Delanie Leyden on working with Busta Rhymes and Augspurger

Audio engineer, producer, and singer songwriter Delanie Leyden recently sat down with Headliner to talk about her career to date, including her extensive work with US rap legend Busta Rhymes on his latest album project, Blockbusta.

Starting out as an intern for The Music Development Agency at NYC’s The Cutting Room in 2015, Leyden wasted no time in landing a gig at Premier Studios the following year. Here she honed her engineering skills considerably, assisting sessions for the likes of DJ Khaled, Meek Mill, Ray J and Rick Ross, and working under some top engineers in the business, such as Ricky St. Hilaire, Los Vives and Gonzalo Contreas.

Leyden soon became one of the main assistant engineers for Busta Rhymes until 2018, and started to engineer for the rap star full time when she moved over to Penthouse Recording Studios as assistant studio manager.

“It's so funny,” she begins with a wry smile. “We had a little group of us that worked at Premier, and my producer, who was the manager at the time, was assisting sessions for Busta. He was running late, and so it was between me and my other friend Jimmy, who couldn’t stay for the session. So Gonzalo, who was Busta’s engineer at the time, and who was one of my mentors, asked me to take the session. I was like, ‘why not?’ because I had nothing else really going on at the time.

“When Busta saw me for the first time he was like, ‘this is the assistant?’ - he’s a little bit hesitant with new people, and he was expecting someone else. They liked me and wanted me in the room, so I started assisting pretty much daily. Now I sit next to him every day!”

Leyden says the biggest record she has worked on to date is Busta Rhymes’ ROBOSHOTTA, featuring global afrobeats artist Burna Boy. The track appears on Busta’s 11th studio album BLOCKBUSTA, which saw a release last November.

“I actually got to record Burna Boy for the track,” she reveals excitedly. “Another is OPEN WIDE featuring Shenseea and Chris Brown; initially Davido was supposed to be on the track and things didn’t work out, but recording Davido was another big moment for me.”

Busta Rhymes was back on the road last summer touring with 50 Cent, and Leyden, as his traveling engineer, was gladly brought along for the ride. Her mobile rig is minimal yet professional, running Pro Tools with a UAD Apollo and a Neumann U87 mic.

“I was with him for the majority of the American leg and we went to Dubai in November for Sole DXB festival, and that was one of the greatest experiences ever,” she laments. “It was celebrating hip-hop 50, and it was a beautiful festival. Then we went to Saudi because Bus did the opening ceremony for the FIFA Club World Cup. My parents met playing soccer, so that hit home differently for me.”

When Busta saw me for the first time he was like, ‘this is the assistant?’ Now I sit next to him every day!

When it comes to her creative process, Leyden has learned over the years to simply go with the flow:

“I used to get so upset if I couldn’t come up with something,” she recalls. “I’ve learned a lot from Bus as an artist just from being around him. Nowadays I’ll often just find a beat, vibe out to it, and have it on loop. Then I’ll record the melody and work the lyrics around it, although sometimes it’s the complete other way around! It’s different every time, so I just try to go with whatever feels right.”

Alongside her engineering duties, Leyden also has her own artist project called Lussx (a combination of Ludlow and Essex Streets in Manhattan). She released a four track EP called Mind Games back in September 2023, which she produced and mixed entirely herself, while her latest single – a Kaytranada-esque dance track called Bad Gyal – features rising artists FAMEtheMOVIE and HotBoii Johnny.

Leyden’s prowess as a rap and hip-hop engineer led her to become acquainted with Augspurger Monitors – which have arguably changed the game for the genres – early on in her career.

“I’d heard the name Augspurger, and then when Penthouse was being built out when I was there, they became our main monitors in the studio,” she says. “Ricky St. Hilaire, who is another of my mentors and who has been Busta’s engineer for over 25 years, has always used Augspurgers for their clarity and quality, and so I quickly became used to working with them.

“Honestly, I love them so much. Maybe I’ve been spoiled, but if a room doesn’t have Augspurgers I get disappointed, and I have to adjust myself to working in there because I'm so used to their quality. They've changed the game for studios and engineers, especially those like myself who are working in genres with proper low end.”

As a woman working in pro audio, Leyden says she has seen positive steps being made towards levelling the playing field for female engineers.

“When I first started out, I didn’t know too many female engineers,” she admits. “But within the last three years I’ve got to meet some wonderful audio engineers who are women. Someone recently told me that Prince only had female engineers; that amazed me, and gave me a whole new respect for him just as a human being, let alone an artist. There’s still not much light shone on it, but there have been so many of us throughout history and continues to be. It’s been so welcoming and refreshing for me.

“The biggest thing for me is being able to travel and engineer, doing what I love. I engineered the majority of this Blockbusta album, so it’s cool to finally show the world what I’ve been working on for at least two years. I’m now working on Busta’s next project and next batch of shows, my own artist project, and with an artist within our camp called FAMEtheMOVIE. It’s a bit of a crazy schedule, but I’m super excited for what’s coming this year.”

Listen to the full interview with Delanie Leyden on Headliner Radio, here: