For nearly two years Truth Studios, a recording space in the Fairfax District, has been a haven for West Coast rap talent. On any given night, you might find clothing reps chattering, owner Nick Breton rolling blunts with rappers, and intoxicated laughter absorbed by the muted walls. The combination of the laid back atmosphere and a serious commitment to craft has inspired some of hip-hop's brightest talents to work here, including MC Dom Kennedy, who has laid down cuts from his work.
“I love the vibe of the studio,” he says. “The quality of my music has increased since we started working there. Nick and his crew are pros at this shit.”
In the control room, multicolored lava lamps cast hazy glows, and there is an exposed brick interior littered with Polaroids of other Truth Studios veterans, including Too $hort, Asher Roth, Earl Sweatshirt and Breton's close friend, producer and rapper Chuck Inglish. Breton himself is tall and trim, and on a recent Wednesday he looks run-down, with bags under his eyes owing to days logged in the road. He's also got worries on his mind: As successful as the place has been, he confides, it's quite expensive to rent. “I might need to move the studio somewhere else in April,” he says, looking down at his shoelaces.
After all, the precocious 23-year-old built his reputation helping to develop young, independent artists, which can often mean working for free.
“Either I'm not charging people, or people will give me money out of their pocket out of respect, but I'm not asking for it,” he says. Then there are the studio's little extras, like the mini-craft services table with jelly beans, taffy and candy bars, which sets him back $50 every two weeks. He hopes to get a sponsor on board to create a private lounge downstairs and help pay the rent.
But he's ever-psyched to be working with folks like Inglish, a former member of midwestern crew The Cool Kids, who is in the back of the control room right now concocting a beat that he calls “Banana Pudding.” (The name references both the pudding he just bought at Magnolia Bakery and the weed he smoked before the session.) It should be on Breton's self-released debut, due in June, which will feature Pac Div, Scoop DeVille and, on one track, 16 different rappers. For this cut, Breton explains, “I wanted to make a song that would represent the studio from where it started to what it's grown into.”
Breton started rapping and producing as a teen growing up in Park City, Utah, recording in his boarding-school dorm room. After taking online music production courses through Berklee College of Music, he received an offer to DJ in Los Angeles and moved here. He was 19.
Studying at the School of Audio Engineering, he developed a relationship with a school supervisor named Glenn Gonda, who also worked with former Inglewood hip-hop duo U-N-I. Gonda became Breton's business partner at the fledgling Truth Studios, which, when it started four years ago, was run out of Breton's cramped apartment across the street.
“The house just smelled like a fucking cloud of weed smoke, and it was always loud,” he says. “There was a pregnant neighbor in the building, and the smoke wasn't good for the baby. I knew it was time to move.”
Nowadays, Breton's trying to bring rappers from all different pedigrees under one roof — but worries that the studio's financial problems might stop his dream from becoming reality.
“When you're not really making any money, accumulating debt and working as hard as I've been working, it's really hard to stay motivated,” he says. “But I'll have music to listen to for the rest of my life from recording over the past few years, so it can't be that bad.”