In looking at J.R. Rotem’s accomplishments as a music producer, song writer and record label president, one can’t believe just how much this super music man has achieved in the past four years.
In 2005, 50 Cent, Dr. Dre, Game, Snoop Dogg, Rihanna and most of the other top names in the music industry found a new collaborator in producer songwriter J.R. Rotem.
By 2006, the list grew to include Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Mario, Lil Scrappy, Jojo, Mobb Deep, JLo and Natasha Bedingfield, just to name a few. By the end of the year, J.R. Rotem was named by MTV, along with Timbaland and Swizz Beats, as “Super Producer” of the year. From producing Rihanna’s worldwide #1 single “S.O.S.” to securing a joint venture label deal with Epic/Sony, J.R. had become an unstoppable producer.
J.R. Rotem continued his ascent to the top of music world in 2007 with the debut of music sensation Sean Kingston, Rotem’s first artist on Beluga Heights and joint venture with Epic Records. With the help of his brother Tommy, Rotem discovered the 17 year old phenomenon on Myspace and produced Sean Kingston’s entire album including the four Billboard chart-topping singles (#1 smash single “Beautiful Girls”, “Take Your There”, “There’s Nothing” and “Me Love”).
Aside from his work with Sean Kingston, Rotem spent much of 2007 and the first part of 2008 producing smash singles for artists like, Plies who’s Rotem produced single “Bust It Baby Part II” featuring Neyo scored Rotem another Billboard top 10 and a #1 album debut for Plies. Rotem also produced Rick Ross’ “The Boss” featuring T-Pain that also helped Ross’ album debut at #1. In 2008 Rotem delivered one of the biggest songs of the year, “Better In Time”, for the multi-platinum super-star Leona Lewis. Rotem ended 2008 on a stellar note, being named BMI’s Producer of the Year , a title he shared with T-Pain and Kanye West.
With more than 300 placements in four short years, J.R.’s ability to work simultaneously with an A list group of hip hop, pop and r&b artists as well as successfully discover and develop new talent is a testament to the fresh and innovative perspective J.R. brings to the music game.
Born in South Africa, J.R. Rotem is the son of Israeli immigrants who later relocated to Toronto at the age of two, and finally the San Francisco Bay Area when he was twelve. While his world was unlike the street kids who spent their lifetimes dreaming and angling about getting into the rap game, J.R.’s passion for music was no less intense.
At a young age, J.R.'s parents insisted that his musical interest be honed in a strict, disciplined way. This meant hours of private piano sessions daily where he developed a passion for classical music. On the contemporary front, J.R. found artists like The Beatles, Sting and Queen inspiring, but when Rotem first heard Run DMC's "Raising Hell" album, he became mesmerized by hip hop. While Rotem loved what he heard musically, he never thought hip hop would become a way of life for him.
After high school, J.R. entered the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston where his focus lay in piano performance with aspirations of scoring films professionally. While enrolled at Berklee, J.R. also immersed himself in the world of Jazz. However, it was the release of two seminal CD's - Dr. Dre's "The Chronic" and Snoop Dogg's "Doggystyle" - that unleashed J.R.'s inspiration to undertake music production.
Now an accomplished and well-versed jazz pianist, J.R. recognized the jazz influences of the samples used in these two hip hop masterpieces, but did not instantly recognize the samples themselves because he was never exposed to the music of Funkadelic, Parliament, James Brown and other instrumental 70's Rock/Soul pioneers whose music was now weaving the evolving soundtrack of hip hop.
He did recognize, however, how music made people feel and react. In fact, J.R. analogizes the cross over of hip hop to the mainstream in the same way jazz must have felt to the earlier generation of mainstream youths. "I started using the hot hip hop beats of the day in my jazz sets and bought some studio equipment to make beats with.", Rotem stated. With his passion for hip hop and a new home studio, J.R. combined the discipline honed from years of formal study into making beats. Local rappers took note and quickly snatched up these tracks for $100-$500 a pop, including the likes of Suga-T and D-Shot from the E-40 camp.
J.R.'s first big break came when a CD of his beats landed in the hands of veteran Bay Area producers who planned on using J.R.'s talents for an upcoming En Vogue album. Eventually, the CD ended up with producer Dwayne Wiggins of Tony, Toni, Tone' fame who thought the beats better suited Beyonce and Destiny's Child. When the song "Fancy" made it on to the "Survivor" CD and a second song "My Song" ended up on a special issue Destiny's Child CD entitled "Love Destiny", J.R. acknowledged that there was never a professional highlight quite like placing these first two songs. "The personal high I received from placing these two records on the biggest group in music was all the validation I needed to take the risk of moving to L.A. and really jump starting my career."
J.R.'s second break came when a white Detroit rapper named Vishiss invited him to produce his debut CD on Dreamworks. While recording the CD, Dr. Dre heard one of the songs J.R. had produced for Vishiss through J.R.'s manager Zach Katz, and demanded the song. Dr. Dre had always held a special significance to J.R. and he had hoped to meet him but it had never happened. Vishiss understood the significance of such an offering and let J.R. sell the song.
In the end, the Vishiss project was shelved after Vishiss' record company was absorbed into Interscope. It was during this time that Katz helped transform J.R.'s career into what it is today. "Zach was the person who really helped me shape my sound. He made a lot of musical suggestions to me and even put me with more experienced producers like Denaun Porter who helped me with more of the technical aspects of producing." Once J.R. hooked up with Katz and began to refine his sound, his career took off like never before.
In November of 2006, J.R., his manager/business partner Zach Katz and younger brother Tommy Rotem inked a joint venture for their record label Beluga Heights with Epic Records/SONY that would allow them to foster the development of new artists including the break-out superstar Sean Kingston. Kingston became an overnight mega success, selling over a million albums worldwide in addition to eight million ring tones and singles.
In August 2008, Rotem and his partners moved Beluga Heights from Epic to a new joint venture Warner Bros. At Warner, Beluga has signed three new artists: Jason Derulo, Auburn and Iyaz. 2009 looks very promising for Rotem and his Beluga Heights team, with each of the new breakout artists having singles slated for release, as well as Sean Kingston’s sophomoric release already out in stores and climbing the charts.
Presently, J.R. is spending his time producing songs for the new crop of talent signed to his label as well as working with industry heavy weights including Rihanna, Leona Lewis, Natasha Bedingfield, Usher, Chris Brown, Game, Nas and Dr. Dre, to name a few.
Beluga Heights is housed in the prestigious Chalice Recording Studios in Los Angeles.