The Making of Gateway 3 (part one)

The Gateway is an ongoing project produced by J. Brookinz that releases one new album every year on 4/20, the notorious pot-smokers’ holiday. What began in 2010 as an ode to weed as told by 9 local emcees has since morphed into something much larger whose significance far exceeds that of an album about getting high.

The original Gateway album was produced by distributing beats via email; upon receipt, each emcee wrote and recorded their verses in their home studio and returned to project leader J. Brookinz. For the follow-up, Brookinz, Grey Granite, and the Heavy Gun crew secured a house in Broad Ripple, turned its basement cellar into a DIY recording studio, and sent mass invites to anyone who was anyone in the Indy hip hop scene. In a 48-hour lwindow, countless local celebrities stopped by to make their contribution to The Gateway 2. The final album was a product of synergy at it’s best.

Gateway 2 was so well-received (and equally as fun to make) that Brookinz & company decided to do it again for The Gateway 3 this year. Over the course of two days, I spent more than 10 hours chilling at The Gateway Lock-In and dropped in on four different occasions to take in the sights and sounds. And smells. Very dank smells.

Below are time-stamped excerpts and a special peek inside the making of The Gateway 3.

The Gateway 3 Lock-In

4:20 p.m. I arrive at the big yellow house on Broadway in Broad Ripple and shake hands with Grey Granite, Freddie Bunz, Alex Edgecombe (a.k.a. Cool Hand Lex), and Chad “Txtbook” Schoffstall – all of whom are standing outside in the parking lot. Stepping downstairs where the recording booth and listening room is located is like entering a classroom on exam morning; everyone’s noses are buried deep in their notes. Except this is more of a verbal test than a written one, so I can literally hear everyone practicing out loud for their magic moment.

It’s not only a test of agile articulation, but also of speed in writing. J. Brookinz has assembled seven beats in advance of today’s lock-in; one of them loops on repeat while more than 15 people (including, but not limited to, Dorsh, Brad Real, Pope Adrian, Kinetik, Wyse, el Carnicero, and Oreo Jones) bob their heads and take pen to paper (or, in some cases, finger to cell phone keypad).

“Let me write one more line and I’m good,” Oreo Jones calmly replies to Brookinz as he takes a seat on the steps leading to the kitchen from the basement-turned-studio. The experienced emcee will soon be the first to step to the plate and kick off the marathon recording session.

To the other side of me, I overhear Grey Granite coaching one of the younger rappers who has showed up to try his hand at impromptu recording. Though reassuring words of wisdom, Granite instills courage and gives pointers to the Gateway rookie.

4:50 p.m. David “Moose” Adamson (a.k.a. DMA) arrives.

I witness an unsuccessful attempt to corral people upstairs so the recording can begin.

4:57 p.m. Corral attempt #2: anyone who is not on deck or in the hole to record slowly relocates upstairs or outside to allow for better recording quality. The recording booth is nothing more than a small cellar closet with blankets hung around a microphone to absorb bouncing sound. Quietness from the listening room is crucial.

5:04 p.m. Oreo Jones enters the booth and begins to work out the kinks in the studio set up. Meanwhile, shuffling feet in the kitchen upstairs sound like a herd of elephants from our outpost in the basement.

5:08 p.m. Brookinz hits “record” for Oreo, then mysteriously runs upstairs. The room falls silent when Oreo completes his verse and everyone stares at each other, not sure what to do next without their fearless leader in sight. “Well, uh, I guess…” Dorsh’s voice trails off as he sheepishly takes control at the command center until Brookinz returns.

5:19 p.m. Oreo completes the first successful run of his verse after many other fragmented practice attempts.

“How do you feel?” Brookinz asks.

Oreo replies, “I feel good. Let me do it again.” Repeat twice.

Before Oreo finds his sweet spot and busts out a flawless, intricate flow of rhymes (ultimately, the track that was kept and not discarded), there’s talk of “chopping” what he’s managed to record thus far to take a piecemeal approach.

“Don’t do that,” Mr. Kinetik instinctively interjected. “He’s got a certain energy and excitement and you can tell.” He added, “Just my two cents.”

5:30 p.m. I step outside for a change of scenery and spend the next 15 minutes talking about music festivals with Txtbook who, as I discovered, has some experience in the Colorado music scene. We talked about Grassroots California (apparently, you can judge the dating status of a female if she’s wearing one of their hats that belongs to her dude) and Conscious Alliance (a food and hunger awareness program with a presence at nearly every major festival in the country).

5:48 p.m. Freddie Bunz finishes one of many stints in the booth. I learn and witness what an “overdub” is: the emcee selectively recording the last beat of each measure for added emphasis to be played on top of the full verse.

5:50 p.m. The first full playback of the first completed song. The triumphant moment brings a smile to my face that I can’t possibly hide. These guys make it look so easy; I’m instantly blown away by the way that the pieces all fit together so perfectly and beautifully. But there’s no time to gush, apparently, because they’re already critiquing, making suggestions, and moving into the next phase of the project.

One down, six more to go.

Stay tuned for part two of The Making of Gateway 3!