Photo: Sam Comen
In the wake of RedOne's new label deal with Cash Money, many thought the hitmaker would be signing on as the label's in-house producer. But the man behind the boards for top 5 smashes like Lady Gaga's "Just Dance" and Jennifer Lopez's "On The Floor" (featuring Pitbull) is embarking on a joint venture with Cash Money to build some of the signings from his 2101 label, including Mohombi and Talkback through the combined forces of his background as an artist and producer and Ronald "Slim" Williams and Bryan "Birdman" Williams backgrounds as some of the most successful label heads in the music business.
Billboard.biz spoke to RedOne about the terms of his partnership with Cash Money, his philosophy on building artists, and knowing a worldwide hit when he hears one.
Billboard.biz: How did your Cash Money deal come about?
RedOne: Cash Money and I go back a few years now, and we've been admiring each other's stuff, and I really respect and like the way they do it. It's been mutual the whole time. We've been like "We gotta work together, we gotta work together. We have to find some projects." We both felt like we could complete each other's work, like it'd be the ultimate combination of both worlds. It worked really, really well.
We started with Mohombi and then it went back. He was my first signing on 2101 Records, and he's been having many, multiple No. 1's all around the world and has over 200 million views on YouTube and Vevo. He's been all over the world, and this is my first time working with him. To work with Cash Money is like giving him the ultimate platform that he needs. Then there's Talkback from Cleveland, and they're this rock-pop trio. They have this single called "Last Laugh," and it's having a really, really great reaction from all over the Internet. That's our first project together for Cash Money.
Are these two - Mohombi and Talkback - signed to 2101 or Cash Money?
It's a joint venture, so it's both of us. Mohombi is 2101, he's my first signing on 2101 Records, so now he's gonna be 2101/Cash Money. We're working on this project together, and the same thing for Talkback. So this is the beautiful thing about this. All the articles that said RedOne signs to Cash Money as a producer, it's wrong, we are two labels getting together and using our expertise and our hits and artistry and knowing what an artist needs and giving them the platform that an artist needs.
I love their personalities, Slim and Baby, they're such nice people and they understand how to build a project. It's not just record a single and put it out, it's about really working the project, and that's what we want to do, build for a long career. And of course I've worked with them with Nicki Minaj, with "Pound The Alarm," we've proven we can do good stuff together in terms of getting the right songs and the right artists.
How do you pair artists with songs?
It's easy. I'm a music fanatic, I just love music. It's not like a personal thing; if I see something is not working for the artist, even if I am the one who [wrote] it, I'll find another hit from somebody else. It's different than writing a song as work for hire, because then you just focus on writing the hit for that person and that's it. But when it's your artist, you always want to deliver the best, but if somebody gives you an incredible song that fits the artist, that goes first.
I just love hits. When I hear a hit people see it in me, I'm very passionate, I go crazy, like a kid:. "OH MY GOD, THIS IS CRAZY!" That's how I am (laughs). And if a hit is a hit, it's not just about me me me me, it's about what's best for the artist.
What about a song makes you say, 'that's a hit!'
Honestly, it's about catching the world's ear, and I think I have a really good sense of the world's ear, because since I was a kid I've been traveling the world, I listen to music from all over the world, and I just feel like "oh my god." It's easy to remember. The simpler it is to get across, the bigger it can get. Some people tend to complicate songs, to complicate music, but music is beautiful, and all the biggest hits, all the classics, are the easiest ones that are just straight to the point, that give people what they want to hear, because not everyone is very educated musically. Not everybody understands jazz, but everybody can dance to Rihanna. You don't have to think to like something. You just have to get into their brain or heart or blood, and suddenly they're moving. So that's very important to me. I know the formula, I know how it feels, and when I get that feeling I just know it.
But sometimes I'll have a hit, but I'd keep them for two years, until it was the right situation and I can give it to an artist and it becomes the biggest number one in the world. "On The Floor" by J. Lo (which peaked at No. 3 on the Hot 100), I had that for two years on my computer before it came out. Everybody said to me "this is going to be the biggest number one." I just felt the world was shaking. And I was waiting for the right moment, and then boom, Jennifer Lopez wanted to work with me, and I was like 'oh my god, that's the song.'
Will you be working with other Cash Money artists?
The love is there, of course, they're my friends. I was working with Nicki before we closed the deal, and we did four or five songs. It's not even a question about it -- if they need me, I'm there for them.