Craig Bauer has been part of Kanye West's career from the beginning, and as a mix engineer on the smash hit Late Registration album, he had to marry West's artistic perfectionism with his own technical standards. Chicago, home to genre pioneers like Steve 'Silk' Hurley, and the sophisticated city blues of Buddy Guy, is a great source of innovation in urban music but often lacks the gravity to keep those innovators there. So the disappointment that Craig Bauer felt when Kanye West told him, in 2000, that he was headed for New York City to take his career to the next level was both understandable and predictable. Bauer, a passionate musician from Cleveland who came up through the ranks of that city's studios in the 1980s before migrating to Chicago to set up his own facility, Hinge Studios, in 1992, had watched as West progressed from a promising but anonymous local beatmaker, brought to the studio in 1998 by local producer John 'Monopoly' Johnson. Johnson had cadged hours here and there over two years off the studio invoices for his protégé, and it was at Hinge that West learned to go beyond eight-bar loops on his MPC sampler. The beat-making process might have seemed technologically primitive to Bauer, who by then had already established a successful niche as a mixer specialising in the much-maligned smooth jazz format. Bauer was drawing the leading artists of that genre, including Dave Koz, Brian Culbertson, Steve Cole and Peter White, out of their sunny colonies in California and into a studio in gritty downtown Chicago. Just Another ClientCompared to the glossy tracks that Bauer was giving them through the Euphonix System 5 console and the Genelex 1034B/7072 sub array of monitors at Hinge, Kanye West must have seemed as much an exercise in cultural relativism as just another client. But that's exactly how Bauer treated West, and he believes that his respect for him as a client is what led to a strong bond of friendship developing between the two. Bauer worked often with West during the two years that 'Monopoly' had installed him as a regular client in the studio, through the artist's stint in the Go-Getters, a Chicago rap group that West was a member of and produced. Bauer is candid when he says that there's little to talk about in terms of recording West's early work. "It wasn't what you'd call 'challenging'," he recalls. "If you listen back to the stuff now, which Kanye and I did not too long ago at the studio, it would not stand out and I doubt he'd disagree. It didn't suggest the genius you hear now on his records. It was all stuff that was sampled off of other records. He'd take a kick drum or a hi-hat where he could find them in the open on a track, sample them, and then 'flip' them — record them 'hot' to add a little distortion. If you could route a quarter-inch cable in a patchbay you could engineer those sessions. But what was there was there on the tracks was an attitude in the sound, grittiness. The talent was in the process of revealing itself." And not only to Bauer. West's beats were quickly gaining the attention of artists on the coasts, including P Diddy, RZA of Wu Tang Clan, and Li'l Kim. "He was doing an increasing amount of 'ghost' beat work for other artists," Bauer says. "He'd bring the MPC in and we'd track it and lay it off to tape and it would get shipped off. The number of POs [purchase orders] to the studio kept going up, even though Kanye was not getting the credit for all of that work — I checked those records when they came out. But that's just part of getting yourself across in that genre. When you're young and new at it, lots of guys are happy just to get a few hundred dollars for a beat. I know, because they still ask me to help them sell them." Credit Where Credit Is DueCraig Bauer displays his annoyance candidly at the haphazard manner in which the credits appear on Late Registration — when they appear at all. Several of his mixes were credited to others, and he gets credit for others' mixes. When Bauer received an advance copy of 'Heard 'Em Say', he found his name nowhere on it. "I called and told [Kanye West's camp] they had fouled up on the credits and at first they argued that, then said that it would be corrected on the next pressing," he says. Nearly two million units later, the error is still uncorrected. "When you put your heart and soul into a complicated project like this, you're doing it for more than money," says Bauer. "It's devastating not to get properly credited for it." Credits on hip-hop recordings, which are already paperwork nightmares from logging hundreds of samples, are notoriously inaccurate. Multiple producers and engineers per track vie with dozens of studios, musicians, vocalists, guest artists and posse members in a stew of data that's nearly impossible to keep straight. And it's gone beyond urban music — the problems associated with such record-keeping prompted Trent Reznor to put the liner notes of his most recent CD on the Internet as a downloadable PDF file. As Bauer's case suggests, the hard work that goes into each record demands acknowledgement, both for emotional and professional reasons. "These are good and decent people," he says of West and his management. "They didn't do this on purpose. But it's frustrating."