At the age of 26, Brandon "YoungStarr Beatz" Henshaw has done pretty well for himself. The Dallas producer has had viral dance hits. He's been atop the Billboard charts. He's gone Platinum. But if it hadn't been for a fateful car ride his senior year of high school, he might never have had a music career in the first place.
Henshaw — the son of a Marine, whose family bounced around between Florida, North Carolina and Louisiana before landing in Arlington — dreamed of playing basketball, and even had scholarship offers to UT, Midwestern State and Texas Tech. But those dreams evaporated when he was arrested along with a carload of friends who had committed an aggravated robbery.
"I beat the case," Henshaw says. He'd been an innocent bystander: the cop following the car testified that he saw the car pick him up after the robbery. But the damage had been done and the scholarships were lost. "What am I going to tell these schools? What am I going to do? It was like I had my whole life ahead of me planned and now I’m having to start all over again.”
Left to take a job at Walmart (which he had to walk 30 minutes to get to each day) while he got his life back on track, Henshaw turned to something that had only ever been a hobby: music. He began practicing on the software program a friend had given him during his senior year, when they made music as a group called Dynasty. He decided to use the name YoungStarr Beatz from a childhood nickname playing basketball. Those years spent playing sports helped him to be disciplined, too.
A lot of producers and artists have to be on a drug to create, but I don’t work that way," he says. "I’m the opposite. I feel like that will take me off my game."
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Henshaw soon began reaching out to well-known local artists to rap over his beats for free, but nobody would. Then he met B-Hamp. Together, they created the song "Do the Ricky Bobby" in 2009, and suddenly he had a viral hit on his hands. The song made it on the radio and even to major TV networks like BET. One day before he went to work he checked the mail and discovered a check made out to him for $42,000.
“[It] opened up my eyes and I made a promise to myself: I walked so many days for a whole year, so I said I would never walk again or have a 9 to 5 job,” he says. “Just to see how life changing music was for my life made me feel like everything happens for a reason because at the time I didn’t know what I was going to do.”
B-Hamp soon signed a record deal off of the single, while Henshaw — who not long before couldn't get his foot in the door — suddenly had offers to produce a slew of other songs, many of which found airplay in Texas. "Do the Nature Walk,” “Franky,” “Mr. Cirque” and “Let Me See You Work” were but a few of the songs Henshaw had a hand in producing. But getting something more than regional airplay was another matter. That's when he found out 2 Chainz was coming to Dallas and would be staying at the Hilton Anatole.
Desperate to get his music to the Georgia rapper, Henshaw and one of his friends sat in the parking lot for seven hours waiting for him to get off his tour bus. Finally, at 7 a.m. 2 Chainz emerged, surrounded by his security guards. “I kind of rushed up on him and his security was tripping. I’m like, 'Look man, I’ve been sitting in my car for seven hours and I don’t want anything from you but to give you this flash drive,'" Henshaw remembers. "He respected that, dapped me up and that was it."
That would prove to be a watershed moment for Henshaw, as he later received a production credit on 2 Chainz's "I Luv Dem Strippers," which featured Nicki Minaj and recently went Platinum. He would go on to build relationships with artists such as Kid Ink, Lil Boosie, Yo Gotti, Rich Homie Quan and Lil Wayne. His biggest record to date was Fetty Wap's "My Way," which spent three or four months floating around Souncloud without much fanfare — until Drake jumped on it.
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“One day I woke up, Drake was on the record and it was everywhere,” he says. Drake's remix went to No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. “You just never know what will stick, what will be album fillers and what just won’t stick.”
In order to help increase his odds of having more songs stick than not, Henshaw decided to recruit other producers and form his own production team. He founded Marvel Hitz in 2012.
“People see my face and attach it to Marvel Hits, but at the end of the day it’s not about me it’s about all of us,” he says. “I think that’s good because you have so many producers behind the scenes, so the producers that do carry themselves this way are very big. You have the Pharrell's, Timbaland’s, Mike Will’s and the Metro Boomin’s. The list goes on, but I feel like those guys have a similarity and it’s because they carry themselves as artists.”
Henshaw is continuing to work away behind the scenes, with plans to work again with Fetty Wap, as well as Yo Gotti, Rae Sremmurd, Jeezy, Zoey Dollaz and French Montana. But no matter what happens next, he says moving to Dallas is what helped him live out his dreams — even if they're not the one he'd always dreamed of. “I’ve always considered Dallas home. I moved here for a better life,” he says.