A one-woman team, Xarina cobbled together her savings and a loan and signed the lease. (There were plenty of sacrifices along the way: It wasn’t long ago that she was living and working in her friend’s mom’s garage.) Then, it was time to get to work.
“Before we got here, all this was open space, so there was no wall here or nothin’,” she tells me during a recent visit on a Monday afternoon. With the help of some friends, she built a wall that sections off the loft into a secluded recording space, installed soundproofing in the vocal booth and loaded in her collection of microphones, audio interfaces and monitors. The space is a work in progress; Xarina says she’s still working on some cosmetic fixes and getting more equipment.
When you enter Studio X, you’re greeted with the cozy, lived-in vibe of comfy couches and the excited panting of Xarina’s boxer, Brixx. During my visit, Xarina’s friend DJ Tasi is hanging out downstairs, and CT Beats is upstairs behind the computer working on a bass-heavy beat. Although not a household name yet, CT Beats produced the hit “Why You Always Hatin’” by YG, Drake and Kamaiyah, and recently had a track featured in Beyoncé’s Ivy Park athletic wear commercial starring Hailey Bieber and Gucci Mane.
There’s clearly a lot of promise in the building—and in the Bay Area in general, Xarina will tell you with pride. Although it’s a common refrain that Bay Area rap talent often influences but gets overlooked by the mainstream music industry, Xarina is excited about Studio X becoming a place for artists to perfect their crafts and make connections.
“Everybody loves to complain about the Bay Area and what we don’t do, but like, what do we do?” says Xarina, who grew up in San Jose and has lived all over the East Bay for the last 10 years. “We are an amazing group of fucking people. I don’t care what we lack. What do we have? We have magic. We have this realness about us that you can’t really find anywhere else. So, like, forget the bullshit, what can we do? How can we connect? How can we build?”
Over the past two weeks, Xarina has had some of her first recording sessions. Mistah F.A.B. even came through on the May 15 opening day, and rising Oakland rapper Ally Cocaine booked a session a week later. Xarina envisions the studio as a free-form creative space. Her specialty is recording crisp vocals, and since she has extensive experience as an artist herself, she often works as a hands-on creative collaborator with the rappers, singers, songwriters and producers who book time with her.