Philly Producer/Engineer Will Yip Works Harder Than You

Will Yip

Photo: Will Yip Instagram


Philly Producer/Engineer Will Yip Works Harder Than You

Go inside Yip's journey making records, from his mom's basement all the way to Studio 4: “I’m very in the process, and I think that’s why artists trust me"

GRAMMYs/May 24, 2019 - 11:29 pm

Will Yip just might be the hardest working man in the music business. You won’t see him on tour. You won’t see his name on a marquee. You might not ever see him at all, unless you venture into the subterranean Studio 4 in Conshohocken, Pa., just a few minutes outside of Philadelphia. That’s where he is for about 13 hours a day. The other hours he’s probably mixing at home - something he does to force himself to leave the studio at some point at least.

You’ve probably heard his work, though. If you’ve listened to any record even tangentially related to punk, hardcore, emo, indie rock and beyond within the last 10 years, you’ve more that likely listened to one of his albums. The likes of Circa Survive, The Menzingers, Turnstile and Title Fight have been going to Will for his studio knowledge, his unique way of bringing out the best of artists, his creative vision and his insane work ethic.

Yip is a co-owner of Studio 4, the studio he dreamed of working at as a teenager, and one of the most sought-after producers in rock music. Professionally speaking, he’s come a long way from the kid recording in his mom’s basement, the one who finessed his way into internships, and the one who cleaned out a back room to record bands on his own time. His first exposure to the recording world began by playing drums in a band when he was 12.

“I just love being in the studio,” Yip says. “I love building. I love the behind-the-scenes of putting together music and f*ing with stuff, and just messing with ideas and seeing it from the first note recorded to the final mix. That’s why I don’t tour. I just want to create all day.”

He started recording his friends’ bands in his mom’s basement in Northeast Philly. In high school, he helped out at a nearby studio, making a few bucks an hour, watching and learning as much as possible. When college rolled around, he faced a choice: Go to the Ivy League school and pursue the “comfortable” life his parents wanted for him, or go to the state school and study engineering, a much more uncertain path.

He decided on the latter, going to Temple University to study under Phil Nicolo, co-owner of Studio 4 and Yip’s eventual business partner, himself an adjunct professor at Temple. Yip’s parents, hard-working immigrants from China, were concerned as any parent would be, they always supported him and his passion. After all, he had it all mapped out.

“I said, ‘I’m going to get in with Phil,’” Yip says. He speaks fast and excitedly. “’I’m going to meet Phil, and somehow I’m going to work at Studio 4.’ That was my dream job.”

Yip had first heard of Studio 4 as the place responsible for some of his favorite albums from artists like Boys II Men, The Fugees and Lauryn Hill. Nicolo, a GRAMMY winner, had also worked with royalty like John Lennon and Bob Dylan over his decades-spanning career.

So, he knew he wanted to end up at Studio 4, but he also knew he had to get a little more experience under his belt before he took that shot. So he hit up a now-defunct studio in South Philly called Indre Recording.

“I remember just like it was yesterday - I was 18,” he said. “I emailed the studio manager, her name was Jennifer… and I said, ‘I’d love to intern. I’m this, this and this. I have skills in recording. I’ve done it for the last six years of my life.’ And she was just like, ‘No, we’re full.’ And that was it. It was harsh. It was real. It was the first time someone said no to me like that. Because I always thought I presented well, in terms of, like, what I could do. Free work ­­– who doesn’t want that?”

Yip is exceptionally friendly and nice, but he’s not the type to take a loss when he knows he can get the win. So, he took something he had previously recorded in the basement, along with $600 – just about every penny he had at the time – and bet on himself hard.

“So I brought $600 with me, and I said, ‘I want to book mastering time,’” Yip said. “For songs that were already mastered! I just wanted to get through the door, to talk to someone!”

He played the songs for an engineer there, and he was immediately impressed.

“He was working on them, and he goes, ‘Dude, this sounds really good, where was this recorded?’ Oh, my mom’s basement,” Yip says. “He’s like, ‘What? This sounds better than some of the stuff recorded in our big room.’”

That gig lead to recording sessions and live shows. As he continued to learn by doing, he found his opportunity to get in front of Nicolo as he originally planned when he picked Temple, this time with a little more experience under his belt.

“I took Phil’s class, and the first class, I went to him and said, ‘I want to work for you. I’ll work for free,’ Yip says. “He gets that a lot. He had a line of kids. But again, I knew I was going to kill it. And he was like, ‘Alright, just show up.’ He has an open-door policy, so I showed up. And I don’t think I’ve ever stopped showing up since.”

“Once out of 3 or 400 students, you have someone who’s got it,” Nicolo says. “I don’t want to have a huge ego, but he reminded me of me at Temple. Will was that guy. I could tell he was just really on top of the ball.”

Nicolo was working with Lauryn Hill at the time. Hill is an artist both he and Yip say has a tendency to “push” her colleagues. That “it” that Yip had was something Nicolo recognized as the mark of a truly talented producer who goes beyond just turning knobs, and it became prevalent while working with Hill.

“He became my right-hand man with Lauryn Hill,” Nicolo says. “Talk about going through the trenches. If you can keep up with that s*, man, you’re in… It’s the psychological side. Anyone can figure out where to put a hi-hat or mic an amp. But it’s hard to get an artist to appreciate what you do and get what they want when they’re not putting it in correct terms. That’s an engineer. And Will did that.”

It’s that unique ability to almost connect with his artists on a symbiotic level that makes him such a good engineer. He becomes a member of the band and a teammate.

“My goal is to read their minds, to get inside their minds and then work with them to create – not even just follow direction – but just create what that vision is, you know?” -Will Yip

“He gets the best out of you,” says Tom May, guitarist/vocalist of the Menzingers, who first worked with Yip for the band’s 2017 LP After the Party, and is working with him again for their next album due out this year. “The kind of stuff that you didn’t know was really going to be there in the first place. And he’s just so good at making an environment that’s conducive to creating with all egos to the side. It’s a wild thing.”


The way Yip puts it, he doesn’t want to create a “Will Yip record” or even a “Studio 4 record.” He wants to make the best record that band can make in that environment.

“I’m very in the process, and I think that’s why artists kind of trust me,” Yip says. “I always tell guys that I’ve recorded with a lot of producers before. I’ve recorded with so many engineers, and I’ve tried not to be everything that I hated in those experiences. I want someone that I can trust. And I know when you trust someone that’s manning this side of the board for you, and you trust someone saying, ‘Nah, man, that’s good,’ that’s the coolest thing. That’s the safest thing. It’s like trusting your partner.”

In a lot of ways, Yip is still the kid in his mom’s basement recording his friends. His highest aspirations are to work with people who inspire him, who are fun to be around and who make music he gets genuinely stoked on. As he puts it, he doesn’t want to “chase” anything, like a paycheck or prestige. Instead, he wants to create an environment of positivity, mutual respect and creativity. That’s why artists flock from all over the globe to work with him.

“You don’t meet that many people who are like Will,” May says. “I’ve never really worked with that many people like him. He’s just so excited and ready to go. He’s able to focus better than anyone that I’ve ever worked with on anything in my life, including any schooling, jobs, the music business, working on records, everything. I’ve never seen someone who’s able to maintain that type of attention span and attention to detail, as well as managing a roomful of personalities at the same time. It’s really kind of incredible.”

“He works constantly at the highest level, and that’s what it takes,” Nicolo says. “Of people who get into this industry, why are only 2 percent of us successful?  Because you have to have that mentality and that work ethic and the ability. It’s not all pushing the pencil. You gotta have the ability. He does, and he puts in the time.”

Today, Yip’s reputation is far greater than just a producer. He’s started two record labels so he can support artists he believes in, but who might be working with limited resources. On Wikipedia, he’s “veteran producer Will Yip.” On Pitchfork, he’s “influential producer Will Yip.” These are titles typically given to folks far older than Yip, a youthful 32.

But he is a veteran. It just didn’t take him long to get there. While some of his peers have been in the business for longer than he’s been alive, his breakneck pace has allowed him to create more albums than some people will make in a lifetime, some of them GRAMMY-nominated.

And he is influential, more than he thought he would be, and in ways beyond the walls of his studio or the words of music blogs.

“I was in L.A., and I was out there for a Tigers Jaw show,” he says. “I was just by the merch table talking to couple guys, and a couple guys came by to meet me, which is crazy. L.A. - the other side of the country. This Asian dude comes up to me and says, ‘Hey dude, I’m, like, shaking right now. I can’t believe you’re here.’ I wish I would’ve taken down his information or socials so I could hit him up. But he was like, ‘Dude, you’re the reason why I think I can be an engineer. No other engineers look like me or look like you. And for you to do all of my favorite bands, I think I can do it.’ I’m like … that f*ed me up.”

Yip’s only plan was to make music with his friends forever. Being a representative for kids who look like him wasn’t a torch he planned on carrying, and it took him a while to accept it, but now he’s embraced it. It’s not that he’s playing some Mr. Modest, it’s that he’s spent so much time in his studio world that he maybe didn’t notice how much the rest of he music world grew to respect him.

“I hate talking about myself. I hate it. It’s not what I do,” he says. “All this stuff and meeting this kid, I’m like, holy s man. There’s so many talented kids. What if I got too scared if I got bummed out or took whatever job offer, or went to Penn, which I could’ve went to instead of Temple, and just made money, worked in my brother’s firm—and he’s very successful and cool, but what if I did that instead? I was that close to that thought sometimes when things weren’t going the best, even though I knew I wanted to work in music. If letting that fear of not doing something because you don’t see other people that look like you doing it, that’s fing crushing, man.”

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Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More



Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More

The Nigerian-American singer and actor sat down with the Recording Academy to talk about what inspired his latest album, 'Walk With Me'

GRAMMYs/Jul 8, 2019 - 10:04 pm

In 2015, Rotimi stepped into the New Orleans Superdome for the first time to experience the magic of ESSENCE Fest. Four years later, in 2019, the "Love Riddim" singer returned to the celebration as a performer, something he said was spoken into existence.

"Last year me and my manager had a conversation and I said, 'Listen, I'm going to be on the [ESSENCE] mainstage this year. 365 days later, we did it," Rotimi told the Recording Academy at the 25th annual ESSENCE Fest.

Rotimi, also an actor on Starz' "Power," has evolved since his last album, 2017's Jeep Music, Vol.1. The singer said he really hit home with its follow-up, the recently released Walk With Me, a project he worked hard for, putting in hours in the studio after filming on set.

"Walk With Me is the first time I actually felt like I was giving myself as an artist, and personally I feel like with everything else I have going on I wanted to show people that this is really what I do," he said. "I wanted people to understand who Rotimi is, who Rotimi was before, who I want to be and just understand my growth and the journey and my passion for what I do."

Part of why the album felt like such a representation of him is because it embodies beats of his African roots, something he said was very present growing up Nigerian-American. 

"I grew up with a lot of Fela Kuti and I grew up with Bob Marley," he said of his musical roots. "But I also grew up with Carl Thomas and Genuine and Usher, so there was a genuine mixture of who I am and what I've grown up to listen to. The actual Walk With Me project was a mixture of influences of Akon and Craig David."

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Pearl Jam Named Record Store Day 2019 Ambassadors

Pearl Jam

Photo: Kevin Mazur/


Pearl Jam Named Record Store Day 2019 Ambassadors

Pearl Jam's Mike McCready says "if you love music," record stores are the place to find it

GRAMMYs/Feb 13, 2019 - 04:05 am

Record Store Day 2019 will arrive on April 13 and this year's RSD Ambassadors are Pearl Jam. Past ambassadors include Dave Grohl, Metallica, Run The Jewels (Killer Mike and El-P), and 61st GRAMMY Awards winner for Best Rock Song St. Vincent.

McCready was also the 2018 recipient of MusiCares' Stevie Ray Vaughan Award

The band was formed in 1990 by McCready, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, and Eddie Vedder, and they have played with drummer Matt Cameron since 2002. They have had five albums reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and four albums reach No. 2.

"Pearl Jam is honored to be Record Store Day's Ambassador for 2019. Independent record stores are hugely important to me," Pearl Jam's Mike McCready said in a statement publicizing the peak-vinyl event. "Support every independent record store that you can. They're really a good part of society. Know if you love music, this is the place to find it."

With a dozen GRAMMY nominations to date, Pearl Jam's sole win so far was at the 38th GRAMMY Awards for "Spin The Black Circle" for Best Hard Rock Performance.

Pearl Jam will be performing on March 3 in Tempe, Ariz. at the Innings festival, on June 15 in Florence, Italy at the Firenze Rocks Festival and at another festival in Barolo, Italy on June 17. On July 6 Pearl Jam will headline London's Wembley Stadium.

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Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards


Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

Dreamville, Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Tyler, The Creator, and YBN Cordae all earn nominations in the category

GRAMMYs/Nov 20, 2019 - 06:28 pm

The 2020 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Best Rap Album. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which albums have been nominated for Best Rap Album.

Revenge of the Dreamers III – Dreamville                                                                        

This star-studded compilation album from 11-time GRAMMY nominee J. Cole and his Dreamville Records imprint features appearances from some of the leading and fastest-rising artists in hip-hop today, including label artists EARTHGANG, J.I.D, and Ari Lennox, plus rappers T.I, DaBaby, and Young Nudy, among many others. Recorded in Atlanta across a 10-day recording session, Revenge of the Dreamers III is an ambitious project that saw more than 300 artists and producers contribute to the album, resulting in 142 recorded tracks. Of those recordings, 18 songs made the final album, which ultimately featured contributions from 34 artists and 27 producers.

Dreamers III, the third installment in the label’s Revenge of the Dreamers compilation series, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and achieved gold status this past July. In addition to a Best Rap Album nod, Dreamers III is also nominated for Best Rap Performance next year for album track “Down Bad,” featuring J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG, and Young Nudy.

Championships – Meek Mill

In many ways, Championships represents a literal and metaphorical homecoming for Meek Mill. Released in November 2018, Championships is the Philadelphia rapper’s first artist album following a two-year prison sentence he served after violating his parole in 2017. Championships, naturally, sees Meek tackling social justice issues stemming from his prison experience, including criminal justice reform. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, his second chart-topper following 2015’s Dreams Worth More Than Money, and reached platinum status in June 2019. Meek Mill's 2020 Best Rap Album nod marks his first-ever GRAMMY nomination.

i am > i was – 21 Savage

Breakout rapper and four-time GRAMMY nominee 21 Savage dropped i am > i was, his second solo artist album, at the end of 2018. The guest-heavy album, which features contributions from Post Malone, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, and many others, has since charted around the world, topped the Billboard 200 – a first for the artist – in the beginning of 2019, and achieved gold status in the U.S. As well, nine songs out of the album’s 15 original tracks landed on the Hot 100 chart, including multi-platinum lead single “A Lot,” which is also nominated for Best Rap Song next year. 21 Savage’s 2020 Best Rap Album nomination, which follows Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance nods for his 2017 Post Malone collaboration, "Rockstar,” marks his first solo recognition in the top rap category.

IGOR – Tyler, The Creator

The eccentric Tyler, The Creator kicked off a massive 2019 with his mid-year album, IGOR. Released this past May, IGOR, Tyler’s fifth solo artist album, is his most commercially successful project to date. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking his first time topping the coveted chart, while its lead single, "Earfquake,” peaked at No. 13, his highest entry on the Hot 100. Produced in full by Tyler and featuring guest spots from fellow rap and R&B stars Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, and Playboi Carti, among many others, IGOR follows the rapper’s 2017 album, Flower Boy, which received the Best Rap Album nod that same year.

The Lost Boy – YBN Cordae

Emerging rapper YBN Cordae, a member of the breakout YBN rap collective, released his debut album, The Lost Boy, to widespread critical acclaim this past July. The 15-track release is stacked with major collaborations with hip-hop heavyweights, including Anderson .Paak, Pusha T, Meek Mill, and others, plus production work from J. Cole and vocals from Quincy Jones. After peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, The Lost Boy now notches two 2020 GRAMMY nominations: Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for album track “Bad Idea,” featuring Chance the Rapper.

Rosalía Announces First Solo North American Tour


Photo: Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images


Rosalía Announces First Solo North American Tour

El Mal Querer Tour, named after the Spanish pop star's latest album, will come to Los Angeles on April 17 in between her Coachella performances

GRAMMYs/Mar 20, 2019 - 12:25 am

Rosalía is set to perform at some of the most popular music festivals around the globe, including Primavera Sound in Spain, Lollapalooza (Argentina and Chile) and Coachella, but the Spanish pop star isn't stopping there when she gets to the States. Now, she has announced her first solo North American Tour with a string of dates that will bring her to select cities in the U.S. and Canada.

El Mal Querer Tour, named after her latest album, will come to Los Angeles on April 17 in between her Coachella performances. Then she'll play San Francisco on April 22, New York on April 30 and close out in Toronto on May 2.


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"I’m so happy to announce my first solo North American tour dates," the singer tweeted.

Rosalía won Best Alternative Song and Best Fusion/ Urban Interpretation at the 19th Latin GRAMMY Awards in November and has been praised for bringing flamenco to the limelight with her hip-hop and pop beats. During her acceptance speech she gave a special shout-out to female artists who came before her, including Lauryn Hill and Bjork. 

Rosalía has been getting some love herself lately, most notably from Alicia Keys, who gave the Spanish star a shout-out during an acceptance speech, and Madonna, who featured her on her Spotify International Women's Day Playlist. 

Tickets for the tour go on sale March 22. For more tour dates, visit Rosalía's website.

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