The 90s was the peak of the rap and hip hop movement in the US. Hip hop became a best-selling genre in the mid-1990s and the top-selling music genre by 1999. During this ‘golden age’ many important, ground breaking albums in the genre were released. This era also witnessed the birth of the Gangsta Rap and the East Coast vs West Coast rivalry.
The man credited with defining the sound of New York hip-hop and R&B through his mixes is the Grammy Award winning producer, mixer, and engineer Tony Maserati.
One of the world’s leading mix engineers, Maserati has worked with names such as Beyoncé, Robin Thicke, Jason Mraz, k.d. Lang, Mary J Blige, David Bowie, Usher, Puff Daddy, Notorious BIG, Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, Avril Lavigne, Cher, Keith Urban, R Kelly, Destiny’s Child, Jennifer Lopez, Alicia Keys, Lil’ Kim, and the Black Eyed Peas.
In our segment, World’s Greatest Sound Engineers, we take a look at the sound engineer who has won a Grammy for Beyoncé’s No.1 single ‘Crazy in Love’ and earned a Latin Grammy for mixing Sergio Mendes’ ‘Timeless.’
Maserati attended Berklee College of Music for production and engineering, and has worked in both New York City and Los Angeles. He originally majored in composition, but switched to Music Production and Engineering. Maserati joined Sigma Sound Studios, New York where he assisted the multi Grammy winning engineer Glenn Rosenstein who in turn introduced him to Full Force, under whom Maserati learned how to arrange and mix.
During his time at Sigma Sound, he worked with Whitney Houston and James Brown. Maserati would mix his first song, Samantha Fox’s ‘Naughty Girls (Need Love Too)’ here.
In 1989, Maserati went independent, initially working as an engineer, mixer and producer, but soon started to specialise in mixing Hip-Hop and R&B. This set him apart from most engineers of the time who were focussed on production and worked on rock music.
The time spent at Sigma Sound helped Maserati befriend studio managers, artists and producers. One such producer, Devante Swing, introduced Maserati to Puff Daddy in the early-90s.
“Puff Daddy locked me down for six years.”
– Tony Maserati
Puff Daddy got Maserati into Bad Boy Records and as a result, he could work with every major New York R&B and hip-hop artist of the 90s. He mixed albums for Busta Rhymes, Mary J. Blige, The Notorious B.I.G., Faith Evans, and Queen Latifah.
During this time, Maserati did a lot of collaborative work where he allowed artists to work with his analogue equipment to help develop their desired sound. As a mixer, Maserati helped shape the New York hip-hop and R&B sound which is characterised by a huge low end and a smooth, velvety high.The success of the New York R&B and hip-hop sound propelled Maserati into a widely known and well-established mixer.
The ‘unusual’ engineer
Unlike most engineers and mixers, Maserati doesn’t prefer to work with plug-ins alone because for him hardware outboard gear sounds better. He works in what he terms as ‘hybrid way, in a box and with an analogue desk and hardware inserts and does the automation and pre-summing in the box.’ He is credited with the hybrid analog/digital setup approach which he has preferred for years, as well as his effects comprising a combination of the best of digital and analog.
Maserati is also known for stretching the boundaries of technology. In the days of the analogue tape, he was triggering samples, gating and working with loops. The old school of thought engineer does most of his mixing in his head as he feels that while working the buttons he may not capture the same amount of sonic detail in his mixes.
Maserati still misses the hands-on control of an analogue desk even after being nominated for 12 Grammys, four for Best Engineered Album. He is one of the few mixers with a Waves Signature Plugin Series, The Tony Maserati Collection,turning his name into a global brand. He co-founded ‘Mirrorball Entertainment’ in 2011, a record label, music publishing, and production company.
His works with new age artists such as Beyoncé, Selena Gomez, Adam Lambert, Ariana Grande and Demi Lovato run into billions of streams.
Tony Maserati is regarded among the best mixing audio engineers in the world and as an institution of his art.