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"l cked B ritn ey wh ee I barrow styl e." Jonathan "J.R" Rotem
fu Rotem's services. "I call him the white Dr.
holding court athis Beluga Heights studio inWest Holiywood, California. The
is Dre because when it seemed like I couldn't
finish the record unless I had Dre beats,
music producer is wearing enormous silver Elvis sunglasses and a diamond-
J.R stepped up to the plate and gave me
encrustedkeyboardaroundhisneck;hishairglistenslikeabirdinanoilspill.To the dopest tracks."
the audience clustered around his couch-his managet Zach Katz, two calnera- After spending five years quietly earn-
men filming a reality-showpilo! Denaun Porter ofhip-hop group D12-Rotem ing credibilityinthe hip-hop arenabymak-
offers aseries ofimpromptu nonsequiturs: "Ihaveafearofgerms"; "I dontinvest ing beats for, among others, The Game,
inrealestate,Iinvestinjewelry"; "I'maleo, it's true. It also says that he's from Beverly 5O Cent, Fabolous, Snoop Dogg, G-Unit,
alion";"I'veseenZoolnndsrlOotimes";and, Hills, which is not exactly true. He's an Destiny's Child, Rick Ross, Lil'Kim and
finally, I fucked Britneywheelbarrow style. Israeli born in South Africa, raised first in Dr. Dre, the 3l-yerir-old Rotem is this mo-
Just kidding." He waits a beat. "It was trac- Toronto and then in an aftluent Bay Area ment's go-to guy for hit-hungry pop stars.
torstylel' suburb. He lives in an apartmentbuilding His career turning point was "S.O.S.," the
voo *uy recall Rotem's name and/ in the neighborhood known as wilshire "Tainted Love"-sampling track he'd been
or hair from the gossip blogs. Back in Corridor-but Beverly Hills, the leafr en- trying to sell for three years, before it was
December, five weeks after Spears sent claveoftherichandfamous,isrt'tfaraway. eventually recorded by Rihanna in 20O6-
Kevin Federline packing from Malibu to Hisstudioa"ndrecordlabelarebothnamed and became a worldwide hit that reached
the Valley, sandwiched somewhere in the BelugaHeights, afictitiousplacethatcon- the top of six Bf llb oard charls.
midstofhercataclysmicmentalmudslide- jures up champagne wishes and caviar Today, urban music and ToP 4o PoP are
betweenpaparazzisho*ofherbaldbeaver dreams. His look-which recalls that of as inseparable as ever, and Rotem's beats
and her nude noggin-grainy footage ap- ScottStorch,theotherJewishhip-hoppro- strike a precise, gaudy compromise be-
pearedofthepos@artumpopstarclimbing duction macher-belies his aceomplished hveen the two. He offers R&B singers like
onto Rotem's lap, cigarette in hand, lean- background as a classical and jazz pianist. Rihanna a chance to cross over to main-
ing in for akiss. Theyhad been working to- stream audiences, invoking and updat-
gether on her next record and capped the ing'Bos dance-floor jams for the Pro Tools
night with the Cameron Diaz ch ickflick Th e age; and he offers pop blondes like Ashley
H ok day - andsome curbside canoodling. Tisdale and Paris Hilton sinewy, pulsating
Back at Beluga Heights, Rotem's old tracks steeped in shiny synthesizer sounds
friend Porterpresses himfor salacious details and spiked with hip-hop swagger. There's
about that night. 'ilozi did you do that?" the something Bruckheimerian about his pro-
rapper asks, slapping his thigh in disbelief. duction: It'sbig,busy and-ina Itr/here haoe
"I heard she's on the wild side. Is that true?" I heard this before? sense-generic.
The camergmen exchange excited glances. His date book shows that Britney isn t
Whether out of respectfor Spea.rs or concern the only one hoping for a Rotem-produced
forhis career, Rotem clams up. His rightfoot smash : TheVeronicas and ChristinaMilian
twitches; his knucldes whiten on the arm of are coming by for sessions. A meeting with
ttreleathercouch. An awl<rvard silence creeps Jessica Simpson has been postponed (ac-
in.'TVe were workingin the studio together," "He's a musical genius and one of the big- cording to Rotem, his lothario reputation
Rotem replies flatly, hyingto bring the con- gest music producers in Hollyrood," says has made newbeau John Mayer abit nerv- q
versation to a halt. He ventures something Heroes culie Hayden Panettiere, whose de- ous). No matter, he has some finishing 6
about asamplingmachine. But Porterjust ig- but CD, coming in August will feature a touches to put ontracksfor Sean Kingston,
tr
nores him:'Youare ahound dog!"heshouts. handftl of Rotem-produced tracks. "He's the l7-year-old Jamaican rapper who is
"I rememberwhenhe getno pussy. Nowhe veryfun, verysmartand agenuine, nice guy. Rotem's first signing to Beluga Heights; he
getting all kind of pussy. I was watching E! Notahorribleidioti' needs to tighten up a track for J. Lo; and
and I saw this nigga walk ir1 and I was like- "He is the best up-and-coming produc- Busta Rhymes has been asking to stop by. =
That'sJ.R.l" er in the music industry," says The Game, He describes the TV pilot het filming as a
who, when faced with making his sec- brand-building tool. "People all know the d

J.R ROTEM IS a multiplatinum music pro- ond record, Doctor's Adoocate, without women, the jewelry the cars, all of which I
I
ducer. It says so on his MySpace page, and his trusted father figure Dr. Dre, sought I have," he tells the cameras at one point.

Play That Funky Music, White Boy!


J.R. Rotem isn't the only hip-hop honky to leave his (pale) mark on the genre ."

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SAL ABBATIELLO RICK RUBIN BEASTIE BOYS JERRY HELLER
To get his new Punk fan Rubin NYC brats tour the This former agent
Bronx nightspot cofounds Def Jam world in support of cofounds Ruthless
Disco Fever off the in his NYU dorm. He their debut, Licensed Records wilh Eazy-E.
ground, this hip-hop later helps create fo ,ll, with an inflat- Goes on to manage-
early adopter books rap rock by pairing able penis onstage. and acrimoniously
up-and-coming DJ Aerosmith and Run- Rap'sfirst worth- split from-gangsta
Grandmaster Flash, D.M.C. for "Walk while white MCs. progenitors N.W.A.
officially bringing This Way."
hip-hop in from the
schoolyards,
"But I want to shor,'r'the blood, sweat and
the tears, the stress and the rejection. I
want people to knowthe different sides to
me. I've always been a dick, but I've had to
be nice to getwhere I am; now I wantto be
me.Therealme."
In the pursuit ofthe "real" J.R. Rotem,
it's easyto gettripped up in the look-which
he calls "half Guido, half wigger"-andthe
painfully unfunny bada-bing one-liners.
Drivinghome from the studio one nightin a
his Maserati Quattroporte, he erplains that
this is all mereh a persona, one he creat-
ed in an attempt to assimilate into the hip-
hop demimonde. He compares himself to
a method actor or a Donnie Brasco-an
undercover cop who goes native. "When I
first got in, I was like, I'll let my music do
the talki.ng. But it became apparent that
it's important how I sell myself. My family
brought me up to think that bragging was
classless and repugnant. But ifyou dont
talkbig, you don'twin."
It's this persona that has made some
people initially wonder who, exactly, this
clown thinks he is. Thatwas the reaction of
newcomer LucyWalsh (daughter of Eagles
guitarist Joe Walsh) when her Island In 1993, he movedto Bostonto attend ing from Berklee, Rotem moved back to
=i Records A&R rep Rob Stevenson intro- the Berklee College of Music. That same Moraga and started makingbeats, putting
=E duced her to Rotem. 'ltrrhen she first met year, Rotem tookhis firstjazz-piano lesson. them on CDs and handing them out to an-
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him, she was like,'Who are you having me Enthusiastically sloughing off the rigidity yone who would take them. Eventually,
dg work with?"' remembers Stevenson. "But of classical music, Rotem fell in love with someone who knew someone gave one to
after 2O minutes ofexplainingto himwhat the free-form improv ofboth the music and D'Wayne Wiggins of the R&B group Tony,
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we wanted, he started writing a song that thejazzbo lifestyle and spent 12 hours a dav Toni, Ton6, who 'lr'anted it for an En Vogue
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2= separates her from the pack. In this busi- practicing and getting high. "I didn't ever record. Luckily for Rotem, it eventually
nessyou getflash,butoftennothingunder- wanttobe arockstar-Iwantedtobe ajazz landed on Destiny's Child's Z OOl Suraiaor,
>6
EJ neath. J.R. has substance." star," he says. "I thought it would be cooi to as"Fancyl' Suraiuorwent on to sell 8.7 mil-
Born in Johannesburg, SouthAfrica, to die young and on drugs, iike Coltrane and lion copies, turninghis humble initial fee of
Israeli parents, Rotem moved to Toronto Davis. People wouldn't believe how much $z,soo into awindfall.
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at the age of 2, where he was recognized coke andheroin I would do when I played." Within a year, Rotem was living in L.A.
as having a special talent for playing the Four years ago, Rotem went cold turkey After meeting up with Zach Katz, who had
f;E piano. Before he turned 1<!, the Rotems and nowshuns even caffeinated drinks. become well-known in hip-hop circles for
moved once more, this time to Moraga, Nineteen ninety-three was also the managing Rakim, among others, Rotem
€> California, outside San Francisco. His pre- year Snoop Dogg released his debut CD, got an audition to play piano for Dr. Dre,
E- cocious dedication to studying the mas- Doggystyle, produced by Dr. Dre. "When who ended up buying a couple ofhis beats.
E* ter composers attracted prestigious teach- Snoop came out, I thought he was the Since then, Rotem has produced more
65
tril
ers who encouraged him to perform in coolest guy on the planet," Rotem says. than 1OO tracks, generally at $40,OOO to
dt- classical-piano recitals and competitions, "I started to dress like him, and I learned $so,ooo apop; he's boughtthe Maserati-
some ofwhichhewon. all his songs on pianol'After graduat- a car he describes as a "panty soaker"; ))

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LIMP BIZKIT EMINEM VANILLA ICE SCOTT SHAMROCK
Oueens Jew MC Four friends in Dr. Dre hears an Rob Van Winkle STORCH The Atlanta-born,
Serch and pal Pete Jacksonville, Florida, unknown MC free- appears on MTV The lrish-repping MC
Nice release the not- bond over a love of styling on the radio to destroy the net- biggesr wins VHI's lhe
at-all embarrassing Rakim and Suicidal in L.A. and signs work's "lce lce Baby" white (wnite) Rapper
The Cactus Album Tendencies, and form the biggest and best videotape. Still can't beat- Show, Surprisingly,
(despite embarrass- a band. The resi is white rapper ever. destroy his "walking smith of the 'aughts an illustrious career
ing hair). red-capped. girl- punch line" status. shows a reporter his has yet to lollow (but
hating history. new yacht-named he does have 2 mil-
Storchavelli. lion MySpace plays!).

elender.com IO8
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and he's succeeded in being ex- "Whoops,
this is not
pelled from Kevin Federline's fte roiletl"
group of MySpace friends.
On a Saturday a.fternoon,
Rotem, his writing partner
Evan Bogart*son of Casablanca
Records founder Neil Bogart-
and Katz are waiting at Beluga
HQfor Jessi Malay. A 2O-year-old
R&B singer, she is due at the stu-
dio to recut some vocals. While
theywait, Rotem andthegang are
yucking it up; as it goes, 'tegetari-
an" becomes " o agltaiani' "egotis-
tical" is pronounced "egoteshcal"
and "flow chart" is repeated back, McPhee's debut are analTzed, dinner is or-
fr ont-loaded with "menstrual." When Malay dered, Katz auditions a mariachi band nexl
arrives, Rotem's reality-show pilot gets a door-until finally, at 1o r.rvr., Rotem's mood
dose of sex appeal. She's half Filipino, half suddenly sours. He has decided that the
Jewish, sexy but not intimidating, pretty vibe in the room is negative, that Bogart and
but also cute. She has salon hair, tightjeans Malay are mad at him, that the magazines
and high heels, and her breasts, side-peek- scattered across the floor of the darkened
ingfromher hoodie, zipped down low, splay studio are too distracting. He rubs more
suspiciously. After small talk about having Purell on his hands and identifies another
seen each other at the club, he tells her to vibe-killing annoyance: the tangle ofcords
"One, get in the booth and, two-take your on the floor. Compulsively tidying them up,
pants offand sing." Malayrollsher eyes and Rotem exhales deeply, sits down at the pi-
obediently enters the vocal booth. As she ano and pounds out an efortless version of
warbles her chorus, Rotem implores her to the somberiazz standard'Autumn Leavesi'
reach deeper, offeringcomments into atrwo- Ten minutes later, he lingers on the last note
and calmly announces, "OK, nowwe can fo-
cus. Let's getbackto workl'
The following night, at a music-biz
party at the Roosevelt Hotel-where Paris
Hilton is seenwalking in circles yellinginto
her phone-Rotem seeks out a quiet place
on the steps outside for conversation. Away
from the reality-TV crew and the teasing
friends, he finally removes his sunglasses.
He discusses actresses as singers ("Can'tsay
it's a goodthing, but nowyou can make peo-
ple sing in tune; you can't fight technolo-
way speaker on the mixing desk: "I'm pic- gy"), sampling ("I vehadto adjustmyegoto
turing you with a horsei he says. "Fuck the use samples . It's humbling . . . I have to share
horse."AndlateS "Tbp intothat Filipinobar- credit and money") and being a white boy
rio. Pretend you have mango juice dripping in hip-hop ('TWrth jazz,I've always been in
offyou; like you are barefoot, pregnant and a multiracial environment, and I've dated
you are cooking. Squirt all over the tracki' intenacially"). He talks about promiscuity
Onthe couch, Evan Bogartis Googling. ("I don thave one-nightstands") and, finally,
When he comes across a pap arazzipholo of what reallyhappenedwith Britney Spears.
Rotem taken on a night out with Britney, he "Britney and I were in a relationshipi he
tilts his laptop so the producer can see it. "I says quietly. 'We were dating for about two
like my eyes," Rotem says, unintentional- weeks but decidedforboth our careers that
ly sounding like Derek Zoolander, and rubs itwouldn't be cool to have aromantic rela-
some Purell Instant Hand Sanitizerintohis tionship. Shewas reallyemotionaland dis-
palms. Ablog has another photo of Rotem tressed atthe time."
with captions that read, Ir's DAR-K our, Rotem says he doesn t regret what hap-
JAcKASs and pur MoRE oIL INyouR rralR, pened, orhis overnight notoriety; he knows
orrc. Bogart and Rotem laugh hysterical- itt good for business. Butwhatever anyone
ly, each taking turns repeating the lines. thinks of him, he insists he always tries to
In the booth, Malay has finished her cho- do the right thing. "There are definitely
rus; in the background her voice squeaks times when I'm an arrogant, vain asshole.
through the speaker: '.Was that OK?" But the bigger part is sensitive, good-
The distracted work-play process goes hearted. People whoiust see me in front of
onforanotherfivehours-aphoto ofakitten thepaparazzi acting like ajackass have no
is sent to the huge computer screen above clue who I am." And with that, Rotem terts
the mlxing board, tracks from Katharine Paris to see where she's gone off16. leuonl

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