the Throne, saying that “it’s almost done.”
“I think I co-produced…eight or nine [tracks of MBDTF] and played along on those and mixed them,” he said. “There’s three of use who engineer for Kanye. There’s four now: Andrew [Dawson], Anthony [Kilhoffer] and me. We all mixed Graduation together. Then we hand stuff around until it passes Kanye’s approval. Then we had a new guy Noah Goldstein…who tracks all the vocals…[Kanye’s] a special guy…it never gets dull. It’s always something pioneering going on.”
He added, “I’m working on the new Kanye/Jay-Z record Watch the Throne. That’s almost done…I’ve got like four or five co-produced tracks on there, I’m mixing the whole record, supposedly.”
Dean also discussed the trademark Dirty South sound that he helped cultivate alongside the likes of Scarface, UGK, Devin the Dude and many others. He explained that when he was working in Houston, record companies weren’t paying attention to the music they were producing, allowing them to craft an orginal sound isolated from outside influences.
“We were kind of isolated in Houston from the industry,” he said. “We were just down there making those records, locked in the basement. That’s why we kind of got such an original thing going down there, because we were isolated. Until I came to California in like 1995, ’96, we had no influences, just the records we were listening to…it really was just me, Vito, Scarface and just a couple of other guys…that pretty much pioneered the whole thing that turned into the South sound. The South music now is not the same now. The South music now is now slowed down bass music [from the ’80s]…instead of being 120 [BPM], it’s slowed down to 70 [BPM].”
Finally, Dean discussed his work ethic in mixing records while high. He joked that he’s confounded by mixers unable to produce quality work while sober.
“How do guys mix [without] pot?” he joked. “I’ve been trying to figure that out for years. How do you make yourself sound so good when your sober?…It comes from lots of practice…I mean, I don’t endorse the use of marijuana, just for medical use only.”
The full interview can be seen below.