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Just The Piano Man – The Amazing Tales of Scott Storch

THEN That’s What They Called Music!” is one of my favorite series of features in the AV Club.

In early 2010, A.V. Club writer Nathan Rabin decided to listen to and write about the bestselling, zeitgeist-friendly CD series NOW That’s What I Call Music! in chronological order. Each one of the 35 American NOW! collections compiles a cross-section of recent hits from across the musical spectrum. Beginning with the first entry from 1998, this column examines what the series says about the evolution and de-evolution of pop music.

In its latest edition, the highlight is Scott Storch story. (Until then, the only thing I knew about him was the silly controversy with Timbaland over credits for “Cry Me a River”  – the Justin Timberlake hit).

Now that’s we’re deep into the tricky waters of race, let’s turn our attention to Beyoncé Knowles and Scott Storch, the performer and producer, respectively, of “Naughty Girl.” Storch began his career as a keyboardist for The Roots before establishing himself as a producer/multi-instrumentalist with a distinctive sound rooted in sort of a cartoon burlesque of Eastern music.

Storch was a sought-after producer with one big problem; his compositions all sounded pretty much the same. Then again, given the homogeneous nature of contemporary hip-hop and R&B, that isn’t an insurmountable problem. Oh, and also, at some point, Storch became convinced that he was Diddy, and not an ugly, awkward, thirtysomething Jewish man. So Storch spent much of his vast fortune on diamond-plated yachts and mansions, and dressing like a cartoon pimp. Also, giant shoeboxes of cocaine.

The two links are outstanding. An excerpt from the first (Rolling Stone):

He’s in a red T-shirt, jeans and multihued Nike Air Force Ones, and he’s glistening like the morning dew because of an obscene amount of jewelry, including a thirty-four-carat yellow-diamond ring worth $3 million, a thirteen-carat white-diamond ring, a $250,000 diamond-encrusted watch and three iced-out chains around his neck. Call Storch hip-hop’s Liberace. He’s worth $70 million, the result of his work with Dr. Dre (he co-produced “Still D.R.E.”), Beyoncé (he produced “Baby Boy” and “Naughty Girl”), Justin Timberlake (“Cry Me a River”), Lil’ Kim (“Lighters Up”), Fat Joe (“Lean Back”), 50 Cent (“Candy Shop”) and Chris Brown (“Run It” and “Gimme That”). But even after a slew of great clients, he’s still bitter about those few who don’t call back.

But Storch purposely keeps his music simpler than he could make it so that it’ll sell to millions of Americans. “It’s a chore for me to hold back my mind to do this simple shit,” he says. “The best musicians technically — they make the least. A great jazz musician doesn’t really ever sell huge amounts of copies. People want something they can understand, something they can break down in their head and understand the rhythms. There’s more money in those little songs.” Storch knows where the big money is. A brand-name producer gets four or five “points” (percentage of profits) for each song he produces on an album. If he makes several songs on an album, a producer can end up earning more from CD sales than the artist. Storch had several songs on Beyoncé’s Dangerously in Love (more than 4 million sold), 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (more than 6 million), 50’s The Massacre (more than 5 million), Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP (more than 9 million) and Aguilera’s Stripped (more than 4 million).

Another from the second (MTV)

Storch’s decline started in 2006, which was arguably his most successful year creatively and definitely his most fruitful year financially. He was one of the top producers in the business, having worked on hits by Beyoncé, 50 Cent, the Game, T.I., Chris Brown, Christina Aguilera, Dr. Dre, Nas, Snoop Dogg, Pink and many others. He had a long way to fall.

“Honestly, about three years ago, he got really shady,” said Jackson, sitting just a few feet away from Storch at Miami’s Hit Factory studios. “And that’s the best term I could use. He went from what his normal vices were to suddenly becoming a person who was infatuated with the drug, and I saw it constantly.”

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