Interview: Scott Storch Talks Lessons Learned, Advice from Dr. Dre, & Wanting to Make a Hit with Jay Z

Interview: Scott Storch Talks Lessons Learned, Advice from Dr. Dre, & Wanting to Make a Hit with Jay Z

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Image via Complex Original
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If we're being completely honest, you probably forgot about Scott Storch. Somewhere along the way you forgot he crafted some of the biggest songs in hip-hop and pop history. This was the guy who provided Dr. Dre with the chilly, instantly recognizable keys to the inescapable smash "Still D.R.E." But due to a fast lifestyle and an even faster climbing pile of debt, he became the guy producing underwhelming music for the likes of Paris Hilton and Brooke Hogan. The lackluster projects eventually took him out of the limelight altogether. Rick James once famously warned that "cocaine's a hell of a drug" and Storch now knows why.

Don't blame yourself for not keeping tabs on him though, Storch understands it was because he made some bad choices. You can Google those if you want, but don't place too much weight on the past. He's only looking forward now, concentrating only on regaining the respect and immense success he once held in the music industry. It's going to be a long journey back, but who doesn't love a good comeback story?

When we spoke to Storch at his Miami studio, there was lots of commotion—phones ringing and his employees asking him countless questions, yet he seemed, in a word, chill. His demeanor could have been attributed to whatever he was puffing on throughout our conversation. Nevertheless, he seemed eager to get his story out. We spoke about his new work with some of rap's biggest names, learning to separate work from play, his relationship with past collaborators, lessons learned, and what's next.

Interview by Duke London (@LongLiveTheDuke)

You produced "Supreme" on Rick Ross' Mastermind album. Was that a beat you had already finished, or was it made just for Rozay?
It was something I made specifically for him. I was in the middle of a Gucci Mane session, and Ross had stopped by to talk to Gucci about an upcoming video they were shooting, so I took advantage of the opportunity. We talked about me coming out to his house and bringing him some joints. So I went in for three or four days and made some exclusives tailor-made for him. I brought them to Ross and he recorded them all that night.

Was that the first time you two had worked together?
Directly, yeah. He's been on some of my records before, but those were cameos.

You know what the plan is for the other records?
Absolutely, he has other projects we're using those for. He pretty much took the whole lot of what I had made for him. Then I came through again, and he took all of those as well. 

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Not a bad day at the office.
He's really been a great supporter of mine in my return, if you want to call it that, to the industry.

What was the vibe like the studio? What were you guys talking about?
He was telling me, along with a few other people at his house, that years ago he was doing his first show in Miami where he got a real big check. He came out after the show, and I was in the parking lot behind the venue sitting in the back of my Maybach 62, which at the time wasn't even really out yet. He told me I opened the window and stuck out my hand with a bunch of ice on it, and he saw Paris Hilton sitting next to me. That's how I was introduced to Rick Ross. He said at that very moment, he got the vision for what would eventually become Maybach Music. To him, it just captured the lifestyle. Gave him the drive and inspiration to build MMG.

Being that you both are from Miami, can you remember any other times you guys linked up back in the day?
Actually, yeah. I had forgotten about it, but I did him a favor and let him use my home, boat, cars to film some stuff. Later on I figured out that the picture where he's in the back of the Maybach looking out the window, was taken in my car.

On the topic of old friends, what's your relationship today with the guys from The Roots?
My relationship with them is fine, although somewhat non-existent now. There's definitely mutual love and respect among us. I think they were slightly disappointed in me for a while for going so hard with the partying and not being able to control that.

Obviously hindsight is 20/20, but is it easier now for you to separate work from play?
This Russian billionaire told me one time that every now and then it's good to roll around in the mud with the pigs, but when you're done, you take a shower and wash that shit off. I just wasn't washing it off, so I think that disappointed them a little bit and I lost their respect for a while.

This Russian billionaire told me one time that every now and then it's good to roll around in the mud with the pigs, but when you're done, you take a shower and wash that shit off.

Have they reached out since you've been back working?
As soon as they started hearing I was working again and focused on my career and life, I started hearing shout outs from them on their show.

Fat Joe is someone you've obviously shared tremendous amounts of success with. What was it like to get in the studio again and work after all this time?
Awesome, we came away with some amazing stuff. I can't wait for everybody to hear it, it's definitely the epitome of what he and I do. We've worked together numerous times and never failed to make a hit record. Joe is like the Godfather of rappers, I'm telling you. Even at the "Mastermind" listening party we just did, rappers look at him like Don Corleone.

Even after all of his success, do you think he's a little bit slept on at the mainstream level?
It's definitely a handicap being a Latino rapper, I can't even front, but he still overcame that because he's great.

Do you think you face extra challenges being a white producer?
Absolutely. Within the hardcore Hip Hop community, yes. But I also had extra advantages too. Because I am white, I feel like certain opportunities were thrown to me through all of the people from the white community who prey on hip-hop culture. Hip-hop is always what's the coolest, and people want to touch that. A lot of the Pop artists always want to get that stamp of approval and be down. So I was more approachable for those people.

In the past, you collaborated with Eminem. Recently, in another interview, you said that a young artist you'd been working with, Chris Webby, showed a lot of the same characteristics in studio as Em, as far as their work ethic and some of the ways they put their music together. Can you expand on that a little bit?
Webby first reminded me of Marshall because they both wanted to go crazy and add sound effects throughout the music to add another layer. They were both meticulous about the details. Webby is super into the craft and really took pride in the music we were making. Chris is a really, really talented dude and he's still going to grow too. He's the closest thing I've seen to Eminem from a white dude.

Because I am white, I feel like certain opportunities were thrown to me through all of the people from the white community who prey on hip-hop culture.

Do you think the missing link for him is a massive club banger?
Psshh, he's not missing it now. He got it.

So you're working with everybody right now, from the up-and-comers to the heavyweights.
Yeah, the work's been speaking for itself. I haven't really had to solicit myself out there too much. I had to hustle a little bit and show up at some studios, but it led to some really cool records I have coming out and when people hear those records, they want to be a part of my return. I've always taken it upon myself to be a pioneer or a leader, and create a different sound, not just go by what the radio is playing at the time. People are feeling that, and it's refreshing to hear that in the music again.

Do you think other artists will adapt to that?
My only gripe with most of the hip-hop that's been coming out in the past four or five years has been the direct result of labels not giving as much money to the artists for production. So the artist in turn doesn't want to spend as much money making the album. So instead of having a really amazing beat, they go to an unknown where they can take all the publishing and get the beat for $2,000 instead of $50,000 and still push out a lukewarm hit that has a short shelf life. The real shit is what lasts forever, and in addition to piracy, that's the problem with album sales. Things that are truly great will be timeless. 

Are you making music the same way you always have, or are you trying to adapt what you do best to what's working right now?
Even though I think I'm a pioneer and I try to not do what everybody else is doing, there are parameters we have to work within. You have to sort of spoon-feed little elements people are used to, whether that means using familiar drum sounds, etc. But the meat of the record, or the nucleus, I always keep it Scott Storch. I had to learn all that trap shit, all those drums. Not necessarily to use them, but to know I'm not an old fart. It gave me more confidence in my own style, knowing I could make these new beats people are using if I wanted, I just choose not to.

You wanted to master them just to know that you could?
How am I supposed to hold my head up and make a record that's a straight trap joint, just a bunch of high hats going and some cool drums with nothing else there? Anybody can do that. Jay Z always told me to do what it is that makes me special, and that's the piano.

You've also been dabbling in EDM. How are you applying your technique that type of music?
The chords and inversions of the chords are similar to what I do. I've had to take on a whole new formula for making music though and it's a different thought pattern. That music is very mathematical, and sonically it's kind of cool because the actual sounds you use are so unique and the EDM fans are really looking for that.

How'd you decide you wanted to get involved and create something?
To me it's always fun to take on music you're not experienced with because it's a challenge to learn it. It's fun and I enjoy doing it, but I'm not even going to front, with the whole financial structure of EDM, I'd be a fool not to get involved. I figure if I like it, and there's millions of dollars to make doing it, then why should I not do it?

Do you think because you're not partying like you used to that you have all the extra time to do both projects right now?
It's almost like I graduated. If I want to go to a club in Miami, I can still get ushered into the VIP, girls everywhere and all that still to this day, and that's cool because sometimes you want to tap into that energy, feel yourself a little bit. But frankly, I don't give a shit about that stuff anymore. Dr. Dre and I had a conversation about this in the studio and I'll never forget it. He looked me dead in the eyes and said, "Scott there's two things that I know are going to happen every day. The sun is going to come up, and there'll be a party with bitches. That's never going to change." So I'm getting my work on and I'm not worried about any of that shit. That's where I'm at right now. I'd rather be making new hits then cut loose at the club.

What's your relationship like with Dr. Dre now?
I haven't spoken to Dre in a minute, but we'll always be cool. Last time I hung with him was about a year ago, we got dinner at Katana in LA. Fat Joe was with us too. His doors are always open to me, and he's given me certain seniority among his creative circle in music. He tolerated so much bullshit [from] me in the past, but now that I'm actually focused and concentrating I know we'll make something great in the studio again together.

Maybe he was waiting for you to be back on your game to drop "Detox."
Possibly. We had a record for it that was amazing. Jay got on it and we were all excited about it.

"Under Pressure," right?
Yeah, but it leaked. Dre is strict about if something get's leaked, that's it. That was still a dark time for me, and I thought that record was going to catapult me back to the top, so it was hard. But the future is bright, and I'm sure there's another Dr. Dre and Scott Storch hit record in it.

I definitely want a hit record with Jay Z.

What do you think you have left to prove?
That I'm back; that I got my sanity; that I'm not a crackhead. I'll always have my work ethic and drive. I got a taste of the good life before, and I'm going to get it back, don't even worry about that. I'm making way better music now. I don't have one foot out the studio door thinking about some bitch I'm trying to see or whatever. I'm happy busting creative nuts now. Every time I finish a track now, I play it back and try to think what Dre or Jay would say about it, whether they'd like it or not. I'm excited to hear what they think of the "Supreme" record with Ross.

Is there anything left unchecked on your Hip Hop bucket list?
Yeah, I definitely want a hit record with Jay Z. He has his crew he works with, and I've floated around them a few times, Bleek with the "Murda Murda" joint, I co-produced "Hola Hovito" with Timbaland, and a couple other records. But one-on-one, me and that dude are going to get a hit record. Just for the child in me that has to have it. Not just any song on an album, but a true hit that has its place in music history.


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