Having just wrapped up a three-month residency at Manhattan’s Battery Studios — a $300,000 expense expected to yield $30 million by Poke’s hasty calculations — Poke and Tone have left their respective posts as television producer and Universal Motown VP to “get back to what we do best,” Poke asserts with a sense of manifest destiny, “to save hip-hop.” Along with their newly assembled team of underling producers, consisting of Frequency, The ARE, Just Nyce and Ace 21, Track Masters are back in full swing, and they’re looking for hits.
In the mixing room, Tone and Poke worked out the finishing touches while advising engineers and rearranging song structures. Simultaneously, in an adjacent room, songwriters and ghostwriters — including rappers Iron Solomon and Punchline and R&B crooners Quo, Range and the Wonder Twins — wrote ferociously on a variety of artist-specific topics. “We always have someone in mind for the songs that we make,” Poke says. “If I’m making a song for Snoop, it’s going to sound like some West Coast funk shit. We’re gonna do more than just put a Moog on there; we’re gonna get the feel of those records — Parliament, Funkadelic, etc. The same can be said for the hooks, choruses and verses. They’re artist-specific.”
The last leg of Track Masters’ assembly line ends with in-house studio musician and producer, Spanador. An adept musician who once taught Vernon Reid guitar and bass during his days in Living Colour, Spanador re-creates samples and grooves with live instruments, adding a thickness and swing that recorded samples and MIDI simply can’t replicate. “He does more than just replay samples; he’s adding a feel,” Poke says. “He’s a producer more than a studio musician.”