Interview: Meet 'A.L.L.A''s Co-Executive Producer, the Hip-Hop Hector Delgado

The producer shares stories of working with A$AP Rocky and studio time with Yams.

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Complex Original

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A$AP Rocky’s sophmore album, At.Long.Last.A$AP, is a return to the alternative, drug-induced sound that first garnered him attention in 2012. Songs like “Max B” and “L$D” see the beat switch up, slow down, and completely transform all in four minutes. This was certainly the vision of the late A$AP Yams, but many other artists contributed to the album’s production, too. Familiar names like Danger Mouse, Juicy J, and Chase Johnson are all credited as co-executive producers, but there’s a lesser-known name that’s ubiquitous throughout the liner notes.

Hector Delgado, a Puerto Rican-born DJ, engineer, and producer, appears on nearly every track. He produced or co-produced “Canal St.,” “L$D,” “Excuse Me,” “Electric Body,” “Max B,” and “Wavybone,” and he’s responsible for engineering the whole album. He also appears on several Long.Live.A$AP tracks.

Delgado’s involvement with the A$AP Mob isn’t out of the blue, either. In his 15-year career, Delgado has worked with Onyx, gospel singers CeCe Winans and Andraé Crouch, ScHoolboy Q, and even Michael Jackson. At.Long.Last.A$AP is just one chapter in Delgado’s lengthy, obscure career.

We caught up with Delgado to talk about the confusion surrounding his name (which certainly is one reason for his ambiguity), his successful yet obscure career, and a hilarious studio session with A$AP Yams.

Brian Padilla is a writer living in New York. Follow him @brianmpadilla.

So you’re not the Hector Delgado from “Ay Amor”?

That’s been my curse—and I’m glad that we get to get this out of the way—​that’s been the curse in my career. I look like DJ Green Lantern, and I have a name that’s famous [from] a reggaeton artist.

Hector’s in reggaeton, and I’m in hip-hop, but we’ve had similar courses in life. He did a Jay Z song, I did a Jay Z song. So it made it confusing. That dude’s collected my publishing, that’s how crazy it’s been.

Him and I are friends at this point. When the “Harlem Shake” controversy happened, people from the New York Times were hitting me up. I was like, what the fuck’s going on?

You’re the hip-hop Hector Delgado.

I’ve always loved hip-hop. Even when I lived in Puerto Rico, Spanish music wasn’t really my foundation.

I wanted to make a name for Hector Delgado, the hip-hop, R&B guy. That’s why I went with the Hector Delgado name instead of a DJ act like most producers would use.

But you gotta have an appreciation for reggaeton, right?

Yeah, I’m from Puerto Rico. I dare you to find a Puerto Rican that’s not proud to be a Puerto Rican. [Laughs.]

What kind of hip-hop were you listening to growing up?

I had older cousins that would clown me because I listened to corny music when I was younger. Then they introduced me to hip-hop. I would sneak away and listen to N.W.A and Eric B. and Rakim, and all of those amazing artists, ya know. Shit in the prime of hip-hop—the birth of hip-hop.

From there I started DJing, and I just fell in love with music. I couldn’t believe what a DJ could do with two records. That’s really where my passion started.

Is hip-hop the only music you work in?

At one point I started working with Andraé Crouch, CeCe Winans, and the gospel world. I’ve sung on a record with Michael Jackson before. Man, I’ve had the most amazing career ever. I’m so blessed.

What song were you on with MJ?

It was during Sept. 11, Andraé Crouch did, like, a tribute song. I don’t think it ever came out, but just the experience of getting to work with Michael Jackson was amazing.

What other hip-hop acts have you worked with leading up to Long.Live.A$AP?

I’ve worked with David Banner, the Outlawz, I did a bunch of work with Method Man.

For a time I really started mentoring kids, too. I mentor Bob Dylan’s grandson, Pablo Dylan. That’s how he got on the record. Scoop DeVille, I didn’t mentor him, but me and him were partners. A lot of people don’t know, but I helped him do the “(Ha Ha) Slow Down” record for Fat Joe that came out a couple years ago.

How did you meet up with Bob Dylan’s grandson?

Through working with David Banner. David used to mentor him. When I got to L.A., about 15 years ago, I opened up a studio in Van Nuys. It became a studio where a lot of writers and producers—David Banner, Swiff D, Hit-Boy, THX, Boi-1da, T-Minus—all of us were working out of this spot. It was a spot in the Valley, this secret location, where everyone would make amazing art.

David Banner used to bring Pablo around the studio, and he was just the kid that we were all just helping out. It wasn’t even about him being Bob Dylan’s grandson; he’s a kid that puts in work. He’s not a spoiled brat. He actually works every day making beats, being a producer, learning how to actually make songs.

What’s crazy, though, is that’s how I ended up meeting Rocky. Those producers were doing a lot of Interscope stuff, and my studio was doing the majority of the recording. I was doing stuff for ScHoolboy Q, Kendrick, Jay Rock, and a lot of TDE. So when Rocky was coming to work on his album, he was coming to L.A. and all of the producers work out of my spot. That’s how I was introduced to Rocky.

For his first album, right?

Yeah, for Long.Live.A$AP. Me and Rocky just hit it off. The first day we ever met we did “Goldie.” Shit was crazy. The second day we did “PMW (All I Really Need).” We just had a chemistry. We vibed. We had similar interests and everything we were doing was coming out dope.

I told Bryan Leach, the owner of Polo Grounds Music, “​Whatever I gotta do to be a part of this, please. Whatever. I’ll pay my dues.” I didn’t care. When I met Rocky I knew this dude was just an amazing talent.

At that point, A$AP Yams was a huge part of that sound too.

I knew Yams before I knew any of those dudes. Yams used to be an intern at Dipset. So when he came to the studio and saw me he was like, “Word?! Ohhhh it’s Hec.” You know how Yams talked. “My duuude, my Rican. Papi Chulo.” It was just classic Yams. I think about that brotha every day.

That day we did “Goldie,” Yams and Bryan were there, and I told Bryan I wanted to work on the record. Yams held me down. He let Bryan know: “Hec’s that dude.”

Who approached you to co-executive produce At.Long.Last.A$AP?

At that point I had started DJing for Rocky with J. Scott. We’d be on the road and in the studio, and I’d be doing stuff here and there, but I didn’t know I was going to be working on it. I knew they were going to London to record, but I didn’t know I was going until a week before it happened.

I got the phone call from Chase and he was like, “Are you available for these dates?” And I’m thinking, for what? We’re not touring. But he said Rocky’s recording his album and wants you to be a part of it.

On Long.Live.A$AP I don’t think Rocky had much of a say in who was producing or engineering it; it was more of a Bryan and Yams thing. So for him to personally ask me was an honor.

Was there a difference, sonically, in how you guys wanted to approach At.Long.Last.A$AP as opposed to the first album?

Definitely. We wanted to make something that was...emotional and trippy. Everybody was doing turn up, turn up, turn up, and we were like, how about when you get home and lay with your girl and smoke? We wanted to give people that experience.

Everybody was doing turn up, turn up, turn up, and we were like, how about when you get home and lay with your girl and smoke? We wanted to give people that experience.

I worked on every record. So when songs go through all of those transitions that you hear, like on “Jukebox Joints” and all the endings, those are all things that I made. I took those elements the producers laid out and made them transition from song to song.

We knew we wanted to do a lot of switches up on the album, too. We wanted the beats to constantly move. The chopping up of beats, the effects, the warped sounds, all of that stuff.

Even the Yams thing at the end of the album. I did that at the mastering spot. I literally was in Harlem for a week mastering right until the end. When Yams passed, we all looked at each other and said, “We’ve got to make this amazing.”

Where’d that Yams audio come from at the end of the album?

Originally I was going to make the Yams thing a hidden track. I wish they didn’t attach his name, I guess they had to, but it would’ve been so cool. I wanted the pause at the end to be longer, but the label was pushing for time.

Me and Chase were in my spot in Van Nuys when we made that. Those vocals were originally from some overdubs Yams had did on “Suddenly.” When Yams passed, Rocky had asked if I remembered those ad-libs, and I knew right away. Rocky didn’t say nothing else to me. I just knew.

When I found that audio, and heard Yams’ voice, that shit fucked me up. To hear it a cappella…shit was creepy. It was like Yams speaking from heaven.

What energy did Yams bring to the studio when he was here?

There’s actually a hilarious Yams story. We were in my studio recording some overdubs for “Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye 2,” and Rocky’s a vampire. We literally start recording at 11 p.m. and don’t stop until 2 p.m. the next day. This one particular night we’re at the studio, it’s like 6 a.m., and we’re in California, Rocky’s in the booth, and Yams is asleep, snoring crazy, obnoxious loud. All of the sudden an earthquake happens. Yams wakes up and screams, “Oh, papi! Oh, papi” It was hilarious. It was the first time both of them had [experienced] an earthquake, and it ended the session immediately.

Yams was a clown, bro. Nobody had energy like Yams. He was the Puerto Rican Bobby Brown. He was too big for this world.

Do you know the status of the A$AP Mob album?

I worked on that, and it was amazing. Rocky and Yams just made the decision that it was taking too long, and we should just do this Rocky album. But we made some songs, and they’re amazing. When it comes out, it’ll come out.

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