cuts a deal
The move elevates the studio to a level of expertise, talent, and wisdom that is matched by few, if any, in the country. It also extends the Slang focus far beyond the boundaries of music.
“Cultural relevancy and honest engagement is really what’s important to us,” says Lawrence. “We want our work to speak as part of a greater conversation. Our team is growing by helping artists, agencies, and brands work together authentically.”
LA-based Kilhoffer is a likeminded visionary who wields a resume of epic proportions. He’s won Grammys for production on three Kanye West albums — My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Graduation, and Late Registration — as well as John Legend’s Get Lifted.
Kilhoffer also served on the mix team for the iconic Watch The Throne album featuring West and Jay Z, and on the pop side he finished Iggy Izalea’s chart-topping hit “Fancy.”
FANCY | IGGY AZALEA FEATURING CHARLI XCX
Despite all the fanfare, Kilhoffer remains studiously dedicated to the people he records.
“I’m not trying to teach them, because that’s not the approach,” Kilhoffer says. “I finish off their idea so that when they walk out of my studio, it’s ready to go to Ryan Seacrest down the street at KISS FM.”
The technique, the attitude, and the resulting success offer Kilhoffer a degree of exposure that fits right into the Slang philosophy.
“We want to tap into the creativity of thought leaders in various areas of music,” Lawrence says. “We enjoy he opportunity to be in front of music trends, creating them instead of copying them. By providing access to guys like Anthony, our clients get the front line of the cutting edge”
Lawrence and Kilhoffer met in the 90s at Chicago Trax Studio on Larrabee St., where Slang was based for years before relocating to its current home in Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood.
At the time, Lawrence was enjoying a career that had been growing since the 1980s, when he co-authored “On and On,” the first House Music track in history. Kilhoffer was a guitar-playing Wicker Park rock-and-roller who occasionally recorded at Trax and, on one particular visit, started asking around about “all the fancy cars in the parking lot.”
“I met a man named R. Kelly,” he recalls. “I was like, man, what kind of music do you guys make? And they’re like, ‘we make R&B.’”
In those days, Kilhoffer was a fan of the alternative music scene dominated by the likes of New York bands like Sonic Youth. But that all changed when he got into the “whole new different world” at Trax.
“The New York thing was all noise and speed and bullshit that I thought I was never cool enough to be in, and there were no real traditional music sensibilities,” he recalls. “R&B has way more musical sensibilities and it is a hundred percent more musical, with a kind of church infusion. It’s where I first got to see real music being made.”
As Kilhoffer started working with the artists who recorded at Trax — including Kelly and Al Jourgensen’s Ministry — he developed a style that, according to Lawrence, “sounds a lot more like hit records.”
“Back then, a lot of engineers in Chicago were working with acoustic instruments and not synthesizers,” he explains. “They had a live approach to recording, and electronic music doesn’t work the same way. Anthony was always willing to change with the circumstances along with the times.”
In addition to all the Grammy winners, Kilhoffer proceed to work as a producer on albums by Jay Z, The Roots, Rihanna, and dozens more.
Like Lawrence, he shows immense respect and enthusiasm for new and emerging talent. At the moment, both of them are keen on the sound coming out of the Far East.
“I think that sound may have its moment here sometime soon, as Mattel is putting out a line of dolls fashioned after BTS, a Korean pop group,” says Lawrence. “I’m more of a Chinese rap kind of guy,” says Kilhoffer.
Send your audio news to Reel Chicago Editor Dan Patton, firstname.lastname@example.org.