Interview: Producer Amadeus On Being Trey Songz’ Music Director, Highs and Lows of Producers, Being a “Hitman”
As a fan of production, I have to say that Amadeus has been on my radar since the first time I heard “Sometimes I” by Lil’ Mo when during the intro when she shouted out “Amadeus, you crazy for this one!” My admiration for him continued to grow after he produced Marques Houston’s “Excited”, another personal favorite which has been featured on this site, and then eventually went on to become part of Bad Boy’s Hitmen production team. In this interview, we discuss his origins as a producer, how he originally linked up with Trey Songz to become his music director, the way the game has changed for producers, being a beatmaker vs. being a producer, who he’s currently working with, and much more.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Thank you for taking the time for this interview.
Amadeus: Thanks for having me, I appreciate it, I like what you’re doing on the site and I’m glad that you thought that I’m doing enough to be a part of it.
YKIGS: Let me take it back to the beginning of your career. I was reading that you worked with Foxy Brown originally and that was kinda where your first big break came and kinda broke you into things. Tell me about that opportunity and how that all came together.
Amadeus: It came together by actually her brother Antwan Marshand who was actually director of A&R at Interscope Records. How it came together was my cousin was actually his assistant and worked with him, and they shot me an e-mail and asked me to come down to Interscope to play some tracks for Foxy’s brother; she was working on the new album. So I came down and submitted some material and they submitted them to Foxy and she eventually invited me to the studio where she was recording. That was Chung King Studio. I got an opportunity to meet her and her brother Gavin and played a lot more tracks for her and she picked a few and that was it. I left for that night and got a phone call the next day saying that she recorded to three of them and one just happened to be her song titled “Get off Me”. At that time she was going through a rap beef with Eve so she recorded the diss record to Eve and it got to all of the radio DJ’s and Funkmaster Flex. That night, I was driving to my mom’s house and I’ll never forget it, I had the radio on and they kept saying they had this exclusive Foxy Brown song and it was my joint, it was the record I produced for her. Like I said, it was a big song because it was a battle song against rapper Eve. So that was the first time I ever heard anything I’d produced played on the radio, first major situation. Besides that, she recorded another song called “Cradle to the Grave (My Life)” which was the title track on the “Cradle to the Grave” soundtrack and was also featured in the movie. So that was my first official placement on the soundtrack, and it went Gold, so that was my first official Gold plaque. That hangs on my wall today and that was the start for everything.
YKIGS: Talk to me about your style as a producer. I know there are producers who are more hands on during the whole process with the artist making the song, then there are other producers who are more of beat makers. Where do you fall in that spectrum?
Amadeus: A few years ago I considered myself as a producer as opposed to just being the beatmaker because of what I brought to the table. As times changed and the game changed, it’s different. I consider myself to be both and the reason why I say that is because obviously when you first originally create the record or create the track, it’s just a beat. I feel that’s where I am, I made the beat, I created the beat and then when you have the opportunity to take it to the next level and create a song to it, or it’s a song written to it for an artist to work on it, that’s when you’re able to use the producer title. Unfortunately, the game has changed and a lot of artists today kinda do their own thing. You send the tracks via e-mail and they kinda record on their own and leave out the input of the producer without really creating that environment for producers and artists to really connect and create the song together. So that’s something that’s really missing today, it doesn’t happen on every project, obviously the more established producers like Rodney Jerkins or Timbaland or Kanye West would get the opportunity to go in and work with the artist that they’re working with. For someone like myself who is established it’s different. The game has changed, Pro Tools being invented, I love it but there are also pros and cons. Back in the day when there was tape, an artist picked the track and they recorded to it and it went on the album. Nowadays people want to demo stuff, people want to try it out and see what they sound like on it first, take the track and dump it in the computer and rhyme over it. Like I said, I consider myself both.
YKIGS: Another role you play is as a musical director and I know a lot of people really don’t understand what that role is all about in terms of the casual fan. I know it’s a big part of things, so can you kind of expand on what you actually do as a musical director?
Amadeus: A music director is basically responsible for handling everything musically in regards to the show. I’m Trey Songz music director so it’s my job to hire the musicians, it’s my job to create set lists in regards to what’s being performed at the various shows, it’s my job basically to get an understanding of Trey’s vision musically and for this show and execute that vision. Making sure the sounds are right, making sure the band is in sync in regard to what he’s doing, calling signals, calling cues. During the show I’m playing drums as well, so during the show I’m watching Trey like a hawk and giving directions and signals to the band. I’m also making sure that he’s on point because if he’s in a zone and go so far out there, it’s great of course, but you may need somebody like myself to just remind you of what’s the next song or if we’re running short on time and we need to skip a song. So I’m basically in charge of the flow of the show and putting it together and creating a new sound or new vibe. Anything music related is my responsibility.
YKIGS: That’s a huge role and a lot of people don’t even realize that’s going on when they go to a show. Without you, the whole show probably wouldn’t even be able to come together.
Amadeus: It’s a lot, and definitely much love to Trey, he gives me accolades all of the time and he always says on stage to the audience “I know yall love me and me and appreciate me, and I love yall back, but I couldn’t do this without my band and my team”. It’s true, it’s like it’s so important and I understand my job and the importance of it and I understand my role and this makes life easier for him. Imagine if he had to think of everything and think of all of the songs he needed to perform. This guy is working on his fifth album right now; it’s my job to make his life easier when it comes to doing this show.
YKIGS: How did you originally link up with Trey Songz?
Amadeus: We actually hooked up because I was actually doing a song with Mike Jones and this could go back to what we talked about in regard to producing and being a beatmaker. When I first started in the early stages of my producing career, I was actually able to go in the studio. I went in the studio and recorded the three songs I did with Mike Jones and mixed them. I went in with Lil’ Mo and recorded and mixed all of the records for her in the studio. I went in with Foxy Brown, I went in with Talib Kweli, so back in the day, I did have the opportunity to go in. Like I said, when technology changed and things started to change, the game changed. I did appreciate having those opportunities back in the day. I had a session with Mike Jones and we were kinda going back and forth on who we wanted to feature on the record and we had Omarion in mind, we had Tyrese in mind, and I think Chris Brown in mind, and we came up with the idea of having Trey. It worked because Trey was really hot at the time, just like the other guys as well, but it worked because they were under the same label. Mike Jones is Warner Bros. and Trey was Atlantic and it’s kinda under the same umbrella so it just made life easier. I flew out to Houston, he flew out to Houston, he got on the record and as we were mixing the record, we took a little break and they had a drum set in the recording studio. So I told them I played the drums, and they didn’t believe that I could, so I got on the kit and did a little something and they were blown away. I put it out there to Trey, “You know eventually seeing where you’re going, one day you’re going to need a band, you’ll have a budget and need a band, and I want to be that guy.” It’s crazy because a year later of us being in the studio I got a phone call from his manager and he was like “Yo you ready to put together the band!” *Laughs* What I put out there was something that I wasn’t really prepared for to be honest, obviously I was never a music director before, I didn’t know what it required and what it entailed. I called up a few band members and expressed what I was asked to do and I was actually willing to pass off the title to someone who has been touring for a long time and worked with various artists. That person was actually a keyboard player, and he told me “Nah, just like I had to learn and I got it, here’s your chance and your opportunity to learn and to become what you can become.” So he told me he’d be there for me if I ever needed any help that he would push me, and four years later I’m still doing this part as music director and it’s still the same band that we started with. We’re doing great things man.
YKIGS: Talk to me about the Hitmen since you’re a current member with Bad Boy. We’ve had a chance to actually interview a bunch of the original members like Chucky Thompson, Stevie J., J-Dub and others. Tell us your story about you originally became a part of the crew.
Amadeus: When I started, I actually got a chance to meet Derrick “D-Dot” Angelette who was one of the original Hitmen and we bonded immediately. He obviously saw something special in me as a producer and kinda mentored me. He always wanted to hear my tracks and what I was doing so he could critique them and give me whatever I needed to know in order to improve what I was doing and what I was creating. So I always had an in. One thing about me is I knew the importance of relationships and I knew the importance and the power of knowing people that are connected. I was always in label meetings and finding ways to find contacts and I wasn’t scared or ashamed to reach out to people and let people know what I did and try to meet up with them. I got into Bad Boy with D-Dot and got a chance to meet Harve Pierre back in the day and Conrad who was the A&R and got to hang around Puff for a little bit. Not too close, but I was in the mix. Everybody was pretty much familiar with who I was since I had always submitted music to them and I was always on their radar. When an opportunity presented itself in regard to me needing producer management, we all sat down and figured it out and everybody was comfortable and happy with it. So I signed on the dotted line and became a Bad Boy Hitmen. So it was just history after that.
YKIGS: I was looking through your discography to find some of the songs you’ve had a hand in producing over the years. Can you give me some background on a couple of songs?
YKIGS: The first one is Marques Houston “Excited”.
Amadeus: It was written by Taj Jackson who has done a lot of great records for Janet Jackson, Mario, and Trey Songz. It was written a long time ago and recorded in my house. I’m always a person that submits songs to everyone. I always have the philosophy that I never like to work or customize a song for a particular artist because I always felt like if you did that, you’ll be locked into that one person and then nobody else would take the record because it sounds like that one individual. So I always said let’s just write great records and send them out to all and whoever takes a stab at it, takes a stab at it. I sent it over to Marques Houston’s A&R and he loved it along with two other records that Omarion loved and I got Marques to cut it. It was funny because I was in L.A. at the time when he was ready to cut it and they actually invited me to the studio while they recorded because like I was saying earlier, that doesn’t really happen anymore. So I got the invite but for some reason he had to cancel but I was appreciative that they were willing to allow me to be a part of the session. So that’s how that song came about. It was actually featured on his “Veteran” album and it was actually the bonus track and it was actually sold exclusively in Target.
YKIGS: I was going to ask if you were aware it was the bonus track because I actually purchased the album and didn’t get that song on my version. I had to hunt around to find the song which was unfortunate because I really like that one.
Amadeus: I got a lot of feedback about that with people liking the song a lot and wondered why it only was available for purchase through Target. I had a conversation with the A&R and I think he was kind of over the limit of how many songs he could put on the album and he really loved the song and that was the only option. It was one of the last songs he recorded for that album. Some people got to hear it, some people haven’t, and I’m appreciative of those who went out and supported and got the limited edition version and do know the song and do like the song.
YKIGS: I will say that we have featured the song on the site just so that people who haven’t had a chance to hear definitely get a taste of it.
YKIGS: Talk about the Lil’ Mo song you produced “Sometimes I”.
Amadeus: It was great, I was on the phone with her at the time when she was cutting that album and told me she needed something special and needed a single. The one thing about me is that it’s hard for me to really determine when a track is a single. I always believe that what makes it a single is according to what you write to it. You can have a hot beat and it can be really dope but at the end of the day if the right song is not written on it, then you may not have one. We put together a folder of all of the new tracks that I had created at the time and sent it to her and she took about a week or two to get back. She had recorded to a few of them but one of those happened to be “Sometimes I” and she sent it to me and I thought it was dope. She told me she was going to get Fabolous or Jim Jones or whoever she could get on there. At that time we got Jim Jones on there quicker than Fabolous, and then Fabolous jumped on a second version for the album which was cool. Then another week later she hit me and told me that it was going to be the first single and I was like “Wow!” I actually drove out to D.C. and mixed the joint and it came out crazy and I actually drove back that night. *Laughs* Just the hustling and grinding and you know we weren’t done mixing until about four or five in the morning! So I drove down, drove back the same day, and got that record done. It was a smash and I got a lot of great feedback from it. I also booked my own flight down to Atlanta for the video shoot just to be a part of the shoot. I had never experienced being on the set of a shoot before. Being that I produced the record, I just wanted that experience. So I booked a flight to Atlanta, Jim Jones came down and shot the video. That’s how that whole thing came about.
YKIGS: I was reading through your discography and I noticed a lot of songs that were marked as unreleased which were recorded by some pretty well known artists. If you submit your production to an artist and they like the track, but they don’t end up using the song that they make to the track, how do you take that type of thing?
Amadeus: I have no choice but to be positive about it. I’m not always happy about it, of course when a song is already written and recorded and mixed, in the moment I’ll be excited about being a part of the project. Sometimes you may talk about it and promote it and it just sucks sometimes when that song doesn’t make the album. Sometimes it’s for valid reasons and sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes at the last minute the artist can feel like it didn’t fit the album. A perfect example of that is I did two records with Joe for his new album and one song we had a sample clearance issue with that we didn’t have time to clear it for it to be ready to be released when they wanted to release it. We had another song that we recorded; he went in and recorded it and mixed it and mastered it, and I’m thinking we’re all set and all good. About two weeks ago, I got an e-mail saying the joint didn’t make the album and Joe had second thoughts, he felt it didn’t fit the project. It was not something that I was happy about, I was very excited about that project because I was huge Joe fan. I was looking forward to hearing Joe on an Amadeus track. It isn’t the end though, the two songs we made may fit the next project so it isn’t over, but that’s just to give you an example of some things we deal with. Same thing with The Game, I did a record with The Game called “Lost” and it was a very emotional and controversial track. It might have been a little too controversial, but it was real and something that people were able to relate to. I guess it wasn’t that club banger or that radio record that the label wanted to believe in and push so it got chopped. It happens and one thing about myself is I always get the positives out of it; if it’s leaked or it’s released, I just appreciate it and bring notice to it. I make sure the world knows that I produced that record and just add it to my resume. When the record is done, the record is done, whether it’s released or not or officially released, it’s still recorded and done and complete. It’s something that I can add to my resume and obviously it helps. So I get the positive out of it.
YKIGS: I could see how that would be discouraging but it’s good that you turn it into a positive.
YKIGS: Talk to me about who you’re currently working with.
Amadeus: I just produced a record with Tyga and Chris Brown called “Wonder Woman” which is tearing up the internet right now. It has 14 million views online of the official video so I’m getting a lot of love and respect for that. I’ve also produced records on DJ Kay Slay’s new albums; I actually did four records on his new album that’s coming out this year. The song that’s released right now is called “Bury the Hatchet” and it’s a record dedicated to, rest in peace, the Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac Shakur. What Kay Slay was able to do was bring Lil’ Cease and Tha Outlawz together. We all know that Lil’ Cease was basically BIG’s best friends and Tha Outlawz was part of Pac’s team. We still don’t know the truth and the real of what originally happened but we do know that those two crews beefed in a major way. So fifteen years later, it’s been a long time, but it’s never too late. He was able to bring them together and they were able to make peace and they recorded a record called “Bury the Hatchet”. It basically puts down the beef and puts it behind them and basically pays homage to the lost soldiers. I was just blessed to have the opportunity to produce that record and people are really diggin it, both Pac and BIG fans are loving the fact that they came together. So that’s something I produced that’s out right now. Like I said I did four records for that album, and he’s a DJ so it has various artists on the project. There’s another song with JadaKiss, Drake and Big Sean. On another song I’ve got Vado, Joell Ortiz, Papoose; so those are a lot of the various artists that I worked with on that project. I’m just starting to work with Keyshia Cole, I spoke to her team last week. She’s about to start going in on a new project so I just spoke to her team and submitted music for her. I’m working on Trey’s new album. So I’m just getting in where I fit in, I’m submitting a lot of music to all of my colleagues like Busta Rhymes; just getting my music out everywhere I can. So I’ve been doing big things this year.
YKIGS: Anything you’d like to add?
Amadeus: I definitely want people to keep an eye out on what I’m building here at Platinum Boy Music. Look out for my artist Tiffany Mynon. We call her the angel of r&b. Why? Because she has a voice of an angel and she has a story to tell and she’s just a blessing. She’s very inspiring to the next generation of women and I’m looking forward to the world having the opportunity to appreciate her talent and gift. So look out for that. I’m always coming to a city near you with Trey Songz on the road and just making hit records. I appreciate everybody who has supported what I’m doing and I appreciate the new people who will eventually support what I’m doing. I’ve got my Twitter @ProducerAmadeus, my website is www.PlatinumBoyMusic.com. I also want to include my artists’ Twitter and that’s @TiffanyMynon.