do you do when youre a multi-platinum producer thats worked with
the Whos Who of not only the Hip-Hop world, but Pop and
R&B realms as well? Start your own label and sign a 16-year-old
kid, who you flip into the biggest teen music star of the year. And of course,
date one of said Pop stars that you worked with.
Canadian raised, and California schooled J.R. Rotem is that man. After
scoring numerous tracks for 50 Cent, The Game, Destinys Child, and
perhaps most notably for Rihannas S.O.S., Rotem put together his
own Beluga Heights label through Epic Records, and signed a then unknown Sean
Kingston as his first artist. With another number one song in the U.S.,
and a new television show in the works, hes a guy that knows how
to pick his ventures wisely.
While J.R.’s musical endeavors have been nothing less than stellar, his
words have attracted a different type of attention. Not long ago, J.R. made the mistake of
joking with a journalist about certain sexual positions he may have
helped former friend Britney Spears get into. And based on his publicists
eagerness to interrupt his recent conversation with AllHipHop.com, its
obvious the wounds that interview left are still fresh. So it was with
that guarded nature J.R. cleared up the context of those comments, justified
working with K-Fed, and explained why other
keyboard playing Jewish producers will never define what he does.
AllHipHop.com: Are you getting
sick of the Hip-Hop production game yet? The way I see
it the money has always been in Pop, but it seems lately that the artistic
freedom is stronger in the mainstream, if thats possible.
J.R. Rotem: I wouldnt say
Im necessarily sick of Hip-Hop production. Truthfully, I love to
produce music period, in all genres. Im a fan of rap and Hip-Hop,
but I have been doing a lot of Pop and a lot of R&B. Some people
say the phrase “Hip-Hop is dead.” To me, I dont think its
dead, but maybe pure Hip-Hop is not really thriving like it was. Hip-Hop
itself has totally infiltrated and influenced all other forms of music,
so when Im producing in Pop and R&B, theres a lot of Hip-Hop
influence. As far as straight Hip-Hop and rap, I still love it. I did
three tracks on Plies that just came out, Ive got Chamillionaires
single Hip-Hop Police, Im in with everyone from Baby Bash,
to talking with Game about the next album. I definitely love Hip-Hop,
always have and always will, its just a question of what artists
are exciting? You can have stale and not inspiring artists in every
genre, theres rappers that are like Ok, this dude is really not
talking about much, but you also have the same thing in Pop and R&B.
So for me, I just get inspired by artists, in whatever genre they are.
I just like to produce artists that are saying something different.
AllHipHop.com: Now for you,
being a wealthy Jewish producer in LA, do you feel like Scott Storch
might be giving that profile a bad image? Cause I dont see you running
around claiming to be the hottest producer out, and running your mouth
about fellow producers in the game.
J.R. Rotem: For me, not at
all to judge Scott or anything like that, but to be honest with you
when I was coming up, at that time he was playing keys for Dr. Dre and
I was like Whoa, that would be the coolest thing ever. And then
when he stopped doing that and did his own producing I was like Whoa,
that would be the coolest thing ever. So in a lot of ways, I looked
at that and thought that would be a possibility for me too, so I dont
judge him at all. At the end of the day, people are different. Yes,
we happen to be Jewish, but I may have more in common in personality
with somebody who isnt Jewish. You know, it doesnt matter. People
might have made a lot of comparisons between me and him because of the
obvious surface comparisons. Were both Jewish, we both come from
a keyboard playing background. But at this point in my career where
Im establishing myself in my own identity, I think the differences
are becoming more and more apparent. Were just not the same people,
and thats nothing against him. Hes got his path of doing things,
hes got his personality that works for him. For me, being successful
was about being positive, having faith, working hard, being humble,
being open to other peoples ideas. Thats just my path. I dont
look at what he does and what he says as any reflection on what I do.
AllHipHop.com: You must have
a good sense of humor, because that previous comment you made about wheelbarrowing
Britney Spears was classic. I guess they took that out of context
Publicist: (Interrupts) It
was taken out of context.
AllHipHop.com: It was taken
out of context?
J.R. Rotem: Yeah that interview,
some people found it funny. I was actually kind of offended by it, because
Publicist: (Interrupts again)
He works with her Sorry, go ahead.
J.R. Rotem: Anyhow, so it was
the type of thing where it was like, it was definitely a misquote that
took the meaning out of it. They were just asking me about girls that
I was seen with, and I probably made an off-ended joke, but then afterwards
I made it very clear I didnt sleep with her, I would never do that.
And they kind of took that and made it the headline of the article.
So while to some people it was definitely funny, what I didnt like
about it was that she could have read it and just been offended like
Wow, why is this person talking like that? When in reality, that
was never my intention. My thing was never to talk about somebody in
a negative way, or offend somebody or anything like that. AllHipHop.com: Now on the same note, how do you feel about the way
the media is portraying your former female interest? It seems
like you got out of there right in the nick of time before it all started
J.R. Rotem: You know, its
really hard for me to pass judgment on that, because I got a small taste
of it, going out and having cameras follow you, and anything you say
or do is taken out of context. She lives her life that way, where literally
everything she does and anywhere she goes is constantly being looked
at under a microscope. If anything I just have sympathy for her. Its
just like wow, she cant do anything without it being filmed, and
whenever anything is filmed and put in the media its always going
to be taken out of context. So I cant pass judgment between what
shes actually doing, and the way the people are making it look.AllHipHop.com: Dude, you know
Ive gotta ask about producing those Kevin Federline joints. Like
basically, what were you thinking with that? I mean after building your
resume up, what made you work with him?
J.R. Rotem: Well Id rather
not comment specifically about working with him, but Id rather address
it in the form of just working with people in general who might not
be known to be platinum artists or credible artists. For me in producing
theres different types of challenges. Like if I get in the studio
with a Mariah Carey or somebody like that, shes got an incredible
voice and its not going to be very hard to make her sound amazing.
But not everybody has that kind of voice. So to me, as a producer, I
look at it like “Let me see whats in the room.” In other words, whatever
the artist is, whatever the writer is, whatever the musicians are, let
me see whats the best song I can create with the tools Im given.
So at that time, thats what Im thinking. Im trying to make
the best possible song with whatever is thrown at me in the room, regardless
of whether this person is signed to this label, or whether theyre
platinum or whether theyre credible or anything like that.
AllHipHop.com: So at the end
of the day, do you think working with artists like that might have ruined
your credibility with some of the other artists you work with in any
way? Has it changed any relationships?
J.R. Rotem: To be honest with
you, I havent found that it has in any way. I think at the end of
the day, if somebody wants to get in with me, either theyve heard
a song that Ive done, theyve heard from an artist about a positive experience,
and they feel confident that when they get in the studio with me, theyre
going to get what they want. Im known as that kind of producer, versatile.
Im not just going to say Youre going to have the J.R. sound,
its not a matter of me playing certain chords or a certain drum sound.
Its a matter of me understanding the artist, and me giving them what
they want in a creative new way with my twist. So these people, if they
feel like I went in the studio with somebody they dont respect for
whatever reason, I dont think that makes them go, Oh I dont
want to get in with that dude cause he got in with them. It doesnt negate the good song that they heard that I produced, or
the good, credible artist. So people at the end of the day, they want
hot music. They dont feel like if I went in with somebody that they
dont happen to respect, thats going to mean that Im going to
give them any less of a song, you see what Im saying? At least for
myself, I havent found it difficult to get in the studio with people.
Maybe back in the day, even a Hip-Hop producer going Pop, forget whether
the artist was credible or not in Pop, just the fact that he does that
genre makes people go Oh, hes not hard, or anything like that.
But I havent found that in my career at all. For me, Ill work
with everyone from 50 Cent and Game, to Britney Spears and even Disney
Stars, like Ashley Tisdale and Jessie McCartney. They might not be
known in the hardcore Hip-Hop circles, but none of that affects it.
Im the type of producer who wants to give people the hottest possible
song, and I think people respect that. And Hip-Hop is in a completely
different place now. Back in the day, could you have seen 50 Cent with
a hook from Justin Tiberlake, the guy known from NSync? No. I happen
to think the new record Ayo Technology produced by Timbaland is
dope, and its looking to me like its going to be a big record.
So I think the game is a little bit different.
AllHipHop.com: Lets talk about Sean Kingston. Ill
be honest, when I interviewed him a few months ago I didnt really
know who he was, and now its like McDonalds? What? What
did you see in the kid that made you want to sign him and produce the
J.R. Rotem: Truthfully, I could
just feel the talent, and his amazing energy. It wasnt like when
you heard him he had this incredible song, it wasnt Oh s**t, you
could put that song on the radio, he didnt have that. What he
did have was just a raw talent. When I was sitting in the room with
him and he was just rapping, and he wasnt even really singing that
much he was rapping, I could just feel his energy, and theres something
about him that just made me want to get in the studio and work with
him. I cant explain, it was just a feeling, an energy. And while
we made the album, it just kind of became an evolution of it, because
he started out just mostly rapping, singing a couple hooks, to singing
a little more, and we were like hes got this Jamaican accent, and
we started developing it, and its been going in a different direction.
And it seems like Whoa, he really shines when he sings like that.
You can feel how genuine he is. So we made Beautiful Girls, and
now its crazy. Weve got the number one song in the country, number
one on iTunes, his second single which we just started servicing is
number five on iTunes today. The thing about him was, I could just feel
his talent and his positive energy, and he really is a natural. Hes
just a genius in the studio, you put him in there, you put a beat on,
and immediately hes got the hooks, hes got the concepts. Hes
really one of the most talented people Ive had the pleasure of working
with. And now hes like family to me, so its incredible, I couldnt
AllHipHop.com: Last question,
along the lines of Beluga Heights, Ive heard youre making a reality
show based around the label. It seems like theres a lot of shows
out there are highlighting how ridiculous the entertainment industry
is, whats going to different about this one?
J.R. Rotem: Well the concept
of this one is actually going to be the anti-theme of that. You see
a lot of shows where you see the typical producers, and you see yachts
and mansions, and girls and all that kind of stuff. And thats cool,
it might be kind of visually stimulating, but I think the average person
cant really relate to that. You dont have characters that you
care about. And for us, the way that weve been able to stay successful
in this industry, its not been based on anything fake or superficial.
Its been based on discipline and hard work, and sacrifice, and the
ups and downs, and the rejections, and all that other kind of stuff.
And I believe that thats just human element, that struggle is something
anyone can relate to in this industry, or in any part of life.