Contrary to popular belief, Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller didn't grow up together. Though they both hail from Pittsburgh, are signed to Rostrum Records and have jumped out into the national spotlight, the bond that they share didn't start in the streets of the 'Burgh — but instead at ID Labs music studio.
E. Dan opened ID Labs in 2003, and since then he's recorded some of the city's biggest hits inside the dusty, vinyl-laced studio. Wiz Khalifa's classic 2010 mixtape Kush & Orange Juice and a huge chunk of his gold major-label debut Rolling Papers were recorded in ID Labs, as was Mac's Best Day Ever mixtape and his #1 debut Blue Slide Park.
The studio has been pivotal in Mac's development, so a few hours before his first homecoming show on December 9, he took MTV News on a tour of ID Labs.
"There's definitely a sound within the people that work out of here," E. Dan says of his studio and its in-house producers, Big Jerm and Sayez. "It's hard for me to say what an actual definitive sound of Pittsburgh is; I think it's probably a combination of a lot of stuff. We're not in New York; we're not in L.A.; we're not in one of the epicenters of hip-hop. I feel like, we're, if anything, a combination of all that."
Sledgren, who isn't technically a part of the ID Labs production team but frequently works out of the studio, remembers what it was like coming up with a sound for Wiz's Kush & Orange Juice. "We were just young goin' to the club, knowing what everybody wanted to hear, and we just gave that our own twist," he said of how he and Wiz came up with tracks like "Never Been."
For Sayez to think that two artists of Wiz and Mac's magnitude just so happened to come out of ID Labs is mind-blowing. "That's just crazy that two of the major players in today's hip-hop culture, music culture are doing it so big that they just happened to come through this building," he said.
"Everybody who worked in this building ... put in ridiculous amounts of work and sacrificed so much to be able to put out good music and be there and try and get the city movement goin'."
The fact is, both Khalifa and Miller have the option of working in higher-end studios with more notable producers, but the fact that they choose to keep coming back to the 'Burgh to work in ID Labs speaks fathoms. "It felt great, Wiz coming back to work on his album because he could've worked with anybody," Big Jerm said of the Rolling Papers sessions that took place in ID Labs. "He could've been in with Pharrell, but he chose to come back here. I think it's just comfortable for him, he's comfortable with us. I think it's a good situation for everybody really."
Stick with MTV News all week as Mac Miller takes us back to the 'Burgh and spotlights the city's vibrant hip-hop scene.