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Bizness Boi Is an Indie Producer Winning the Major-Label Game

Bizness Boi prides himself on working with talented artists early in their careers, from 6lack to Lil Nas X

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"As a producer, you have to either have your own artists or you have to work with new artists," Bizness Boi says. "You have to build something from the ground up."

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Aspiring producers often aim for the home-run placement — getting a beat to Rihanna or Kanye West in the hopes that a star’s blessing will change their circumstances overnight.

The producer Bizness Boi, known for his work with R&B singers and a smattering of rappers, takes a very different approach — emphasizing the slow build, rather than flaring brightly but briefly. “You can get something with Rihanna, but you might have that one record and that’s it,” he explains. “As a producer, you have to either have your own artists or you have to work with new artists. You have to build something from the ground up.”

Bizness Boi turns to history to cement his case: “I always do my research,” he says. “Look at Janet Jackson and Jam & Lewis. Timbaland and Missy [Elliott]. Teddy Riley and Guy.” 

The producer’s interest in “building and working with developing artists” means he has been part of a series of early-career milestones. You’ll find Bizness Boi’s name on the first solo album for Rae Sremmurd’s Swae Lee, the first-ever project for Lil Nas X, the first Gold-certified albums for both PARTYNEXTDOOR and 6lack. “When these new artists make it, your name attached to ’em,” the producer says happily. And more artists are eager to work with a producer who has a history of helping singers realize their vision — and in several cases, break through to a wide audience.

The effectiveness of Bizness Boi’s strategy is born out by the whiteboard in his studio. The board is divided into columns filled with names — a lengthy list of confirmed placements, additional room for songs that might go on future projects. But the longest list is crammed with all the artists Bizness Boi has open lines of communication with. “Who do I have access to?” the producer says. “I forgot names on this. But I don’t have no more space.”

His studio is a cozy spot in the backroom of his L.A. apartment. Soft colors emanate from a color globe, and Michael Jackson’s Thriller occupies the position of honor on the center table along with a rainbow selection of Bic lighters. The walls are covered with plaques and postcard-ready beach scenes. 

It’s taken years for Bizness Boi to get to this point after stints producing in his hometown of Milwaukee and Atlanta. “Atlanta taught me a lot,” Bizness Boi says. “I’ll always remember, one person there told me, ‘your beats got too much in ’em.’ I didn’t get it until later. I get it now. At a certain point you make beats to show off in front of other producers. But you have to transform into a person that makes beats for artists.”

Still, he decamped to L.A. in 2014 in the hopes of finding a wider variety of sessions. “The type of music I do — R&B, pop in addition to trap — I knew a lot of people move here for that,” Bizness Boi says. “I could have different types of sessions. My second day here I had a meeting with Jeff [Vaughn] from Artist Partners Group. He gave me $5,000 for a beat for Kevin Gates. I had never made that much for a beat. I was like, ‘L.A. is dope.'”

Even with that $5,000, it took Bizness Boi around two years to become financially stable. “I remember having an Eric Bellinger cut and we were homeless,” he says. “We were just sleeping in cars. I had placements like, ‘man, I’m really in a car.'” Working on PARTYNEXTDOOR’s most successful album represented a turning point. “I was the only producer who had four records on there,” Bizness Boi says. “That’s when stuff started getting crazy.”

But unusually, Bizness Boi did not sign a publishing deal — he’s a rare thing in the music industry, a wholly independent producer racking up steady major-label placements. “Those deals are really an advance or a loan,” Bizness Boi says. “Nine times out of ten, people hate their deals. I made six figures not having a deal. I don’t feel like paying anybody back right now.”

Many of Bizness Boi’s productions fall into R&B, and the genre’s recent commercial resurgence — R&B song consumption grew 19.7 percent between 2016 and 2017, according to the analytics company Alpha Data — has benefitted him. “I didn’t really get my R&B off in Atlanta,” Bizness Boi says. In L.A., though, he perfected a slow-creep, slugging, sulky sound that leaves plenty of room for a singer to emote — and streams like crazy for 6lack and others. “Today’s generation just wants hard-hitting drums,” the producer says. “Let me make the sounds softer, but the drums hit heavy.” 

Even though PARTYNEXTDOOR and 6lack’s albums are barely three years old, their commercial success provided hope for a generation of young R&B singers. So when Bizness Boi had a recent session with Next Town Down, an ensemble hoping to revive the glory days of R&B groups, they were already familiar with his work. “I be pulling up on them, they’re like, ‘we been studying you for a minute,'” he remembers. In the last few years, Bizness Boi had early sessions with a wide assortment of young R&B acts: Summer Walker (Interscope), Pink Sweat$ (Atlantic), Jayla Darden (Interscope), Roy Wood$ (Warner), Xavier Omar (RCA), Elhae (Atlantic), and Kiana Lede (Republic). Bizness Boi also started a label — Bizness Boi Music Group — and signed Symphani Soto, a YouTube star, who is hoping to build an R&B career as well. 

With an R&B foundation firmly established, Bizness Boi is eager to make a name in other genres. “Everyone knows me for R&B right now,” he acknowledges. “But this summer’s going to be different. They’re gonna hear alternative, straight pop, my Eighties sound.” Bizness Boi co-produced Lil Nas X’s “Kick It,” an unusual track built around an unexpected saxophone sample that has amassed more than five million streams in less than two weeks.

“When you look back at the Timbaland discography, you’re like, ‘he did this, he did this — and this?!'” Bizness Boi says. “That’s how I want my career to be.”

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