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Audio Engineer Kesha Lee in Atlanta, in a Pandemic: ‘I’m Trying To Figure Out How to Do My Part’

Since getting her start through a chance meeting with Gucci Mane, Atlanta-based audio engineer Kesha Lee has worked on chart-toppers like Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” and Migos’ “Bad and Boujee” and is now the go-to audio engineer for rappers including Playboi Carti and Lil Uzi Vert. She spent the past two-and-a-half years working on Uzi’s Eternal Atake album in the artist’s native Philadelphia, before it was released on March 6 — mere weeks before the near-national lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus began.

As part of Billboard’s efforts to best cover the coronavirus pandemic and its impacts on the music industry, we will be speaking with Lee each week to chronicle her experience throughout the crisis. (Read the last installment here and see the full series here.)

How have you been processing the events of the past week?

I’ve just been feeling down about a lot of stuff going on. I haven’t really done anything [work-wise]. There was a curfew [in Atlanta], but it got lifted. I was out, and I didn’t know. I was like, “Why is it so deserted?” I haven’t really been on social media, but someone called and told me I needed to watch the news. For me, the news is Instagram. When I saw everything that was going on, I could not wrap my head around it. It hurts, seeing certain things.

I’ve just been taking it all in and trying to figure out how to do my part. I definitely think voting is important, so I made sure to do that [for Georgia’s primary election on June 9]. It was a long line, but I didn’t mind waiting at all. It was spaced out. The place that we voted at had snacks and water, and if you were older or had a disability, you could come up front and go ahead and vote. So I’m glad I was able to go to that.

I think it’s amazing, the change that [protests are] bringing about, and quickly. The fact that there are protests outside of the U.S. — it’s definitely a moment in history.

What has your own experience been like as a black creative in the music industry?

I personally haven’t had experiences with racism — or if I did happen, I didn’t know it — more than I have had with being a woman. I’m glad I haven’t had to experience that, but I’m not saying it doesn’t happen at all.

How else has this cultural and political moment affected you?

There’s just been this weight on me. I’ve been sorting through my feelings, and what I can do to help. There are things that happen in life that kind of show you that the things you’re doing aren’t important. My YouTube [channel], in the first place, was to help others. I have a career. I don’t have to do YouTube. It was literally for other people, because of all the DMs and comments I get about questions people have. It’s just a way I would enjoy sharing and answering people’s questions.

But with the state that the world is in, who cares about [a video on] how to pack for a trip? Is anybody really leaving right now? So I’m still doing things that I need to get done, as far as where I’m at, but I haven’t been feeling like working on that right now.

Have you come to any conclusions about other ways to help?

I definitely want to get more involved with voting. Everyone else’s big election is the presidential election. But I’m starting to realize how important the state elections are. I’ve been researching people, so that when I vote, I know how to vote. But then when I went, I still saw names on the ballot I wasn’t familiar with. So I just want to figure that out and share what I learned with other people. The best way to look up candidates, and how your ballot will look for your area. Someone in my district may not be someone you vote on for your district. I’m sure there are already a lot of great sites that break that down — but basically just finding those sites, and sharing that, helps.

As far as music, I think it would be cool to work with the kids of the future. Just working with kids who want to make a song about what’s going on. Making sure that if there’s anybody that wants to have a song that’s about what’s going on, I work with them. I don’t care about money, so maybe even do it for free, and help in that sense.

But I’m still figuring it out. People help in different ways. I want to figure out where I can make my biggest impact.

I wonder what music will come out of this period.

Me too. There’s actually one person who I really hope they make another song — which is Childish Gambino.

Have you received any new songs to work on?

No, but I kind of think that’s a good thing. I’m just taking stuff as it comes.


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