TAKING THE RAP FOR NELLY
How do you handle the audio for Rap? When you're working with Nelly on a three-month North America arena tour, you bring most of the same equipment used for rock shows … with some extra gear thrown in and some unique mixing talent to get the job done right.
Embodying that mixing talent, Nelly's four-man main sound crew is headed up by Demetrius Blanton at the FOH console, who has toured with Nelly for the last three years. Asked about what line arrays he's flying for the tour, Blanton answers, 'We're using Martin Audio W8LC tops, with 12 tops a side, and 12 subs per side.
'When mixing Nelly, the key for me is to make the vocals sound good, because it's just the DJs and vocals. Rappers tend to cup their mics. That's why we try to use good compressors, and some kind of parametric EQ's inserted on their lines for their vocals.'
'In terms of intelligibility, I try to get the best sound I can out of these guys.'
Asked about the Martin Audio line arrays, system tech Brennan Hauser is clear on why he uses the company's speakers. 'I have been using the Martin stuff since the early '90s. It's my first choice -
I'll put this rig up against anything that's out there.'
Blanton agrees: 'It's most definitely my first choice. It's what I am looking for overseas on the European leg of the tour.'
Mixing levels, always a concern in Rap shows, runs anywhere from 103dB to 107dB at front-of-house, typically 105dB. Blanton uses a 7:1 compression ratio with a –10 threshold.
With Nelly, monitoring is a true art form, as Blanton elaborates: 'What I usually try to do is get his monitor so loud, then I put the DJ mixer at the level I want it. I give him so much level back there, that when he does turn it up - even a little bit - it is painful. That way he will keep the level down.'
Talent comes naturally to any touring crew from Stanco Systems, one of America's leading audio companies, led by former musician and current entrepreneur Stan Nickens.
One of the leading experts at doing sound for rock and Rap events, Nickens, who has been in the business for over 20 years, makes it clear that his extensive client list goes beyond live reinforcement to include corporate assignments, theme parks, television, theatre and more. Today Stanco is a full-service operation handling lighting, scenic, staging, outdoor roofs, pre- and post-production. For Nelly's current tour, they are handling 'pretty much everything.'
When it comes to the Nelly tour, which he's handling in the US and Europe, Nickens definitely appreciates a good rig. For this Nelly tour he's added the new Martin W8LC line array to his inventory. 'It rigs beautifully, simply, and quickly, and it's lighter than others. But listening to it is what really sold me. We put it up against everything
else out there and are