By Rebecca Bulnes
By Laurie Charles
By Chuck Strouse
By Lee Zimmerman
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By Falyn Freyman
By Hans Morgenstern
Hip-hop producer Jazze Pha is supposed to be working hard on his solo album. For the past hour or so, he's been ensconced in a vocal booth at one of Circle House's three recording studios, rhyming the same verse over and over again.
"Accounts with no amounts/No, that can't happen," he raps on the untitled track before the beat suddenly cuts off. Then he says the same words over and over again, occasionally moving forward to add lines such as "More like, Dad, congrats, you went platinum."
It's a maddening process, at least from an observer's point of view. Meanwhile Cee-Lo and Jazze Pha's songwriting partner, Jasper Cameron, are cutting up in the studio. One of the Circle House's assistants, Ryan Evans, has just brought in a plate of chocolate chip cookies, and Cee-Lo is pouncing on them, loudly smacking his lips and dipping them into a glass of milk.
"That's going to be chip milk," laughs Jazze from his perch. He then tries rapping the same lines: "More like, Dad, congrats..."
"You need to drill each line at the end," instructs Mark "Exit" Goodchild, the engineer who is recording the session.
"Okay, come on, let's go!" says Jazze. He continues to shape the same verse, adding new vocal flourishes each time, stretching the syllables so the words stay on beat. But he doesn't appear to be straining himself. The mood in the studio is relaxed, not tense. The young men tinkering away at the untitled song are really just having fun, eating, and hanging out. When he finally emerges from the booth to hear a playback, he looks clean and sharp, his platinum chain with a crucifix dangling from his neck.
Goodchild cues up the number, and a guitar track chopped up Premier-style booms over the loudspeakers. Jazze's second verse rolls over the beat: "Accounts with no amounts, no that can't happen/Never will my son be like, Pops, what happened?/More like, Dad, congrats, you went platinum/Show 'em how it feels to go to school in a Phantom/Yeah, I like them hoes, but still can't stand 'em/See you hoes, speak my piece, and then abandon."
The song swings with a natural gait atypical of Jazze's productions, which encompass Trick Daddy's "In Da Wind," Nappy Roots's "Awnaw," and Ludacris's "Area Codes." His sound represents earthy qualities that play yin to crunk's yang, less about gold-toothed grills and hot club tracks than Southern hospitality and lazy summer afternoons. "The rhythm that we roll with is like a midtempo double-time," he says, "or it's uptempo club that's a fusion of hip-hop mixed with techno elements." That's not to say Jazze Pha doesn't make hits. On the contrary, the group in Studio A radiates a confidence and air of success that allows Jazze to hang out and soak up the good vibes and creative energy.
Based in Atlanta, Phalon "Jazze Pha" Alexander decided to travel down to Miami for the week so he could focus on his album, Big Love. "It's away from all the traffic," he says of Circle House, noting that he's already finished "a couple of songs" so far, and is scheduled to fly back to Atlanta the next day. "At home, everybody knows all you have to do is pull up and see if Jazze's car is outside, and then [if it is] it's a party. The energy's good, but sometimes you want to just get away." He gives high marks to Circle House's staff, praising them for being "real hospitable."
Big Loveis only one of Jazze's many projects. There is his new record label, Sho'Nuff, which counts Jody Breeze, Ciara, and Young Jeezy among its artists. Ciara's debut single, "Goodies," is produced by Lil' Jon and features a guest appearance by Petey Pablo; it is already garnering airplay on Miami stations such as 103.5 the Beat (WMIB-FM).
Then there are Jazze's freelance assignments, which don't come cheap. He usually charges around $40,000-$60,000 a beat, though he adds, "It depends who it is. If you family, you might get something different." He has recently finished "Forever," a track for Trick Daddy (who happens to be recording in another Circle House studio as Jazze speaks). On Saturdays he hosts a radio show that broadcasts from 6:00-10:00 p.m. on Hot 107.9 (WHTA-FM) in Atlanta.
After Big Love drops and presumably blows up, what comes next for Jazze Pha? Like every other hip-hopper, he wants to be a multimedia mogul on the scale of Sean "P. Diddy" Combs or Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter. "It takes time," says Jazze, smiling with ease. "But we're moving in that direction."