Last year, rhythmic and urban sounds took over mainstream radio airwaves. In an era when the formula for a No. 1 single seems to be one part viral internet sensation and one part streaming availability, it’s no wonder songs like “Bodak Yellow” and “I Like It” by Cardi B have garnered such leverage on the charts. Both songs were produced by Dallas-based hit-maker J. White, who after nearly 20 years of crafting instrumental tracks and hopping between managers and deals, finally created a sound that works for him.
White’s beats are catchy, bass-heavy trap style instrumentals that have landed on projects by Cardi B, 21 Savage and, most recently, Iggy Azalea.
“I hit her up on Instagram, and I was like, ‘Yo, we should work,’” White says of his collaboration with Azalea. “I was shocked by how hard she works.”
Following the initial collaboration, Azalea ultimately chose White to serve as the executive producer for her forthcoming album, In My Defense, which is slated for release this summer.
Having faced his own struggles while on the come-up in the music industry, White believes the biggest mistake artists make when getting their start is agreeing to sets of rules without understanding what they’re getting into.
“The issue is, as musicians and entertainers, we invest ourselves into the music industry and we don’t have the money,” White says. “And once the label says, ‘We’re going to pay you,’ and we’re so anxious to get paid, we sign the producer deck or the contract without reading the fine print. You have to have your business straight. Anybody will do anything you allow them to do. If you don’t have your business straight, you won’t get anything.”
White, 34, first started crafting instrumentals at 15, after his uncle purchased him a keyboard from RadioShack.
“I was in eighth grade and I was playing football,” White says, “and you know, I’m decent. Freshman year of high school, I figured out I’m not really that good at football. So I said you know what, let me start making music, because, you know, I’m always beating on tables and whatnot.”
When he got into beat-making, White knew he wanted to work with Aaliyah, but she died before he had the chance to realize his dream.
“I cried for a week straight when she passed, bro,” White says of the late R&B singer. “I always said one day, I’m going to work with Aaliyah, but unfortunately, it never happened.”
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As of now, White has his hands full, with his productions in demand by some of the industry's top artists. He has produced two tracks on Mary J. Blige’s upcoming album and has tracks in the works with Gucci Mane, Remy Ma and Megan Thee Stallion.
“They’ve got me flying out everywhere, man,” White says. “But it’s been such a blessing, having so many people wanting my sound.”
White believes Dallas’ music scene is on the rise and has a promising future ahead.
“I don’t know why we can’t be a powerhouse city,” White says. “I don’t know why we can’t get labels based in the city. I always tell the artists I work with, ‘Why don’t y’all come down to Dallas to record?’ It’s just as good here. We don’t have palm trees and beaches, but we have everything else.”