The Rise and Fall and Rise and Fall of Scott Storch

How the unassuming keyboardist for the Roots became a rap hitmaker, dated Lil' Kim and Paris Hilton, and amassed a fortune before blowing it all.

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Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

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Last week, flagging hip-hop super-producer Scott Storch filed for bankruptcy—the natural conclusion to a lifestyle modeled after Tony Montana and the kid from Blank Check. Fueled by drugs and provocative fame, Storch's downfall was a decade in the making.

In the 2000s, Scott Storch produced and co-wrote hit records with Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé​, Nelly, 50 Cent, Ja Rule, and Fat Joe. But compared to his super-producer contemporaries, Storch's peak was a flash in the pan, a career cut short by disastrous extravagance and a nasty coke habit that sapped his $70 million fortune.

In the past couple years, Storch has restored his presence of mind, if not his career. The one thing that no court or bank official can repossess, however, is Scott Storch's legacy. Here we chronicle the rise and fall of Scott Scorch, who, miraculously, isn't dead yet.

Justin Charity is a staff writer for Complex. Follow him @BrotherNumpsa.

The Sideman Becomes a Hitmaker

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Scott Storch is a paragon of Miami lifestyle, but his background spans the East Coast: He grew up in South Florida, Philly, and Jersey. A ninth-grade dropout, Storch was a creative fuckup from jump. Years before he was a full-fledged, duly-credited producer, Scott Storch was a keyboardist for the the Roots; he played all over the group's debut album, Organix, released in 1993, and he'd go on to win his very first Grammy in 1999 for writing and producing the Roots' "You Got Me." Much of Storch's credited work from the 1990s was recorded in collaboration with the Roots and its local solo collaborators.

By 1999, however, Scott Storch had begun to branch out. He played keyboard for the L.A. recording sessions that would ultimately yield Dr. Dre's 2001. This nascent stage of Storch's career also marks his earliest flirtation with L.A., a city that would eventually lure him into vice, disrepair, and a disastrously influential relationship with Paris Hilton.

The Biggest Producer in Hip-Hop

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"Still D.R.E." was the earliest preview of a typical Scott Storch beat: fluttering keyboard melodies crafted with crossover rap and R&B potential in mind. In 2002, Storch co-produced (with Timbaland) and played clavinet on solo Justin Timberlake's second-ever hit single, "Cry Me a River"; and he worked with songwriters Linda Perry and Alicia Keys to write and produce much of Christina Aguilera's pivotal fourth album, Stripped.

Not until the release of Ja Rule's "Clap Back" and G-Unit's "Poppin' Them Thangs" in 2003, however, did Storch have a fully fleshed, commonly recognized sound within mainstream hip-hop. Storch emerged from Dr. Dre's tutelage as a super-producer in his own right. Between 2003 and 2005, Storch was arguably the biggest producer in hip-hop and R&B, with Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hits like Fat Joe's "Lean Back," 50 Cent's "Candy Shop," Mario's "Let Me Love You," and Chris Brown's "Run It!" His sound was ubiquitous on pop radio, and Storch became one of the wealthiest musicians in the world.

As his bankroll swelled, so did Storch's profile. In 2004, he dated Lil' Kim, thus forging what XXL deemed "hip-hop's most eye-rolling couple" and underscoring to many unwitting rap fans that Scott Storch is, in fact, a white dude. In 2006, Storch dated Paris Hilton and, unfortunately, produced her debut pop album, Paris, which street artist Banksy and producer Danger Mouse hacked and remixed to controversial effect.

In these glitziest years of his prominence, Scott Storch was on a mission to be the most annoying white person in the history of hip-hop. "I don't ever want to be considered some vanilla sherbet kinda guy," he told XXL in 2004. In the following years, Storch would demonstrate his exceptional flair in the most expensively self-destructive ways imaginable.

The Pitfalls of Success

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Narcotics addiction is an ugly, smelly, nauseous, anti-glamorous way to live, but Scott Storch made cocaine look hilarious. While he may be credited (and uncredited) for several of the biggest, definitive rap and R&B hits of the '00s, Scott Storch's hip-hop infamy peaked with news reports that in the summer of 2006, he had spent $30 million of his fortune on a personal cocaine stash that lasted him six months. At the peak of his turmoil, Storch was fortified in a $10 million Palm Island mansion, dropping additional millions on gifts for Lil' Kim, Paris Hilton, and business partner Charli Baltimore.

Storch's manager, Derek Jackson, would later tell XXL, "I couldn't get him to focus. All he was concerned about was Paris Hilton and this socialite life."

Per XXL's post-coke profile of the man himself, this madness culminated with Storch inviting Questlove to dinner with O.J. Simpson, who proposed that the Roots and other prominent members of the hip-hop community should record a song to defend O.J.'s innocence and honor, a la Bob Dylan's folk tribute to the late Rubin "Hurricane" Carter. Questlove declined.

During Storch's fantastic binge, the quality of his production slipped, though he was hardly at rest. "We used to work 20-hour days," said Storch's studio engineer, Wayne Allison, who spoke to XXL with a weed-blowing Storch by his side. "I used to say, 'I'm not doing all those drugs. I can't work this long'." After completing his in-patient treatment in April 2009, Storch had returned to the studio on a strict three-beats-per-day regimen.

Scott Storch Is Back—But Not Really

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By 2010, Storch had sobered up. For a few years after that, however, he laid surprisingly low, producing album cuts for Mya, Snoop Dogg, and Britney Spears.

In 2013, Sway invited Storch to his Shade 45 radio show, where Storch played keys over a few of his old hits ("Still D.R.E.," "You Got Me," "Me, Myself, & I") and debuted two new beats that left a lot to be desired of the Scott Storch resurgence that was promised. On Sway in the Morning, in XXL, and elsewhere, Storch candidly addressed concerns about his cocaine addiction, his deteriorated talent, and his sapped extravagance. "Not only am I not making any new money," he told Sway, "I'm spending the old."

"Now," he added, "my goal is get those chart positions, doing something good in music, and seeing that money in the bank."

Humiliation and Bankruptcy

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