This Is What It Was Like To Be In The Studio When Drake And Future Recorded 'WATTBA'

We talked to Mali Hunter, the GM of Tree Sound Studios.

What was it like to be in the studio when Drake and Future recorded What A Time To Be Alive? Not many people will ever know firsthand, unfortunately. But a lucky few do.

One of those is Mali Hunter, the general manager, at Tree Sound Studios in Atlanta, where the project was recorded. A decade ago, she partnered with the studio's owner, Paul Diaz, and has been working with music's biggest artists -- from Drake and Future to Elton John and Whitney Houston -- ever since.

"It's such a fun time right now, because everybody who slept in the building -- from B.o.B and Big Sean and J. Cole, all these guys who were just sleeping there with no money -- are now, every single one of them number one artists," she says.

Earlier this week, MTV News caught up with Hunter, who is also an artist, manager and has a cooking show on Atlanta's NBC affiliate. She gave us a window into the vibes of the recording sessions, how it all came together, what she cooked for the guys, and whether or not Drake is actually a good ping pong player.

Mali Hunter


MTV: How long have you known Drake and Future?

Mali Hunter: Through [Lil] Wayne we met, and that first record, he thanked me on the back. It was a lot of fun. It was all mixed at Tree Sound.

Future's a dear friend. Last year, I was instrumental in pushing out the Monster project, we had a release party for Halloween. It was kind of his jump into really kicking it to the next level.

I got the call that they wanted to do this special project together. And I said, 'Whatever you need on my end.' We're secretive about any of my friends that come in the building. It was magical.

MTV: When did you get that call?

Hunter: It happened pretty fast. I got that call on the 13th of August, and they made it happen quick. At first I was like, 'Are these guys competing to see who can stay up the longest?' They non-stop worked and ran five rooms [in the studio], had 'em locked out [for] 24 hours [a day]. We used Groove's room and A room for them, like this is their home, where they can run back-and-forth. Future was in Groove's Room, and Drake was primarily in A, and there's this winding staircase, and they were literally up and down, up and down. Cutting vocals, talking about songs. And then we had Metro Boomin and the other producers in all the other rooms. It was like a journey. It was pretty amazing to watch.

MTV: You said they had it locked for 24-hours a day. How long was that the case?

Hunter: About a week. And then they came back and listened to the mixes during Music Midtown [September 18 and 19]. They finished it and dropped it.

MTV: Were they mostly recording at night or during the day also?

Hunter: It just depended what day it was. They would go until they passed out, and sometimes that was until 11 a.m. I don't do it for everyone, but for my personal friends, I stay. My office is upstairs. It's like you're at your aunt's house but it's halfway a sports bar, and the hookah's going. It was one of the most fun times.

A lot of times I stay out of their way until they want me. I don't hang out in the sessions. Unless it's, 'Mali, what's up, let's hang.'

MTV: What were the vibes like?

Hunter: It was like a big family reunion. I cooked every night. I made snacks every night. And it's funny, I get calls from celebrities like, 'Mali, you don't do that for us.' And you know what? It's because [Drake] is a humble, super awesome, gracious guy who talks to the interns like they're normal human beings.

When Drake said, 'Strip club at the studio' [in the past], that's what we did. I put that together and we had a ball. But this time, we were thinking about it, and it was like, We gotta get this done. So we brought in a ping pong table.

MTV: He posts ping pong videos on Instagram and seems good, but because it's self-edited you can't know for sure. Is he actually good?

Hunter: He's the one. He's competitive.

MTV: Who's he playing against?

Hunter: Everybody will play against him, and they're all getting good at it, and he's the one. It's hilarious. He's got this crazy, beat up ping pong paddle, and that's his thing. It's halfway chewed off. It's got no grip on one side.

MTV: Are there any particular moments that stick out?

Hunter: When everybody comes together to have a meal. I'm like, 'What do you wanna eat?' And I've been feeding these guys for years. Future's really picky and very simple, and Drake will let me make anything and eat whatever I give him. So the one that sticks out is when Drake wanted a soul food, family, Sunday dinner kind of night. That was the point that stuck out the most because they were both super exhausted, had been going hard for days, and this is a secret project, they're super excited, and they get to sit down over a meal and kind of relax.

It was fun because both of their teams -- I mean, there's 60 people in the building between their teams and everyone -- it was like a family reunion every day. Fun, laughter. And you don't get a lot of projects that it's fun. People are over-dramatic.

There's always one argument. There wasn't one argument. Not even between a bodyguard. Not one person had bad vibes. Everyone was so happy about the project. My team said, since the first Drake record, having Drake back at this point in his life, and having Future who we all love, was very great for my team. It made us all pull together. We all became a family. And for us to be the glue between Future and Drake's team was a blessing.

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