Music Producer talks selling his 1st beat to Jay-Z, working with Dr. Dre, movie placements, industry rule # 4,080 & more!
Imsomie Leeper (born October 27, 1975) better known by his stage name Mahogany Beats, is an African American record producer. Mahogany won his first Grammy Award with his production on recording artist Jay-Z, Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life album. He continued to work with Roc-a-fella Records under the Team Roc umbrella and quickly began working with successful labels such as Loud Records, Ruff Ryders, and Aftermath. Mahogany produced on 5 movie soundtracks, the Streets Is Watching (soundtrack), The Wash (soundtrack), 8 Mile (soundtrack), Aktapuss and HBO Series Oz. Mahogany has credited to his name over 30 million records sold, 7 Multi platinum and 1 gold record award. Getting back to the essence of hip hop mahogany recently collaborated with 50 Cent on the song “Heartless Monster” and graced Ghostface latest debut album Ghostdini with a song called “Do Over” feat Raheem Devaughn.
Mahogany is working on production for Fabolous, Rihanna, Method Man and up and coming Hip-Hop group BXL and Fred da Godson.
The first track I sold went to Jay-Z for the (Streets is Watching Soundtrack). I charged Jay $3000 which is not a lot considering you have lawyer fees which can range between $500-$1000… In my case it was $1000 plus don’t forget management’s 20% commission, which left me with around $1400 which Roc-A-Fella only paid what’s called the first half advance. So we’re looking at $700 initially in my pocket. This doesn’t seem like much but it’s your first sell in the business… what do you expect? Jay-Z liked the first track so he then purchased a second track from me which we called “It’s Alright” feat Memphis Bleek. The soundtrack came out and I had full credit on the album. For a new producer that’s a good deal. The songs opened and closed the album with Track 1 & Track 12 which was also nice and the album went platinum in video sales which was great. I received $150,000 in royalties, landed my first publishing deal with Windswept Pacific on the back end all within one year. Jay-Z put “It’s Alright” on his “Hard Knock Life Vol 2” which sold 5 million copies hence the phrase less shall be more… not bad for a small upfront advance.
Commandment # 4 – Follow Thy Money Trail
When I was a in-house producer for Ruff Ryders I had access to all of the artists which were all hot at the time. A small record company name Avatar in California contacted my publishing company about making a soundtrack to the hit HBO show “OZ.” They wanted the hardest rappers in the business so my publisher asked me if I could get some Ruff Ryders artists’. I made the track, Styles P and Jada Kiss rocked it. The song was called “Some Niggaz.” Now, did we get paid upfront to write the song? NO. They asked us to do it on “Spec,” which is another word for “Free.” The album came out and hit the stores before any contracts were drawn up or any payments were made. I personally took a trip to California to get to the bottom of this. Once I arrived it was like a game of musical chairs. Apparently the one who was asked to produce the record and put the record together was the only one not paid, which was me. Avatar paid Styles P and Kiss but felt that they didn’t have to pay me because I was a in-house producer for Ruff Ryders… WTF??? The issue was resolved by me sitting down with the CEO of Ruff Ryders along with the artist managers. We all agreed that if Avatar paid Ruff Ryders as a “All-In” deal, then I should have been included in the budget, which no one is going to tell you that if you don’t ask… I got paid $10,000 in full… none of that first half stuff this time, the album was already out, so there’s no need for me to wait. So you can say that I got my chips… with dip.
Commandment # 3 – Keep Thy Publishing Rights
Akinelye was signed to Valcano/Jive Record and he was doing a straight to video soundtrack for HBO Straz called “Aktapuss.” I produced two records for the soundtrack. When the contract arrived at my lawyer’s office she asked me, “did you agree to a publishing deal with Jive to get on this album?” I was like uhh no… I already have a publishing deal with Windswept. Apparently Zomba, the publishing house for Jive Records likes to try and own a part of the independently contracted producer’s publishing as a clause for working with their Jive recording artist. If it wasn’t for me already belonging to a publisher like Windswept at the time, I would have been forced to do a co-publishing with Zomba just get on the album even though I’m not signed to Jive and Zomba directly… Q-tip from a Tribe Called Quest was signed to Jive and he said it best “Industry rule number 4,080 record company people are shhhaady.”
Commandment # 2 – Live by the cross promotion die by the cross promotion
The 8 Mile soundtrack produced by Eminem was a compilation that included many Shady, G-Unit, and Aftermath artists’. During the time when I was signed with Aftermath, I produced a number of tracks for a female artist named Shaunta who was due to release. The song we wrote was called “Ole Cali” and made it on the soundtrack but as a bonus cut on the Special Edition CD. When you’re an artist signed to a label, the company has the right to “exploit” your material, meaning put it everywhere, which is fine unless your going to be on one of the highest selling movie soundtracks of all time. No writer’s or production credit was given on the inside of the CD Jacket to me or her, which gives you very little room to collect royalties on any sales because you’re not technically hired to perform for this album, but the label has the right to put your music on there as a form of promotion. So, did the artist or myself get paid for that album that sold 6 million records? Nope. But I do have a platinum plaque on my wall from it. Promotion could be good of course but in this case when it comes to sales on the back end you would have to say “charge it to the game.”
Commandment # 1 – Know Ye Worth and Potential
To be in the studio with Dr. Dre is one thing, but for him to rap over your beat is something unheard of. After pinching myself and realizing that I am awake and that I was actually making a beat for Dre to rap over, he taps me on the shoulder to go out into the hallway and politely ask me “So how much you want for this beat?”… now keep in mind, my manager and I had rehearsed how much we were going to ask for, but I didn’t expect to be the one talking about any business with Dr. Dre at all. So I humbly said, “I thought you guys spoke to my management about this?” Dre said “yeah… but your talking to me…” so I replied $15,000 which was my going price at the time, besides I was low on funds and in my mind anything would have been a blessing, literally. So Dre gives me a look like, that’s it? Right at that moment I knew like in a game of spades that I had just underbid. Heading back to the studio he turned around and said “I’ma hook you up.” I didn’t know what that meant until he finished the song and then he shouted my name out on the track by saying “Mahogany dropping the instrumental”…to me that was absolutely priceless.
What I didn’t know was that he was going to make my song the lead single for the movie, “The Wash” starring himself and Snoop Dogg. The lead song is what helps promote and sell the movie. The song “Bad Intentions” feat Knocturnal was featured 3 times during the movie and was included on the bonus CD with the DVD. Then the music was licensed directly to B.E.T and HBO. Had I known that going into the project, I could have asked Dr. Dre for anywhere between $50K – $80K for that track… ouch… The thing to remember is that this money would have been coming from the Distributor (Lions Gate Films) not Dr. Dre personally. So the major word to always remember when producing on a soundtrack is “Sync fees.”