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Young Guru named USC Thornton School of Music artist-in-residence

Prolific engineer Young Guru, responsible for helping Jay Z shape his sound, will join the faculty of Thornton's Contemporary Music Division, where he will lecture students and help USC develop a new degree program in music production.

September 04, 2013|By Gerrick D. Kennedy
  • Young Guru will shape minds at USC as an artist-in-residence for the 2013-14 academic year.
Young Guru will shape minds at USC as an artist-in-residence for the 2013-14… (Jared Fuller )

Young Guru has helped everyone from Jay Z to  Beyoncé to  Drake to Eminem to Kanye West shape their sounds. Now, the Grammy Award-nominated engineer-DJ-producer will shape minds at USC as an artist-in-residence for the coming academic year, the university announced Tuesday.

The prolific engineer, born Gimel Keaton, will join the faculty of USC Thornton’s Contemporary Music Division, where he will work with students in the popular music, music industry and music technology programs. 

During his post at USC, he will be instrumental in helping the university develop a degree program in music production and will also lecture students studying hip-hop, electronic music, music industry and songwriting.

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He's been lauded for his prolific work behind the boards -- he’s mixed most of Jay Z’s discography and has been hailed as the "Sound of New York" -- and the engineer isn’t a stranger to the world of academia, either, having lectured at institutions such as New York University, Emory, Loyola New Orleans, Middle Tennessee State and Drexel.

“I felt like it was the right time to do it. It’s a continuation of the brand that I’ve been building and showing people where we can take this,” Keaton said. “I wanted to be clear that it’s not just a hip-hop class, because there’s those already.”

Pop & Hiss caught up with Young Guru to talk about his plans for the program, and why his class will go beyond hip-hop:

You will lecture on musical engineering and production. What else will you do in your role with the university?

The class that I’m teaching will start with the basic foundations of sound and move all the way up to engineering and mixing and mastering and what some of those ideas and concepts are. I’m even more excited to help the university develop a program that will encompass everything of music -- the business and the technology; the music is just one part of it. In order to be successful in today’s business, not only do you have to know how to make the music but you also have to know how to get that music out.

I don’t believe you can consider yourself having an education in music and not having some type of business education. All of those things encompassed together is what makes someone ready to actually go out into the world and actually utilize their skill. It’s one thing to just sit down and make music, but at this point in history, there shouldn’t be any artist that’s not properly educated on publishing, what splits are and just how the industry works and how you get paid from it.

What should potential students expect from your course?

We’ll start with sound. One of the greatest things my teachers did for me [Keaton attended the Omega Studios' School in Maryland] was to take my mind away from simply engineering and becoming a practitioner of audio, which means you think about audio in all situations -- not just in the recorded music form.

So, when you don’t have a hit record, or if you’re an engineer and you don’t have that superstar session for the next couple of months, there are plenty of other places where audio is applicable. We want to show students all of those places -- it may not be glamorous to set up the audio at a McDonald's, but it’s completely necessary. Those headsets have to work with the speakers, and that’s a check for someone. We want to show where these things are applicable inside of music, and outside of music. And we’ll touch on everything in the recording and mixing chain.

You’ve made a mark on hip-hop production, but is your class beyond the genre?

It’s definitely going to focus on production a lot. But I want to be super clear that it’s not just a quote-unquote “hip-hop-based course,” just because I represent hip-hop. It’s for any musical genre, whether or not you’re recording your gospel choir, your rock 'n' roll band or jazz band, or whether you’re an electronic music maker. All of it will delve into music production.

Young Guru's first lecture at USC Thornton will be available via Live Stream, and can be accessed by signing up on his website.

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