MiddleChild: First of all I would like to know at what point and time in your life did you realize writing and production was something that you wanted to do and had the talent for?
Kendrick Dean: I would say probably since like age twelve I had a vision that music was somewhere that I needed to be. I had an attraction to it from watching awards shows like The Grammy's and The American Music Awards and studying people like Quincy Jones who had parts in creating music and production for those shows. Those were the type of producers that I kind of likened myself to. There wasn't too many Puff Daddy's or Jermaine Dupri's that I really related to. Most of them were like the true orchestrators and not just sound, but visual as well. I had it there at age twelve. I've always been in music as long as I remember. My Godmother bought me a PlaySkool drum set when I was probably like two years old and I studied classical piano, organs, jazz, drums, orchestra, violin while in school so it's always been a part of my fabric. My father conducted a band and played clarinet and my mother sang in the church choir. I have two older brothers that play saxophone and one of them sings so music has been a big part of my family forever.
MiddleChild: I see. And for the people who may be confused by your actual role in the studio with these artists, what do you actually do when you're putting in work?
Kendrick Dean: I am very blessed. The Bible says "to whom much is given, much is required" and I have really gotten numerous talents. Not only am I a composer/songwriter, but I am also a musician/producer. I'm a vocal arranger. I know a lot of people think I just write and I don't know where that exactly came from. I do write, but I also compose and produce music. I write time, lyric and melody and composition of music. So basically anywhere from the conception of the song to the completion of the record, I can be a part of it. I can be there. I'm not required to be there from A to Z every time I'm on a record. It just depends whatever is needed, but I am capable of it. Ironically, a lot of my placements are production credits than songwriting credits. It's interesting because the way I actually do the track, I embed a lot of the melody in the track. So that's a part of composition and songwriting anyway. So yes, I am a songwriter, producer and composer. So I guess you can just label it like that.
MiddleChild: Do you remember the first song that you ever put together?
Kendrick Dean: Oh man. I can't tell you the actual name of it, but it had to be like third or fourth grade. I took some music courses in grade school and they encouraged us to write and learn the format of writing songs so it had to be back then when I first started writing. Whether it be composing on piano or actually writing lyric and melody, it had to have been third or fourth grade.
MiddleChild: So how did you transition into this being your career? What set the wheels in motion to get you on board with all these great artists?
Kendrick Dean: My path to the industry... I can take it back to where it started. Like I told you about my background and being a trained pianist and playing drums and piano in the church. My cousin Bryan Cox and I would play often at church when he would come to Miami for the summers and he would stay with me as well. He would expose me to different styles of music where I normally would not have been exposed to at an early age. We kind of took different paths. As adults, he did do some college. He went to Clark, I went to Border but then after that I went into a profession of teaching. I taught for two years and while I did that, Bryan was well ahead in the business. He was very successful... multiple plaques, multiple Grammies. Reverting back to when I was like twelve or thirteen I always had this running prayers. I was like "God, if your intent for me in this world to be in this business, send someone ahead of me that I'm comfortable with and is close to me that can guide me". I always had that in the back of my mind for years as I was teaching. I always had my little keyboard with me in my apartment because I was doing music on the side also because it felt good. It felt good. Not necessarily for any specific project. So he called me one day and was like "I know you're still doing music. I know you're making beats. Send me a CD." So I sent him a CD of mostly tracks and he said "You're doing all of this on that one keyboard?" I was like "Yeaaa".
MiddleChild: Yeaaaa. (laughs)
Kendrick Dean: So he told me that I need to quit teaching and come up and do what I need to do. I would often make trips from Orlando to Atlanta. It was like six hours and I would get off from work about 3:30 and eat and just be a fly on the wall til about 12 or 12:30. Not having a session, but just wanting to observe, and I would do that until after midnight and head right back to Orlando and get here in just enough time to change my clothes and go straight to work the next day. So I did that a few times and Bryan saw my God given talents and passion and drive and all I needed was an opportunity. So he called me and gave me the invitation to move up here and I did just that and in a matter of a couple of weeks, literally, I got my first placement. My first release was later that year and it was my first Grammy nomination. The rest is history and we just got rolling after that. Chris Brown "Say Goodbye", Trey Songz "Last Time", Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey and of course Monica, who is like a sister to me. It's been a dream come true, but I feel like I'm just starting. So when you preface the question with "How does it feel to work with the greats..." that is great, but I feel like it's just just just getting started for me and it's much greater than the music I create. It's more about leaving a legacy and something for future generations.
MiddleChild: As I was checking out your discography I was blown away by the fact that many of the songs that I consider favorites from these artists were songs you had a hand in doing. No lie. I was like "Man!" I was pretty much familiar with a lot of the ones that you did, but even still looking at it on paper. It was the same way when I met my man Johnta Austin a few years ago because he has done so many of my favorites as well. I like knowing who is behind these tracks so I read the credits and I know Johnta is a great songwriter and most of the songs he did, you worked on with him or Bryan and you guys definitely do your thing. I don't think I can name my top five records that you have done so I will just name a few and ask you about your experience with working on them. The first one will be "Go Hard" by Joe.
Kendrick Dean: We did that at Stone Hedge at Zack Studios and Joe is a friend of Bryan, myself and of course Johnta for years so the experience was incredible. It was very natural to do that record and it's amazing to me still even while in the process, stepping outside of the box when me, Bryan and Johnta get together because you have so many talents and individuals. Of course Bryan is the forerunner and leads the way and he and I are kind of similar chord wise and structure wise and as far as music, history wise. He plays piano very fluently and either he or I would start and on that particular record I believe he started a note and I came in and balance with my orchestral background string arrangements and then we tie up loose ends together on a track. We're both are melodic track builders when it comes to producers. We don't just get the tracks, we pretty much build them. Then Johnta comes in and the way he writes is phenominal. Johnta will come in and listen to a track a few times, leave out the room and come back. He's like "Okay, I'm cool." He'll go in the booth and lay down the background, a part of the hook or the bulk or it or whatnot and sometimes I'll be like "What is he doing?" (laughs) and it won't make sense until like maybe fifteen minutes when he lays that lead line down and it's incredible. His history with Joe is very extensive. They go back for years so Johnta knows that artist very well, so him writing for that artist is not difficult at all. Even Joe himself, the way he performs the song in the booth, he is able to so accurately stack vocals like no one else I have ever seen in this business. Like he is accurate. I've never seen anyone that accurate on stacking! He is a perfectionist and I am too, so it helps when the artist has a great ear for what they like and what they know is right. Joe is definitely that artist.
MiddleChild: That's hot. And let me not forget to mention how much I love that "We Need To Roll" record. Joe is slept on. (laughs) Now I know you did work with Mariah as well. One of her best records on "E=MC2" to me is the one you laced her with, "I Stay In Love". That one stayed on constant repeat. So how was it working on that one?
Kendrick Dean: That was phenominal. An experience I will remember for the rest of my life because we did that song in a couple of different locations. We started writing that record in Mariah's penthouse in New York with Adonis and Bryan and Tom. Bryan started with the skeleton of the track and we put it on CD and went outside with the view. It used to overlook the Twin Towers... beautiful penthouse. We sat outside at night and kind of relaxed and talked our way through the record. We talked about concepts of the album and melodies and one thing about Mariah that people don't know is that she is very instrumental in her work. She knows what she wants. It was remarkable just to be in that comfort level with a world reknown superstar in their comfort zone. We weren't in a studio, we're talking about her house. We wrapped the song up in The Hamptons at Tommy Hilfiger's summer home. It was just a fairy tale type story. We started off in Mariah's house and wrapped it up at Tommy Hilfiger's summer home. I believe it was like Labor Day. One of those holidays during the summertime. And as we were getting the placement of the song, Darryl Simmons and L.A. Reid walk in... so talk about pressure. L.A. Reid is the guy who writes checks and the boss of the whole organization for Mariah Carey's project. So he walks in and he loves the song. So that was the moment of approval that I was doing a good job at what I do. Mariah is phenominal and we became great friends. She is a great individual.. like a child at heart. Sweet person. Extraordinary talent and in a lot of ways a sister as well.
MiddleChild: Alright! Next up is the top ten smash. One of the hardest records every by my homeboy Trey Songz. One of my absolute favorites from him period. Tell me about "Last Time".
Kendrick Dean: (laughs) Young Trey. I had actually met Trey prior to working that session. We recorded the song here in Atlanta. That was the song that I had a hand in on the track as well on the song, lyric and melody itself. So Bryan and I did the track. After awhile we had it on loop and formatted as we went through concepts with Trey. He was like "Hey, the last time" and I was like "That's kind of hot". We stood around in the vocal booth, like the live recording area in the studio in the A Room at Tree Sound. We let the CD play and loop... Myself, Trey, Bryan, Q and Nokio. I recall thinking I was Michael Jackson as I came up with the melodic part of that hook. *starts humming the melody* and I almost wanted to say "Hee Hee!" (both laugh) I don't know why, but it felt like a Michael type thing, right? So some type of lyric just was pulled out about living two different lives. The tail end of that hook Bryan came up with and Trey wrote the first verse and a lot of the second verse and melodies were lyrics I put together. We had a great time man and Trey is not only a really talented artist, but he is also a really talented songwriter as well. It's always better when you write for people that are better than you because it pushes you and I feel like that day I did. And I do all the time when I am writing with Bryan and Johnta and Adonis because I look up to them. So I feel it's always better for me. I'm not gonna grow if I keep people who are not striving to grow or are better than me around me.
MiddleChild: Exactly! Another record and I'm sure not too many people have heard it but we have leaks everyday and it's another song I have in constant rotation as well. "Bring It Back" by Brandy.
Kendrick Dean: "Bring It Back"? I'm not familiar with that record, "Bring It Back". I don't think I did that record. And what's interesting with some of these leaks, a lot of times I see these leaks on the internet and it says done by such and such and it could be a song I did and it's listed as being done by someone else. I know we all have it. Bryan gets it all the time. Jermaine gets it. Bryan, myself and Adonis did a song with Brandy and I think the working title of the song is "Cry". We did a remix to that and I don't think that has leaked at all. I HOPE not!
MiddleChild: I haven't heard that one and trust me Brandy has tracks that leak by the day. Everyday!
Kendrick Dean: We did a couple of records with Brandy and as far as I know none of them have leaked. Knock on wood. But I don't recall "Bring It Back", unless it's called something totally different than what it is.
MiddleChild: Okay cool. Well as we wrap it up the most recent project that you have done is with our girl Monica. I must say that the songs that you did with her are great. I can't even pick a favorite really because I know I definitely love "All I Know". I told her that one is my record for days! I love how you got her sounding on "Lesson Learned". The delivery on "Superman" is hot and has been getting so much play off my album also. I'm torn right now and don't know...
Kendrick Dean: Which one to pick? Well that's a testament to Monica because her heart, spirit and soul is in every record. Every record that she has done and this album is nothing short of that. It was such a pleasure and honor to have worked with her and build a friendship and relationship with her to where I believe we will be friends for the rest of our lives. You don't get that with everyone that you work with. Monica's experience was beyond just making music. You know her and you know she is a person of great character and wonderful spirit and a great great heart and when it's like that it's much easier for me to be more creative and feel good about what I'm doing. I believe it's just a great spirit and the whole woman and that's why the product is as well as it is. It's not so much the parts as it is the whole that contribute to making that project and those records the great records that they are. I just enjoy working with Mo and a lot of the time it would be just me and her (laughs) because both of us were up late at night. At the time we started working Mo was pregnant with Romelo and a couple of times she had to lay down in the studio and get her bearings together, but she is a fighter. She's a fighter and it's a pleasure to work with an artist like that. An artist that understands the importance of carrying the mantle or passing the baton of great music and respects heritage. She is definitely one of those and I told Bryan the other day, "You know Monica is a throwback artist". Like all day, she is a classic artist from that 90's era that is relevant to now and is still young because she has that timeless type of thing about her and particularly this project she was really able to do what she felt in her heart that she wanted to do. It showed alot. I'm honored to have been a part of "All I Know Is Me" which is an attitude type record. Monica can snap the neck and...
MiddleChild: And you can feel it as you play the record. Had me hollering "Get em!" (laughs)
Kendrick Dean: Yea Yea. "Truth is I don't need you to define who I am..." Yea yea. That's a snappy kind of record and the co-writers on that were Torica and Tasha Polk. So props to them as well for contributing to that song and giving that angle. When Mo heard it for the first time she was like "What you doing reading my diary or something?!" (both laugh) And that's my job. My job is to be around the artist and soak it up like a sponge without them knowing what I'm doing and building a trust. I would never disrespect an artist and put their business out there in a song or anything like that. My job is to creatively tell their story and I love when I'm able to effectively do that and they feel like I went in their diary or talked to their mama or something like that. That makes me feel good because that means I was able to tap into their spirit. Know what I mean?
MiddleChild: I know that you guys did a song called "So Bad" on the pilot that aired on Peachtree. Did you actually finish that song?
Kendrick Dean: "So Bad". Oh yea. That's one of them songs that we're holding in the pile in case J Records do some type of re-release. Hopefully that song will be on there because I think J Records will probably do a re-release or either her next album will come relatively quicker because the momentum is so strong. But yea, she performed that song very well.
MiddleChild: I didn't even have to hear the entire song to know that. I felt that just from what was showed on the episode. I was dying for about two years. I'm still dying to hear it. I have to get that one if nothing else surfaces because I love her retro sounding uptempos and that song has so much sass to it. Hopefully we get it down the line because I'm not the only fan waiting to hear that one.
Kendrick Dean: They want to hear that and they want to hear "Infinity" really badly!
MiddleChild: Oh my God they want "Infinity" really bad. They ask about that song daily.
Kendrick Dean: They want to hear that one really bad. (laughs)
MiddleChild: Indeed. So tell me what is your biggest goal for the remainder of 2010?
Kendrick Dean: I feel that if you don't contribute to helping people then all of your efforts are for not and I feel like we're all here to share and help each other and spread light at the end of the day and to demonstrate unselfish ways to grow. So I want to grow in every area of my life from spiritual to family and personal to finance. I think the first key to that is being humble and I don't feel like I'm there yet and I don't know if I'll ever feel like I'm there yet. That teaches me and continues to push me. Of course as far as projects I would like to have more number one records this year and more platinum plaques and Grammy nominations. As a matter of fact I'm just going to say that those things are going to happen because I believe in speaking things into existence and that's going to happen in 2010 and beyond. I just want to continue to give off good vibes man because there is so much negative in this world. I don't know why people like to attach themselves to negativity. Just be you and not try and be like everyone else. Let God speak through you and continue to follow him and do right. That's what I want to continue to do. Now if you ask me this question in 2011 and 2012, it will probably be pretty much the same answer, but thats what I been doing though.
MiddleChild: (laughs) Stay consistent!
Kendrick Dean: That has been the key to my success and of course having a great work system around me like family and friends. That has definitely been a blessing for me.
MiddleChild: Well I wish you continued blessings and success. I know you will have it though because of your motivation and drive. I know the more you crank em out, the more I'm going to love them because I promise you I couldn't even decide the ones I wanted to cover with you. So continue to do your thing and I promise I will continue to let everyone know that my boy Kendrick "Wyldcard" Dean is the business.
Kendrick Dean: Thank you and I appreciate that. Definitely look out for more things to come. Musically, I'm developing a few artists of my own and I'm doing a lot of branching out and branding myself as well. So look out for those things. I'm supporting a charity as well. I'm supporting the Susan B. Coleman 5K Race against breast cancer in May. I'll be running a 5K and I enjoy doing things like that and giving back to the community so be on the lookout for things like that too. Not just about the music and the head nodding. It's about giving back and I'm real big on that.
MiddleChild: No doubt. Well thats whats up. I appreciate your time Kendrick.
Kendrick Dean: I appreciate you.
MiddleChild: No problem. Have a good one.
Kendrick Dean: You too.
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