Sean Garrett On Why He’s King Pen

Sean Garrett was given the name King Pen by Jay Z himself. The singer-songwriter is best known for penning Usher’s #1 smash, “Yeah!,” and a ton of Beyonce’s greatest hits.

In this day in age, there are endless heroes in the music space, but it’s important to pay homage and give our flowers to the legends. Insert Sean Garrett, one of the most talented, well-respected songwriters to ever do it. The Atlanta native has written for all the greats, most notably penning Usher’s #1 smash “Yeah!,” along with the majority of Beyonce’s greatest hits. “Ring the Alarm”, “Get Me Bodied”, “Upgrade U”, “Check on It”, and “Diva” are just a few, not even counting the Destiny’s Child records.

Garrett was given the moniker King Pen by Jay Z himself, which speaks volumes to his capabilities. While he’s always been an artist himself, it was his strong pen game that allowed him to become an essential hitmaker when it comes to R&B ballads that feed the soul and resonates with the masses. With over 52 #1 hits under his belt, it’s only right Swizz called upon Garrett in one of the first VERZUZ IG Live battles ever, battling The Dream who also has had tremendous success in the songwriting space.

Sean states, “It’s a beautiful thing to be accepted and appreciated, having people love your music. I do the music for a living, what would I complain about?” AllHipHop caught up with Garrett in his hometown of Atlanta.

AllHipHop: The man with 52 #1 hits, how does that make you feel?

Sean Garrett: I’ma be honest, I gotta pinch myself a little bit. I didn’t even see it coming. Don’t get me wrong, anybody who knows me knows I’m a hard worker. I went through a lot of s##t that could’ve set me back. I lost my mom a year before I did “Yeah!” I could’ve f##king fell off. You lose your mother, that’s hard to come back from.

AllHipHop: I’m so sorry, how old were you?

Sean Garrett: I was 19 or 20, that s##t was hard. But I’m a person who loves music. I’m a military brat too, so that s##t helped me out.

AllHipHop: I was going to ask about that. You were born in the A, but moved to Europe at age 4. How did being exposed to all those different cultures influence you?

Sean Garrett: My best friend when I was 6 through 14, was Mike. Now, he’s a finance guy. His mother was Korean, his dad was white. Culturally, I was able to relate to him and his mom. His mom reminded me of my mom. Mike’s mom could cook her ass off. She’s very protective, but she didn’t take no s##t either. [chuckles] His mom ran their house like how my mom ran my house. Our dads were military killers, doing their thing. They come home, wifeys run the house. I used to love Mike’s mom, she always cooked bulgogi. f##king used to love it. I learned a lot about Asian culture.

A lot of my friends were overseas. I had a lot of Asian friends, but I had a lot of mixed friends. From Germans to Italians, a lot of Italian friends. Real Italians from Italy. Growing up, it’s a lot of different vibes. That’s the reason why I was really able to not only musically connect with people, but socially. Especially dealing with what we’re dealing with right now, Asians always f##k with the brothers. Asians were always down whatever we’re on. If bulls##t’s poppin’ off, they’re with it. I love Asia, Japan’s one of my favorite places. I’ve never been to China, but I can’t wait. Are you Chinese American?

AllHipHop: Yeah, I was born in the Bay.

Sean Garrett: Speaking of the Bay, I did this crazy ass record with my man Symba.

AllHipHop: That’s my dawg!

Sean Garrett: That’s my brother, we did “Birds in a Bando”! That’s me on the hook. Shout out to his producer Cas. I like Symba, he’s probably one of the best new lyricists. No bulls##t, he’s super hard.

AllHipHop: Someone asked, what’s the best food spot in Atlanta during quarantine?

Sean Garrett: Oh my gosh, I’ve become such a f##king foodie. In this quarantine s##t, I’ve been eating all kinds of s##t. I like seafood, I like Atlanta Fish Market. Not on no cool s##t, that’s good ass food. One of my other spots I like to go to is Spondivits. Whenever you come to Atlanta, you gotta come to Spondivits. An Atlanta classic. I like this place called Hyde, it just opened up. It’s a nice ass vibe. I was there the other night and saw 21 Savage, n##gas pop in there quick and easy. It’s a vibe: you got good drinks, good hookah going. A nice little place downstairs, celebrity vibes.

AllHipHop: Do you be in the strip club? I heard they have the best food in the A.

Sean Garrett: Hell yeah. [laughs] Magic got the best food. Atlanta, ain’t no other city like it. We f##k with the government, Keisha Bottoms is family. Shaka Zulu, Jermain Dupri, Killer Mike, T.I., all of us. If s##t goes down in our city, it’s gon’ be f##king problems. T.I shut Houston down across the street from Lenox because they’re discriminating against some people wearing some s##t up in there. That’s one of my favorite places, I’d go there everyday! But T.I. wasn’t with none of that. That might’ve been one day they were off, because they always treat me good. Racism is deeper than color, it’s f##ked up. Racism is class, it’s who you know, definitely color. In this business, you gotta be on your Ps and Qs. You can’t be disrespecting people, you gotta keep the same f##king rules.

In Atlanta, the situation that happened at Wendy’s. That’s rare in ATL, seriously. To a certain extent, we all have responsibilities to make it home. Sometimes, you gotta do the best you can to make it home. I wish he would’ve said “man, take me to jail. Take this muhf##kin’ L for the night,” and he can go home to his kids. As tough as things may be, you can see another day. Make it through, versus his kids not ever being able to see him again. That s##t hurt me to my heart. From a creative perspective, I’m watching all of this. I’m learning more everyday, that’s what really made me a real songwriter. I’d write songs based on how I wanted the story to end, whether it be a disappointment in a relationship, love, or heartbreak. With Beyonce, I really looked at her like superwoman. What’s beautiful is she didn’t act like that superwoman. I worked with Destiny’s Child first. I was supposed to do one record, but I did “Girl,” “T-Shirt,” “Why You Actin’,” “Through with Love.” Then we did “Soldier,” “Lose My Breath,” I really liked them girls. I was a young ass kid, I was petrified. It’s a beautiful experience working with 3 very different women: Bey, Michelle, Kelly.

AllHipHop: What was the energy/dynamic in the room with Destiny’s Child?

Sean Garrett: It was a very humbled space. They made me feel good. They’re professional sweethearts, very respectful and respectful to the process. By then, “Yeah!” was my second record out as a hitmaker. My first record’s with “Latif” called “I Don’t Wanna Hurt You.” My next 10 singles after that were Hot 100 #1’s. They’re very accommodating, they really respected me. A lot of artists today don’t have that respect. They want to do everything and that s##t’s cool, but you’re limiting yourself. It was very sweet. Beyonce is a nice ass person, she’s cooler than a moherf##ker. She kept calling me, so we could do what we did. I did 12 songs on the last Destiny’s Child album. Went on to do B’Day, B’Day went crazy: “Get Me Bodied,“ “Upgrade U,” “Ring the Alarm,” “Green Light.” I worked with Pharrell.

AllHipHop: How does it feel to have all those in your catalog? You’re one of a kind.

Sean Garrett: Tell Dream that. [laughs] Nah, I like to talk s##t. I’m super competitive man. A lot of girls say I’m a sweetheart, but I’m seriously a f##king animal. I go hard in the paint. I like to win and I like to make people better, that makes me happy. I’m unselfish with my talent.

AllHipHop: What’s your favorite song you wrote for Bey?

Sean Garrett: It’s between “Ring the Alarm,” “Diva,” and “Upgrade U.” I like Bey because she allows you to do your job. Some artists forget the fact that you’ll have to be around for-f##king-ever to be a legend. You could write 90 f##king songs but if they’re not hits, someone else is taking your space. Why not build relationships with people who f##king do that s##t? So you could always keep that opportunity of the product coming. Beyonce really gets that piece, at least she made me feel that way. I’d look for s##t for weeks. if I know I’m working with her, I’d prepare like I’m preparing for a fight. I’d bring as much s##t as I possibly could with me. [chuckles]

AllHipHop: What are your fondest memories from Usher’s “Yeah!”? It’s so nostalgic.

Sean Garrett: The most amazing thing is how difficult it was for him to cut the motherf##king song. [chuckles] Me and Usher are brothers, really good friends. Me and JD. I was an outsider then, I wasn’t really in the clique. I came from Europe, they’re like “who the f##k is this dude? What is this?” L.A. Reid gave me a shot. My idea was “I’m going to write a Michael Jackson song.” Michael’s one of the biggest artists, “I’ma do a MJ vibe and f##k up the world.” That was my perspective, I knew nobody would beat that. That’s the true aesthetic of Usher. Even though Usher’s always very big on being Usher, he still was very Michael to me. He always had a Michael-ish vibe. I didn’t have a lot of insight on Confessions at the time. From what I heard, the album’s pretty much done. I went to go see L.A. Reid and said “I got this f##king bomb, this is going to change the world.”

AllHipHop: You knew that when you wrote it?

Sean Garrett: F##k yeah, it was intentional. I can’t tell you I thought it’s going to sit at #14 on the Greatest Hits of All Time Hot 100 list, but I knew that s##t was going to make the people go crazy.

AllHipHop: You were an artist too before the songwriting. Did you ever think you wanted to keep that song for yourself?

Sean Garrett: Nah, that wasn’t me. The girls know what I do, I talk that s##t. [plays new single]

AllHipHop: What’s the new album called?

Sean Garrett: Still ain’t got the name, but I’m pretty much done with it. I’m dropping soon, trying to get the videos shot. Get in the gym and get down to that 8% body fat. I gotta be looking crazy for that one. This time, I want to put out unpredictable music. I love music that makes the fans feel like they’re getting their money’s worth. I like communicating, make the ladies feel like they need to feel. [laughs] I like to make people feel good.