Songs you sing in the car are often written by people you don’t know, rather than by stars who record them.
For instance, Chris Brown and Trey Songz perform their hits on Saturday at the Mandalay Bay, and even though Brown and Songz do write, they also get help from songwriters and producers to please your ears.
So I tracked down a musician named Soundz, because he has co-written or produced with Brown (“101”), Songz (“Foreign”), Wale/Jeremih (“The Body”) and Justin Bieber (“What’s Hatnan”).
How does someone like Soundz, who you probably haven’t heard of until now, rise up and become a studio writer of “urban, undertone, street R&B?”
Answer: Hone your talents.
“I began with drumsticks,” Soundz told me. “My mom said I was clapping on the beat in church at 3 months old. She knew something was up.”
His Mom got Soundz playing professional drums at 5. Then as a young adult in Atlanta, “a black mecca for music,” he rapped, fell into a circle of musicians, and got a manager who put him in a group that made a song that Usher heard.
“Usher said, ‘Hey, who is this guy with the beat? I want to meat him?’” Soundz said.
“I was really young. I didn’t have any swag. But he took a chance on me, and signed me. He got me my first deal,” Soundz said. “It automatically put my standards higher to work with artists like that.”
Soundz moved to L.A., where he rapped and produced. But rapping and producing in L.A. is a dog-eat-dog arena.
“It’s like a race, man. There are a lot of fast runners In L.A.,” he said. “The competition is super high.”
So Soundz did something smart. He wrote songs for people who were technically the competition but more successful, which did two great things. One: Songwriting royalties bring more money. Two: It helped turn rival producers into friendly partners who want to use his skills.
“Everybody’s a homie, so I can work with anybody.”
He calls his style a “flavor.”
“It’s like a flavor in a restaurant where you have people coming in for certain dishes. I try to make my dish to be the most amazing dish, and when people come into my restaurant, they say they want the Soundz special.”
He does put out his own music. His new “mix tape” is “Like Jordan.”
“I want to earn my spot” as a performer, he said. “So what I have to do is put free material out that people can listen to every day, and when they see certain songs correlating to their everyday life, that’s when they’ll start spreading.”
So enjoy whatever concert you go to this weekend, and try not to think about how fiercely egalitarian pop music circles actually are (when they’re not cutthroat), because it’ll mess with your fantasies about how the individual can conquer the world alone.