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

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Julius is a lucid former Brooklyn storekeeper with a big, square head and skeptical eyebrows. He wears a polo shirt and boxy blue jeans. The octogenarian Jew gained an encyclopedic knowledge of hip-hop by mining mention of his grandson in music magazines at bookstores.

"There were warning signs early that a crash and burn was in the future."

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"Did you know that Scott won producer of the year in 2005? Did you?" he demands. "He beat out Dr. Dre, Timbaland, and Kanye West."

Yolanda once read that her son returned to South Florida to spend more time with her. That's not the way things turned out. He'd send for her and his grandfather two or three times a year, shuttling them by limo to Café Avanti or Smith & Wollensky in Miami Beach, where he'd sit with a silk shirt undone to his abdomen, shades blocking his eyes, and a new girl by his side. "There were always bodyguards at the table, and they'd listen to the conversations," Yolanda recalls. "Ninety percent of the time, he was in a hurry to get done with dinner because he would say so-and-so was waiting for him at the studio."

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. He didn't listen. "Ma, this is my image. This is what's separating me from other producers," she remembers him replying. "They expect this from me."

Nowadays, Scott is in Los Angeles, attempting to make a comeback on Dr. Dre's upcoming album, Detox. Asked to handicap his grandson's shot at regaining fame, Julius doesn't hesitate: "I think his chances are very good. Perhaps if he stays away from those jerky broads, like Paris Hilton or Lindsay —"

"Daddy, don't say that!" Yolanda screams, suddenly emerging from the bedroom.

"Lindsay Lohan is a jerky broad!" he continues, undeterred. "She's a lesbian and —"

His daughter clasps a hand over his mouth. "Don't say that! Scott's going to get angry! He's going to disown us! Just say, 'I hope Scott gets his career together and becomes the world's top producer again.'"

She adds, "And that this time, he remembers his family."

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Vanessa Bedillo must not have been reading the magazines. Still living in Philadelphia, she hadn't heard about her high school ex's success. So in 2004, when their 11-year-old son Steven began to wonder who his father was, she hired a private investigator to track him down. "The guy turned up two residences for him — one in Coral Gables and a mansion in Beverly Hills," she recalls. "And right then, I knew: The son of a bitch really made it."

They met at an Olive Garden in Miami. Scott acquainted himself with the sharp, witty kid who shared his light eyes, nervous tics, and taste for cheese manicotti.

After much consternation, Vanessa agreed to move to Miami so Scott could rekindle his relationship with his son. At the time, it seemed right. "We're 30 years old; we're not 18 anymore," she recalls saying. "It's time to do the right thing."

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Every day held the same stoner's schedule for Derek Jackson's hit maker. He'd roll out of bed no earlier than 1:30 p.m. and throw on an expensive suit jacket and torn jeans. Within a couple of hours, he'd be on the freeway in the sort of sports car that tourists in bathing suits like to pose beside. By the time he pulled into the parking lot of the Miami Hit Factory — the plush lime-painted sonic temple on NE 149th Street where James Brown, Michael Jackson, and Iggy Pop have all recorded hits — Scott Storch already would have mentally fine-tuned the little symphonies in his head.

Unlike most hip-hop producers, Storch eschewed music samples. It was always his own bejeweled fingers tapping on the keyboard while a tight crew of session musicians banged out his compositions seven days a week, 13 hours a day. It was a signature sound — synthy, staccato, and light on its feet, with melodies inspired by Middle Eastern and Indian music — that radio listeners could not escape between 2002 and 2005.

"There were warning signs early that a crash and burn was in the future."

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A few of Storch's most popular productions: Beyoncé's "Naughty Girl" in 2002, Terror Squad's "Lean Back" in 2003, 50 Cent's "Candy Shop" in 2004, and Chris Brown's "Run It" in 2005. All were top five hits on Billboard's Hot 100 chart. Three of them occupied the number one spot for months at a time. "It was like everything we touched was gold," boasts manager Jackson. "It was like... a fever."

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Gus Garcia-Roberts