One of 2013’s most notable releases was Magna Carta…Holy Grail, the twelfth studio album from rapper Jay Z. Besides positive reviews from critics and spots on several end of the year “Best Albums” lists, it’s also up for nine Grammy Awards at this weekend’s ceremony, including Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song (for “Holy Grail”).
Full Sail Recording Arts grad (and Fifth Annual Hall of Fame inductee) Demacio “Demo” Castellon had a big part in the creation of the album, co-engineering 11 of the album’s 16 tracks and mixing 8 of them. Demo worked with Jay Z on the album over the course of a few weeks last year at Jungle City studios in New York City, and he says a couple of his career highlights came during that experience: recording a session with Jay Z and Nas together; and recording, mixing, and releasing the album’s first single, “Open Letter,” in the span of just a few hours.
“Jay trusted Tim [Timbaland] with a majority of the album, and he trusted me to do the best I can,” says Demo. “I think the reason why people of [Jay Z’s] caliber have been able to still be at the top of their game is because they understand the importance of surrounding yourself with people that are really passionate. There were [a lot of engineers working] on the project, and this is the first album I’ve been a part of where there was actually no ego whatsoever. Everybody wanted to be a part of something that was really great.”
“It doesn’t really matter to me if [a record] wins a ton of awards,” he says. “For me, if two people listen to it and say, ‘Yo, I love that album and thought it touched on me’ or ‘I really love the song,’ that’s more important to me than any platinum plaque.”
The Grammy Awards air this Sunday, January 26, at 8 p.m. on CBS.