The other day in West Hollywood, twenty-five-year-old music producer Blake Slatkin stuck his hand in a dollhouse on his mantel. “It’s an exact miniature replica of my old recording studio,” he said, pointing to a row of lamb chop-sized guitars and a scaled-down grid of photos of the musicians he plays with. had worked. The old studio was in his mother’s house in Westwood, where he had lived until January. Now he was alone. “I’m very slowly learning to be an adult,” he said. “It was super emotional. I was actually super nervous to leave my mom’s house, because I was so lucky there. That’s where he co-produced a lot of the songs on the Billboard Hot 100—by Lil Nas X, The Kid LAROI, 24kGoldn, Omar Apollo and Lizzo.
However, living alone has its advantages. “I mean, the morning I got my first number 1, I woke up and told my mom I got my first number 1,” he said. “And she was, like, ‘This is awesome.’ And then she said to me: ‘You have a lot of dishes to make since last night.’ ”
Slatkin walked past a swimming pool to his new home studio. He slumped in a bean bag chair next to a row of guitars and keyboards. He wore a black T-shirt with the word “FOOLISHand a screen print of Ashanti on it, black sweatpants and loose black Converse. “I’ve lived within twenty minutes of here all my life,” he said. As a teenager, he performed live. “I would sell tickets to my shows at Whiskey a Go Go to my teachers.” He only left for two years of college in Manhattan, where he had lived on St. Marks Place. “I shared a wall with the show ‘Stomp’ – the percussion musical.” He continued, “Thirty years they’ve been doing this fucking show. And they don’t even say words, they just kick the shit out as hard as they can.
Being a hitmaker is tough. “Every time I walk into the studio now, I feel like the label is just, like, ‘OK, give us another one.’ It’s like ‘Dance, monkey, dance.’ ”
Next to an elaborate sound system was a lo-fi boom box. “A lot of people listen on shitty speakers, so I need to know how it sounds,” he said. “I care how it sounds on AirPods, you know? I mix records on my phone all the time.
He sat down in front of a monitor to demonstrate how he designed a section in a PinkPantheress song. He held a note on a keyboard, then electronically duplicated it on the screen. “You can take the reverb out and in,” he said. “It’s all those little subconscious things that make you say, Oh, something’s a little more exciting now.”
How does he develop a relationship with a new artist? “I certainly don’t walk into a room with someone for the first time, like, ‘Okay, so tell me about your childhood trauma.’ “When he was preparing to record Lizzo’s ‘About Damn Time,’ he says, “we had a day when all of Lizzo’s friends came in, and we all screamed and danced and sang the chorus as loud as we could, and we put that on file.
Sometimes it’s improvised. “That ‘Stay’ song I did, the Bieber song, we were all chilling in my studio at my mom’s house. LAROI was in the corner and he said, “I’m coming. We were with Charlie Puth, and the first thing he played on the keyboard was this riff. We never changed it, even a little bit. He continued, “And basically, in one take, the whole song was done in thirty minutes. And then we were, like, OK, cool, let’s get hibachi.
Back in the house, candles shaped like busts of Julius Caesar sat beneath a framed vintage menu from the Beverly Hills Hotel and a painting of an Aunt Jemima syrup bottle by Awol Erizku. The Nobu cookbook sat next to a volume titled “Salad Freak” and two types of olive oil — “One for sizzling, one for drizzling,” Slatkin said. He recently had an ice bath installed to ease his anxiety.
He gestured to a picture of Picasso on his inspiration wall and said: ‘I love his quote, saying it took him four years to learn to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” He continued, “The guardians are really gone, now the guardians are just the world and the children of the world. These are the people who are on TikTok, on Instagram, on Spotify. He decides if your shit is hot. He pulled out his phone to show a TikTok of young children in Uganda dancing to 24kGoldn’s song “Mood”, which he produced. “They are children in Africa,” he said. “And I have no idea what they like about the song.” ♦