Producer and L.O.V.E. Culture Artist Spiritxiii’s Gear Essentials


An original member of Duval hip-hop collective L.O.V.E. Culture, Spiritxiii feels just as at-home in a DAW as he does onstage. In addition to L.O.V.E. Culture’s own albums, Spirit’s most recent production credits include Jacksonville R&B songstress Ebonique’s latest album, alterEBO, and he’s currently overseeing production of a collaboration between Rab G, Kale That Raps, and Sir Mayes, not to mention singles of his own. 

Born and raised in Jacksonville, the self-taught producer got his start in elementary school on his father’s Mac, which arrived with Garageband pre-downloaded. He stuck with it, even when his production output hadn’t yet caught up to the R&B he’d always been drawn toward. “The corniest stuff ever is what I was making back then,” he says. “I would put waves in the background and say I was drowning because there’s a song I made that sounded like somebody would be drowning.”

Citing a wide range of influences like Childish Gambino, ScHoolboy Q, James Taylor, and America’s “A Horse with No Name,” Spirit is often inspired by strong musical juxtapositions. “I like using hard-hitting drums that you would hear in a Westside Gunn track,” he says as an example, “but then I would take that and have R&B chords playing over it to give it more of a lighter feel.” 

I spoke with Spiritxiii outside of his studio, Unc’s, where he told me about his essential gear as well as the gear he’s adding to his studio soon.

Spiritxiii’s Gear Essentials

Warm Audio WA-1B Optical Compressor. Ace Bowers, a fellow engineer in the city, turned me onto this one. It’s a very nice compressor that emulates the iconic tube tech compressor, which you see in every professional studio. And it does a phenomenal job. I’d want it everywhere I go.

Universal Audio Apollo Audio Interface. Definitely need this one wherever I go, too. I started off with the Apollo Twin, which was a graduation up from the Focusrite 2i2. There was a noticeable amount of clarity. You’re able to gain the vocal up without hearing any additional noise. That’s always a big thing: being able to turn stuff up louder without getting ground noise. It gives great conversion, so whatever you’re hearing in the session is going to be what you hear when you come out. I think Universal Audio has a more transparent sound, but it’s a hi-fi sound. Good lows. Good highs on the conversion.

Mogami Gold Cables. Always get Mogami cables. Gold. You don’t realize how much of a difference that is until you actually get them.

Unc’s AKA Spirit’s control room

Neumann U87 Microphone + Neve 1073 Preamp. I will say this: the high mids on the U87 can be a little frustrating. But you can find ways around it. My U87 is going through the 1073 preamp, which has an EQ on it that kind of dips down on the high mids. It might sound a little edgier than I want it to sound, but it has good, clear lows to it, and I get those round highs that aren’t sharp and distasteful to the ear.

AKAI MPC Renaissance. I got it in 2016, and unfortunately, it has died on me. But it enabled me to make “Trap-Phone.” There’s a button you can press that can make the drum sounds sound like legacy equipment, like the SD1200 or the MPC60, which is the one that has a lot of girth to it. It just adds an extra low-end and warmth to anything you run through it. You can also set it up so that if you press one button, one pad, you can have it play a chord.

L.O.V.E. Culture Press pic
Members of L.O.V.E. Culture (from left)Spiritxiii, Ché Forreign, Flash the Samurai, Rob Mari and Easyin2D with DJ Larry Love (far right) | Credit: Robert Bredvad, courtesy of the artist

Spiritxiii’s Next Gear Purchases

LA2-A Compressor. When most people record, they’re running compressors in series. An ideal situation would be to have the U87 going into my 1073, and from the preamp, it would hit my LA2-A, and then after, it would hit the CL-1B. And those two in tandem usually give a very, very pristine, smooth vocal. A vocal that sounds 3D, sounds good and mellow. Smooth highs. 

And that’s another thing. A lot of these compressors have tubes in them that give the source a natural sound. That sound you’re used to hearing. Tubes are really where the magic is that people are looking for, the sound that people are usually looking for. When they’re being warmed up, tubes give off a nonlinear sound that you can’t replicate in a linear digital DAW. Well, they’re getting close to it. Actually, the DAWs are getting close to it. The plugins that they have are getting close to that sound, but it’s still not that same that you would get with your vocal running through tubes. It has flavor and color, even without compression. 

Another audio interface. I need two audio interfaces since I have two studios: Studio A and Studio B. If I get a bigger audio interface, I can start hooking up more analog gear to it, like my 1073, my warm audio compressor.

500 Series Preamp. It will power smaller versions of those big pieces of equipment, like a mini version of a 1073 that will cost significantly less because it’s a small little thing you can put in a slot on the 500 series in order to get the same sound. It’s just smaller.

Tune into The Independent 89.9 HD4 in Jacksonville (and streaming everywhere right here) to hear music from L.O.V.E. Culture as well as tracks produced by Spiritxiii.

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