"Let's try it again," he said, staring at the flat-screen monitors and twisting dozens of knobs and buttons. "That one was a little sharp. One more time."
From a bedroom in his red brick rambler in Oxon Hill, MD, hip hop producer Adrian "BuBu the Producer" Barnes is guiding me, a jazz singer, through a recording session. He has been producing for A-list artists since 1992, and I am hoping to leave his house today with a great record.
Born in Capital Heights, MD and a graduate of Suitland High School, Barnes, 35, is one of the Washington, DC area's first hip hop producers. He played drums in Suitland's performing arts program, played in the school's orchestra, and went on to complete the engineering program at the esteemed Omega Recording Studios in Rockville, MD.
I am in the bedroom next door, standing in front of a hi-tech microphone and donning a pair of professional headphones. Barnes had soundproof glass installed into the adjoining wall, creating the vocal booth feel and quality sound of the big recording studios.
"We're good," he tells me through a microphone. "Come on out."
I join him in the "control room," where a wall holds framed photos of Miles Davis and Grant Green, and we listen to the thumping recording, over and over. It is here where Barnes works his signature magic.
He proudly admits that, since the program at Omega, he has continued to stay abreast of music production techniques, remaining on the cutting-edge of trends and related technologies. "I am an electronics junkie!," he said, citing , MusicTech, Electronic Musician, and Keyboard magazines as some of his sources.
This self-taught knowledge combined with his musical talent landed Barnes a production contract with Sony Music in 2006 and a deal with rapper/producer Chink Santana.
But if it were not for DC rap group, Hood Life Money, posting their music on the internet and telling me who produced their tracks, I would have never heard of the quiet Barnes. As it turns out, he has written and produced for R&B and Hip Hop artists Ashanti, Lil Wayne, Jim Jones, Digable Planets, and others.
So why did I, a jazz vocalist, choose to work with Barnes?
After listening to the song further, he grabs an electric guitar that is leaning against one of the many keyboards and plays the prettiest jazz solo for the track. Some of his friends who stopped by are shocked. "BuBu's playing jazz!," one of them laughed and shouted. "That boy's bad!"
Over an hour of tweaking the song has passed and we deem it complete. Barnes burns it to a CD for me and joins his friends on the living room couch. I let myself out, promising to return again soon to record another track.
When Barnes is not working, playing video games, or reading techie magazines in his home studio, you can find him on Twitter, Facebook, and occasionally hosting parties in DC area nightspots. He added, "If people can't find me, I'm okay with that, too."
Listen to a clip of the Changamire/BuBu the Producer track above, "Continuous (Remix featuring Hood Life Money)"