Longform

Scott Storch raked in hip-hop millions and then snorted his way to ruin

Page 3 of 7

Scott never returned to school his sophomore year. Bedillo ran into him on a city street and learned he was playing piano in an upscale Italian joint and working on the side in a local music studio. They rekindled their relationship. "I knew this guy was trouble," Bedillo says. "But I just couldn't stay away."

Once his spending began to get out of control, she tried to persuade him to slow down a bit, to maybe buy a Burger King or two.

tweet this

At age 17, Bedillo became pregnant with Scott's baby. He didn't show up for the birth of their son, named Steven. And he was "MIA after that," Vanessa says. "He was scared. I always wondered what might have been if he had parents like mine, who would have forced him to do the right thing."

Vanessa dropped out after her junior year to care for the baby. An aspiring actress, she gave up that dream in exchange for a succession of dull jobs. It would be 11 years before she would see Scott again.

—————

In 1992, a young music scout named Derek Jackson was at a North Philly block party when a very strange group took the stage. They called themselves the Square Roots, and they played acoustic hip-hop. "You had this big, heavyset Afro-wearing kid on the drums; an old rapper; a really young rapper; and then this little white guy on the keyboard," Jackson describes, laughing. "But once they started to play, it was mesmerizing."

Jackson brokered them a deal with Geffen Records. It was the commercial birth of the Roots, one of hip-hop's longest-lasting bands, now toiling nightly on Jimmy Fallon's late-night show.

The white boy on the keyboard was the group's sonic brain: Scott Storch, the human jukebox. During practice, bandmates liked to hurl song titles at him — anything in the Top 40 in the past 20 years — and watch his fingers spring to action. "Scott's mind is a computer," Jackson says. "His memory is his greatest gift."

Jackson, an all-business, frugal family man, became Storch's career-long manager. He says their relationship "falls somewhere between me being his father and me being his big brother."

Band members received $40 per diem in "food and weed money," says Dice Raw, then the group's teenage rapper. But Storch drove a Jaguar XJ and lived with a girlfriend in a South Street apartment. "Scott was broke too," Dice explains, "but he would spend it the first day he got it."

"I don't want it to make me lazy," Storch would explain. "I want to get rid of it so I'm forced to work."

Then he would cop a new watch or a Range Rover. "Money never changed Scott," Dice says. "It just enhanced him."

Once his spending began to get out of control, she tried to persuade him to slow down a bit, to maybe buy a Burger King or two.

tweet this

Storch was never one for the road grind. So in 1995, when Jackson swung him a $10,000 advance from Ruffhouse Records to join a conceptual hip-hop/soul/pop trio called Madd Crop, he quit touring with the Roots.

The project never birthed an album, but it marked Storch's musical adolescence. Bandmate Chuck Treece remembers Storch as a "tyrant in the studio" who drew inspiration from his own eclectic musical tastes: Barry White, Average White Band, the Ohio Players, early Stevie Wonder. "And then he took that swing and put it into our music," Treece says. "Even when he was programming a beat on a [drum machine], this cat made everything swing."

In 1998, Philadelphia rapper Eve introduced 25-year-old Storch to Los Angeles gangsta rap demigod Dr. Dre. Storch moved to Los Angeles to help produce tracks for Dre's Chronic 2001. The music Storch helmed — most memorably the addictive piano symphony behind the hit "Still D.R.E." — sealed his status as a top prospect in hip-hop production. After working with Dre, he partnered with beatmaker Timbaland to co-write Justin Timberlake's smash "Cry Me a River."

Though a millionaire by age 26, Storch already showed symptoms of an allergic distaste for bill payment. In 2001, the posh Le Montrose Suite Hotel in West Hollywood won a decision against him for nearly $3,000 in unpaid room bills.

Following the megahits with Dre and Timbaland, Jackson persuaded Storch to hoard his golden touch for himself. In 2001, Storch returned to South Florida to set up shop with his own company, Tuff Jew Productions. Says Jackson: "By then, we knew he could be a superstar in his own right."

—————

Yolanda Storch digs through her musty bedroom, which is clogged with hundreds of magazines featuring articles about Scott. She's looking for an audiocassette she made with him when he was 11.

Scott's grandfather shuffles, aided by a walker, into the living room, which is decorated with stuffed cats, Italian kitsch, clown puppets, and seated Barbie dolls. Photos of Scott and Matthew — on Santa's lap; in garish prom suits — cover every surface.

KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Gus Garcia-Roberts