Monday, January 28, 2008

Svengali Smackdown! I've noticed recently in the course of my work that a lot of hitmaking producers start their own labels and 'discover' new acts that they hope to make into stars. They are generally very good at discovering talented young producers like themselves (Teddy Riley apparently discovered both Rodney Jerkins and the Neptunes), but they don't seem to be very good at accurately spotting talented performers.

So I decided to stage a little contest to see which producer has been the best Svengali. It is important to note that these are not existing acts who approach the Svengali for a hit. They are previously unknown performers that the Svengali selects, betting that they'll hit the big time.

Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins:
The Phil Spector of the mid-to-late '90s (Michael Jackson, Destiny's Child, Brandy, Toni Braxton) started his own label, Darkchild Records, with a roster of people who make you go "Who?" Shamari Fears (formerly of R&B group Blaque), female MC Asia Lee, dancehall artist Atiba, gospel singer Anesha Birchett and, rumouredly, R&B singers Megan Rochell and Natasha. The most successful artist so far is Anesha Birchett and that's pretty much because of her songwriting credits rather than recorded output. He also started a gospel imprint for his wife Joy Enriques, JoyFul Child, and her record didn't do too badly. Christians are a huge market.

Robert Clivilles (of C+C Music Factory):
In the first few years of the '90s Clivilles and Cole dominated the pop-house scene, not just with their own stuff, but producing and remixing Taylor Dayne, Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson, etc. After Cole died in 1995, Clivilles continued the brand, but was also in a group called MVP. Their big hit was the R&B/dancehall cut "Roc Ya Body (Mic Check 1 2)", which is REALLY AWESOME. I have it on a mixtape and I had no idea Clivilles was involved. But they never really broke.

Justin "Just Blaze" Smith:
Started Fort Knocks Records pretty much in order to sign Saigon, who is a pretty good rapper except that he chucked an absolute spazz and posted a MySpace blog with the title "I QUIT". (It's been taken down now because he was worried about offending Just Blaze, who in turn was puzzled about the tanty.) Apparently he's not retiring any more. Whew.

Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo (The Neptunes):
Started Star Trak with heaps of promising artists, including Pharrell, Kelis and Clipse. I've got their compilation CD Clones (2003), released when I genuinely thought the Neptunes couldn't put a foot wrong. Except Star Trak ended up being shuffled around between host labels and a lot of its artists (like Vanessa "Talk to me boy" Marquez and Rosco P. Coldchain) fell between the cracks. Pretty much if you wanted to have a career you left Star Trak, as Kelis and Clipse did. It's now padded out with nobodies who don't even have Wikipedia pages and perhaps the most successful of its stable is Robin "When I Get You Alone, And Also I Am The Son Of Alan" Thicke.

Timothy "Timbaland" Mosley:
Everything he touches seems to turn to gold... except Beat Club, the imprint he started, whose roster includes Tim's younger brother Sebastian, Bubba Sparxxx, Ms Jade (who guested on Missy Elliott's "Funky Fresh Dressed"), and "Who?" fodder Kiley Dean, D.O.E., Attitude and Shelby Norman. Of these, Bubba Sparxxx is probably the best known, although Ms Jade apparently has an album coming out this year.

Scott Storch:
Self-appointed "Tuff Jew" beefed with Timbaland over Justin Timberlake's "Cry Me A River". His label Storch Music Company features NOX, Charli Baltimore (the dirt Remy Ma, which is really saying something) and... wait for it... Brooke Hogan, HULK HOGAN'S DAUGHTER. Jesus Christ, Scott.

The winner: Tough call, but I'd say Just Blaze (juuuust inching out Timbaland)
The loser: Scott Storch

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