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J.R. - conducted by Bill "Low Key" Heinzelman  


May 2005

MVRemix: When you were growing up, what type of Hip Hop did you listen to?

JR: To be honest with you, growing up in the Bay area, the only Hip Hop I heard was the huge huge crossover records. So I really didnt have a great understand of Hip Hop and all the groups. I only heard the stuff that really crossed over, like Tone Loc, and stuff like that. The first Hip Hop that I heard though, was Run DMC's Raising Hell. That was the first, and I was definitely drawn to it. But the first time I was really like "wow!", what is this music, was Dre's The Chronic and Snoop's Doggystyle. That was really when I was like, "Wow, this is incredible!" I was hugely influenced by those two records, and Dre has had a huge influence on me musically. As far as other Hip Hop, I have only been in the game a couple of years, so I am a fan of people of many would consider as "new" artists. I'm a huge fan of Em, 50, Dre, Biggie, Jay-z, and the list goes.

MVRemix: Have you experienced any situations in this Hip Hop game when race played in issue?

JR: To be honest with you, not really. I have really found that it hasn't hurt me. Obviously, I didn't grow up in the streets, or anything like that. So when I started in the industry, I didn't have any connections to the Hip Hop, so it took me awhile to break through. But as far as people accepting my beats, or not accepting them based on that, I haven't really found that. I think this industry is driven by what's hot and what sells. And in the end, money supersedes race or anything like that. If people hear a hot record, they want it regardless. I would certainly credit somebody like Scott Storch, who is white and Jewish, and he has been doing it real big. He probably opened any doors, and broke any stereotypes around. But I can't say I have ever felt held back by being white and in the game. Maybe for rappers its more difficult, because its based on image and where you come from. But as a producer, its just about hot records.

MVRemix: Now the first time I heard of you was about a year ago. I think it was on the internet, and cats were talking about Dr. Dre and his supposed ghost producers. And one cat said "You don't even know the type of talent he has hidden, he has this cat JR who ghosts produces for him. He is the next big thing".

JR: I have never ghost produced for Dre. Obviously, when I first started making beats, my sound was kind of similar to his, since I was so influenced by him. But no, I have not ghost produced for him. I have played keys for him, and I have worked for him though. He took a track from me where he laid vocals for Detox. But I haven't worked extensively with him, like Scott Storch has.

MVRemix: How did you originally hook up with Dre then?

JR: I saw him here and there in certain sessions, but it was through my manager that we first hooked up. He's got a big relationship with Aftermath, as he manages Hi-Tek and Denaun Porter, and he used to manage Rakim when he was on the label. So it's through Zach Katz that I hooked up with Dre.

MVRemix: So you played in a couple of sessions with him?

JR: Yeah, I played keys for him once or twice.

MVRemix: Have any of those tracks came out yet?

JR: Nope, not yet. As you may or may not know, Aftermath does a lot of work, but they are extremely selective with what they put out. Dre might do over a 100 records before he picks the 15 or 20 that goes on an album. Plus, he has a lot of stuff in his vault.

MVRemix: Yeah, I've heard about that vault.

JR: Yeah, there is crazy stuff in that vault. (Laughter)

MVRemix: So how was it working with Dre? Because a lot of people say he is very demanding and hard to work with at times.

JR: To keep it real, I haven't worked with him that much to where I can really speak on how he is. From what I have seen and observed, basically, the guy is absolutely dope! He is a perfectionist, but I wouldn't consider him hard to work with. I think he knows what he wants, and he's searching for a particular kind of sound. He uses musicians and people to get that sound that is in his head. So for some people who aren't as committed to being a perfectionist, maybe that is grueling. To me, its not, because I'm the same way. If it takes hours to get what he wants, than that's fine. I think he actually inspires people, because there is that certain level of respect. When you get in the room with him, you want to give him your best.

MVRemix: Speaking of the musicians he brings in, do you think the average Hip Hop head gets that twisted? Because some believe Dre has ghost producers and he has everyone else doing his work.

JR: Yeah, I don't agree with that. Producing can be several different things. Producing is really putting a record together, its not necessarily playing keys or composing. I am a different kind of producer than him, because I am a keyboardist. I am more in the vein of someone like Scott Storch. Dre on the other hand, he's like an orchestra conductor. He is a genius at what he does. He assembles a team of musicians, and gets a certain type of sound. Every time he puts his name on a track, you can hear that Dre sound. And its not because he played the keys, or the guitar, even though he does program his own drums. He uses the instrumentalist as tools to get a certain sound out. Producing is not necessarily composing or playing. I think a producer is like an orchestra conductor. He isn't playing the violin or the trumpet, but he is controlling the orchestra. He is getting a certain sound of out them, and is putting it all together. So different people produce in different ways. And of course when Dre does a beat with Scott Storch, you can hear Scott's influence in it. But a Dre record with Scott on the keys sounds different than a Scott Storch record. And that has to do with Dre being the producer that he is.

MVRemix: Can you tell us about the track Dre took from you for Detox? Because fans are going to want to know about that one.

JR: It was a crazy track! It is definitely a hot track, but it was in a lot of peoples hands before Dre's. It was first taken by a white rapper on Dreamworks by the name of Vicious, and we put Sticky Fingaz and Fredo Star on the track. But one of Dre's artists at the time, Joe Beast, he heard the beat and wanted it for his album. My manager Zach was managing Joe at the time. So he took it, and Dre ended up hearing it and wanted it for his album Detox. So Dre took it, laid vocals on it, and it came out amazing! But at the time, he put Detox down to work on Game's album. The track was then slid over towards Game, and they put Busta on the hook. Unfortunately, the track didn't make the final cut for Game's album, so now its still with Aftermath. But Dre sounded incredible on it!

MVRemix: What is the overall vibe of this beat?

JR: It sounds like some new shit, to be honest with you. I don't want to toot my own horn, but it had a crazy, I don't want to say Middle Eastern, but sort of a futuristic Indian kind of vibe. But the song is crazy!

MVRemix: What else do you have going on in the future?

JR: Besides all of that, me and Zach have a production company called Networth Entertainment. The goal with that is, with a lot of hard work we are trying to build it into an empire. But the first step is, we signed a girl named Jasmine Lopez, who is an incredible artist and writer. She is featured on the Snoop Dogg hook for "Bang Out". She is also on the Fabolous record, and a few of the Lil Kim records. Right now we are working on her solo album. She is really great because she has a very genuine vibe. She is R&B, but very street R&B. Her sound is very gritty, so she's kind of a new Mary J. Blige. She would sound totally natural over a 50 Cent track, its not sappy R&B, its gritty Hip Hop R&B. Plus, she writes all her own stuff. She wrote the hook for 50's "So Amazing", which Oliva sings on the album.

MVRemix: Any final advice for aspiring producers?

JR: Definitely. Number one, have faith. Number two, send out positive energy. You have to help out people shine, if you want to shine. And finally, relentless hard work is the key.

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"I have never ghost produced for Dre. Obviously, when I first started making beats, my sound was kind of similar to his, since I was so influenced by him. But no, I have not ghost produced for him. I have played keys for him, and I have worked for him though."