Mastering The Mix

Decoding The Mix: In Da Club - 50 Cent

Written and produced by 50 Cent, Dr. Dre, and Mike Elizondo, In Da Club is a timeless floor filler that was also an instant success.

It peaked at number 1 for 9 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 and remained on the chart for 30 weeks. In March 2003, it broke a Billboard record as the “most-listened-to" song in radio history within a week. 

Billboard also ranked it as the number 1 song for 2003. In 2009, the song was listed at number 24 in Billboard's Hot 100 Songs of the Decade and it was listed at number 13 in Rolling Stone's "Best Songs of the Decade".

Let’s look at the genius approach taken to create this smash hit that will go down as one of the most legendary hip-hop records of all time.

 

How Does this Song Stay Relevant Decades After Release?

In Da Club is the only ‘birthday song’ that’s gained any traction since Stevie Wonders ‘Happy Birthday’ (excluding the original of course).

In an interview, 50 Cent said that he purposefully made the song about being in the club and celebrating a birthday to help it stay relevant forever, as every day there is a person having a birthday in a club.

Copying this approach would be pretty futile, however, sharing a similar mindset and concocting ways to make records that are timelessly relevant can help improve the longevity of your art.

 

Structure

Catchy intros send crowds wild. In Da Club is one of the best examples of that.

To this day if you hear In Da Club drop in a bar, club or festival, people will start screaming and singing along immediately.

50 Cent jumps right into the chorus after the intro presenting the hook of the song after the first few bars.

This helps establish the listener’s connection with the song and they’re more likely to engage with it rather than ignoring or skipping it.

The beat is almost like a single loop from start to finish with a few arrangement and instrument changes peppered in.

The lack of a first verse makes the bridge feel like it enters quite early in the track, which also helps break up any monotony in the production.

In Da Club structure

 

Stereo Spread

This track was produced and mixed by Dr. Dre, but we can see here that he took a different approach to his mix of ‘Still Dre’.

This is a much wider arrangement of the different channels and even has a considerable amount of bass width.

The synth and string stabs are mixed so cohesively that they almost sound like a single channel.

When you’re laying sounds, you’ll know you’ve nailed the mix when the layers appear to be one single sound source.

The mono guitar 16th notes don’t occupy a large range of frequencies but also don’t compete with the other instrumental elements.

It slot’s into the mix in a complementary way, adding both body and groove to the mix.

Dre is brilliant at creating a clear vibe with the beats and music he produces.

This beat has very cool and credible energy that resembles the image that 50 Cent was trying to portray.

The mix is on the darker side, with the hi-hats not being much brighter than the strings.

There’s very little high-end presence above 15kHz which contributes to this dark, gritty and edgy vibe.

If you compare 50 Cents vocals to the vocals in SICKO MODE you hear a dramatic difference in brightness. 

When you’re going for a darker sound, all the channels in the mix have to reflect that.

In Da Club Stereo Spread

The wide vocals elevate the lyrical experience.

You feel like you’re being spoken to from every angle and it’s a very immersive sensation. 

To do this in your own productions, you can double track audio and pan one left and one right by an equal amount.

The most effective way to do this is to record two separate takes of audio, (or if it’s a synth you can slightly alter the patch).

If neither of those options is possible you can use EQ and effects to create a difference between the two channels.

You could also use separate delays and reverbs on each channel to give each their own sense of time and space.

Note: If you simply duplicate the channel and add no effects or alterations then the audio will sound like it’s coming from the phantom center (not wide).

 Wide processing

ANIMATE

You can also use the ‘Grow’ module in ANIMATE by Mastering The Mix to increase the width of the selected frequencies using a psychoacoustic precedence effect. Grow lets you spread specific frequencies SUPER wide in a dynamic way like never before.

ANIMATE: Grow module

 

Low-Frequency Analysis

Using LEVELS I can filter the low frequencies in this track and see how they’re positioned in the stereo field. Below we can see that there is a lot of stereo information below 239Hz showing up in red in the vectorscope. A touch of stereo width in the bass can be ok, but when it starts creeping out into the red zone, the audio is more susceptible to phase cancellation when played back in mono. In small doses, it might not destroy the mix but if the low frequencies get too wide then you might have a disappointing moment when you hear your music sounding thin on a club sound system. 

 

LEVELS mixing and metering plugin

 

What Did We Learn?

  • Concocting ways to make records that are timelessly relevant can help improve the longevity of your art.
  • Catchy intros send crowds wild.
  • Getting to the chorus quickly can help engage your listener reducing the risk that they ignore or skip your song.
  • You’ll know you’ve nailed the mix when the layered channels appear to be one single sound source.
  • When you’re going for a darker sound, all the channels in the mix have to reflect that.
  • Wide vocals elevate the lyrical experience. You feel like you’re being spoken to from every angle and it’s a very immersive sensation.

 

Now It's Your Turn!

Deconstructing a mix like this is a great way to make real improvements in your music production. One of the six cheat-sheets in my eBook ‘Never Get Stuck Again’ is a cheat sheet to help you decode any mix in minutes.

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