Making Hip Hop History

When it comes to history, it’s inevitable the Grammy-winning duo known as OutKast will remembered as perhaps THE definitive group of hip-hop’s pioneering,lyrically dense, pre-“gangsta” period. The word “pioneers,” while accurate, still fails to capture the uniqueness and versatility of André "André 3000" Benjamin and Antwan "Big Boi" Patton. When the two decided to reunite for a tour that was both a reunion and a frewell, they ended up headlining just about every festival known to man in 2014. They wrapped the tour up at the end of October and for their second to last stop, OutKast headlined the Life is Beautiful Festival in Las Vegas. SoundProLive’s Rev. Bill got the chance to talk to the legendary duo’s sound crew and get the details on what equipment they’re using as well as their approach to this historical and epic 2014 tour.

(For video interviews, click the images to the left)

Darcy Khan – Front of house engineer
Chad Fuller – Front of house technician, VER Audio
Kevin Brown – Monitor engineer
Cedric Crout – Drum/instrument technician

Darcy Khan (FOH engineer) explained, “It’s history, which is one of the reasons I decided to do it. I wanted to be a part of history. Seeing those guys get back together, one of the biggest hip hop groups of all time, this was really, really special.” Due to the amount of needed inputs and outputs, Chad Fuller convinced Khan to go with the DiGiCo consoles for the tour. In Las Vegas they were using an SD10. Darcy said, “I was stubborn at first, but at the end of the day he was right. It's all about the best audio quality.” Kevin Brown explained that they have 38 outputs, including 12 stereo in-ear mixes, but that’s not including the side fills and wedges. Fuller said that they kept running into issues with running out of inputs and outputs. “The possibilities are almost limitless with the SD10… We all integrated Waves into what we're using and how our workflow goes and what we're using for compressors and gates.” The main Waves plugins that they used were: C6 Multiband Compressor, C4 Gates, Q10 Equalizer, H-Comp Hybrid Compressor, MaxxBass, and the L2 Ultramaximizer.

Another interesting challenge for Brown, was the fact that not all who were on stage were on in-ear monitors, including Big Boi and André. “One is on ears and one is on wedges. It makes it fun!” JH16 in-ear monitors were used for those who opted that route.

Even though live hip hop shows typically use pre-recorded tracks, there are still several live instruments on stage that need to be mic’d. Cedric Crout was in charge of handling the mics for all the live instruments. Drums, bass, guitar, and a horn section. For the horns, Crout decided to go with the Shure 98H instrument microphones. Crout, a drummer himself, had his work cut out for him with the custom DW set that was used on the tour. The drum set required a total of 18 inputs. There were 3 snare drums mic’d with Heil PR 30s, PR 22s, and a PR 30 B. Other mics used on the set: Heil PR 28 on the toms, Telefunken M82 on the kick drum, Shure 91 Beta inside the kick drum, and multiple AKG 414s for the overheads.

For the vocal mics, Big Boi rocks the Sennheiser SKM 5200 with an MD 5235 head. André 3000, on the other hand, preferred the Shure KSM9. Fuller explained that they both have different styles of holding the mic, which resulted in the choice of microphones. André tends to cup his microphone right on the wind screen whereas Big Boi doesn’t cup and holds his mic on the grip.

The bottom line was that Khan, Fuller, Brown, and Crout stopped at nothing to bring the best possible live sound for this historic reunion. They knew they were headlining and sought out the best equipment in the industry. Khan said it best: “Because hip hop is here to stay, it’s not going anywhere. Our goal was to make sure that hip hop was represented correctly with the best equipment on the market and that’s how we brought it. We brought the heat.”