[INTERVIEW] JORDAN HOLLYWOOD WAS MADE FOR THIS

Jordan Hollywood can do it all; from rapping with elite precision, to producing and recording himself, then mixing and mastering his own tracks. The Florida rapper built everything from the ground up, starting by selling verses to rappers in order to save up and get out of his living situation. After working alone for a while, he built his own studio and started his own label, The Wasted Youth. Hollywood’s talent for songwriting eventually caught the eye of Jason Derulo, who recruited Jordan to work with him on his album. By that time, Jordan had numerous labels knocking at his door and he decided to go with Quality Control, citing his love and respect for Coach K and P for the way they run the label. Jordan soon went go on tour with his label mate Lil Baby, as well as collaborating with him on his debut QC single ‘Let Me Find Out’.

Since then, Jordan’s continued to make hard-hitting, dope music with his hit song ‘Testament’ featured on the Quality Control album ‘Control The Streets: Vol. 2’ which reached #3 on the US Billboard 200. Back in July, Jordan came back from the pandemic with a crazy track, ‘Ugly Song’, produced by his friend and frequent collaborator SkipOnDaBeat. The track boasted a fresh take on Bubba Sparxxx’s early 2000s track ‘Ugly’, produced by Timbaland and through mutual friend and super producer Hitmaka, Skip was able to link up with Timbaland and show him the track. Timbaland loved the track so much he added additional harmonies and vocals, which doesn’t happen often! ‘Ugly Song’ immediately rose up the charts so they shot a music video, produced by Blank Square Productions founder Edgar Esteves.

From early tracks like ‘Trill Shit’ and ‘DMX’ to more recent work like ‘Pleasures’ and ‘Ugly Song’, Jordan has maintained high-quality, smash hits that are sure to stay stuck in your head. With a new project coming out soon titled ‘Only The Paranoid Survive’, read VIPER‘s interview about his upcoming album, paranoia, Jason Derulo and more…

You were born and raised in Florida, are you still based out there now?

Forever, I’m never leaving; I’ve tried. I’ve tried to live in other places before, it’s just nothing’s like Florida man! I love it so much.

You signed to Quality Control which is based in Atlanta, do you go on trips out there a lot?

Not as much recently, I have my own facility down here; my own label. Everything I do is in house, all my producers are located here and anybody that I sign moves here. Part of my goal in life is to have my own QC, they gave me the platform, they gave me the bag and they gave me the opportunity to be able to do that. A lot of artists look up to other artists but I’m more inspired by people like Coach K and P than I am by artists. I see myself being a real serious businessman one day in the music industry. I already am, but I really see myself being somebody like that. 

What does your label, The Wasted Youth, mean to you?

I was just lonely being a creator, I record myself a lot so I’ll be in a studio by myself, or just me and an engineer and I wanted producers that I could build with. Any time I had an idea, I wanted to be able to bring it to life. At the time I had a director but I was lacking producers and other collaborators. Once I started collaborating with a lot of people, I was watching their life change and I realised that I need to start signing these people. I love helping people, but if I could benefit off it as well, then it’s a win-win. That’s when I decided to start a label, a gang, a crew, whatever you want to call it, called The Wasted Youth. Like minded individuals that I get along with, we have loyalty for each other and we help each other in every way possible when it comes to music or our personal lives, we’re a family and it’s a great thing. To me, The Wasted Youth is like, I wasted my youth man. Not only chasing music, but there’s people out there who play sports that can’t go to parties and stuff like that, they’re part of The Wasted Youth too. I spent my whole childhood in the studio, I dropped out of school at an early age, so I wasn’t in high school doing all the high school things that a normal kid was. I was in the studio all the time and to me, that’s The Wasted Youth.

It all led up to where you are now. 

Oh yeah, not only where I’m at in life, but also mentally. I feel like it does something to you, when you miss that part of your life. I have a lot of anxiety, paranoia, I don’t trust nobody – I got a lot of trust issues and stuff like that. 

You talk a lot about paranoia a lot in your music, is that something you’ve always dealt with?

I’ve always been an anxious person. I’ve always been a guy that’ll never trust nobody, like my whole life. But more so in the last two to three years. I think it started when I went on tour with Lil Baby in 2019, we were just traveling the country, with no security on a massive tour. I shared a bus with my boy, Lil Marlo, rest in peace. Being on tour, you’ve got to be very alert and move very militant because it’s dangerous; it’s dangerous being an artist. I think the paranoia started from that aspect, just moving around and doing these shows. Hanging out with people, fans and girls after the show, you don’t know their intentions and it causes you to be real paranoid. Coming home from tour, I ended up having a child on New Year’s Eve 2020 so that made me paranoid. Coronavirus hit, I started getting paranoid over that. The music has always been my escape but more than ever it really helped me feel good. It’s healthy to be paranoid. It’s not a negative thing at all. Anxiety to me is an alarm, it’s like an alarm system in your house, right? When you start feeling anxious that’s when you’re like, ‘oh something’s not right, I should probably get out of here’ or ‘I shouldn’t be around this person’ or ‘I should change locations’. It’s very healthy and I think that’s the reason for a lot of my success, to be honest with you.

A frequent collaborator of yours is SkipOnDaBeat. You seem to have a really great musical chemistry and everything you’ve made together is a smash.

Not only musically, but personally as well; that’s my brother. He discovered me actually, he hit me up when he heard my album, ‘Sorry For This’. He was telling me how much he likes my mixing and the quality of my music. I told him to pull up and when I met him, I told him straight up, “man you’re going to make it but if you work with me, you’re going to make it faster.” Everything I told him I was going to do for him, I did. He’s always been loyal with me, I’ve managed a lot of people in my life. There’s people that you manage and they’re supposed to give you a cut of everything they make and they don’t pay you your fee, talk to other people behind your back, take meetings without you. He’s never been that guy. He’s always been 100 with me from day one and I’ve always been 100 with him. Now we’re partners as well, we started a company called Bounce House together and we sign other producers together. Once he blew up, I was like “let’s do it again, but this time let’s do it together.” That’s the type of guy I am. We just renovated our new studio; it’s four studios and me and him split all the money half and half; it’s just beautiful. To be able to meet somebody four years ago and tell them you’re going to help them, now we help each other at a high level and it’s a beautiful thing.

When did he approach you with the with the ‘Ugly Song’ beat?

He called me like “yo i’m going to work with Hitmaka, he’s bringing me to a Timbaland session.” We’ve been working with Hitmaka since I was 15 years old and I was like “wow that’s fucking dope.” He’s like “how do you feel about me sampling one of his beats to play for him?” I said, “man I just wouldn’t do Aaliyah or Justin Timberlake. Let’s pick one that wouldn’t be so obvious.” We started going through his discography on the phone together and we saw the Bubba Sparxxx one on YouTube. Immediately we were like “oh, this is it.” He made the beat in like 15 or 20 minutes, he went to the studio and played the instrumental for Timb. He texted me to say “oh Timb loves this shit.” I immediately loaded it up and recorded it but I never sent it back, sometimes I like to live with records before I even send it to my friends. I send it to him the next day and he texted it to Timb. Timb freaked out, he loved it and you know, the rest is history. He also hopped on it once I sent it back, he went back in the booth and he added ad-libs and harmonies on the hook; it was just fucking crazy.

It’s crazy how quick some producers can work.

I think what separates Skipp is that he’s a real producer. He went there, had the idea to sample a Timb beat before he goes to the session, right? He took the time to actually do it minutes before he got in the car and drove there. He got there, played it for him, I recorded it, he sends it back to him and gets him to hop on the song. He produced a whole record, he literally got him on the record. I wouldn’t have a song with Timb if it wasn’t for Skip; that was really dope.

I love that song! You got some lyrics in there that are hilarious.

Yeah, I guess so, but what one person thinks is ugly, the other person might think is beautiful, you know what I mean? Girls have called me ugly before but then I have girls telling me that I’m the most beautiful man on Earth, so it is what it is. I think all women are beautiful at the end of the day. It’s a fun song, I was having fun.

The video is super well done too.

Edgar produced it. It was directed by my boy, Austin McCracken, one of the directors that works with him. The crazy thing is, I was supposed to have a real horse, but that wasn’t in the budget. So when I showed up to set, he was like the first scene we’re doing is the horse scene. I’m looking around and I’m like “where’s the horse?” A guy pops out in a green morph suit, I’m like “there’s no way in hell I’m about to hold this guy by a fucking leash in a green suit, there’s no way that’s going down right now.” Ended up having to go down, the director pulled me aside and he was like “bro, believe me, just trust me, this is going to be sick.” It ended up coming out sick.

Do you like to have a hand in the creative direction of your music videos? 

Always, I always have my whole life. Every video I’ve ever shot, I either came up with the idea or just took the idea they had to the next level. To me, the two funnest parts about being artist are performing on stage and shooting music videos; those are my two favourite things to do. Shooting music videos is easy to me, even more fun – I love it. I think part of my name being Jordan Hollywood that has always stuck with me is that I get to make movies, I really feel like that. A lot of directors that I work with end up blowing up but I don’t want to take credit for it, I started with a lot of up-and-coming directors and they were able to use me and my creativity and my music as a canvas for them to show their talents as well. So as I was growing with my music, the directors were also blowing up as well; I think that’s very fucking cool.

Tell us about this project coming up, ‘Only The Paranoid Survive’, you’ve been teasing that project for a minute now! 

My favourite part about the album is the way that I was able to take crazy, loud, hard-hitting beats and still be personal on the record. A lot of people when they get real, personal and conscious in their art and the music, it gets like real boom-bappy with the beats. I love that type of music and there are moments like that on the album, but I feel like I was able to mix the trap drums with the cinematic music and my lyrics; they have the same message. That’s what I’m most excited about, the production and the production value; the mixing and the mastering. I spent a long time working on the mixing and just the transitions, the order. It’s a beautiful work of art and I’m very proud of it.

Have you always mixed and mastered your own stuff or had a hand in that? 

When I was a kid, like 15 or 16, I went to a studio for the first time and I met this guy named Cyclone. He taught me real fast how to use pro tools, he was a DJ at the time so he would always be out DJing and he would ask if I want to go but I was too young, I couldn’t get in the club. So he would leave me at the studio and I would be on YouTube, he would teach me something, then he would leave and I wouldn’t be able to record myself, so I’d have to go on YouTube and figure it out, or I would call him while he’s in the club or text him and he would tell me how to do it. So from the time I was 15 until today, I’ve been recording myself. There’s been moments where I’ve had engineers but when I’m in the booth and I have to explain myself, it’s quicker for me to just do it as that slows down my process. I like to work fast and at a steady pace. This album, I recorded every song on there myself besides maybe one or two. I have an engineer, his name’s Ash and he’s an incredible engineer, he’s in charge of keeping it organised and he does a lot of mixing and other stuff. But my first album ‘Sorry For This’, I recorded and mixed the whole thing myself, mastered as well. 

Sometimes if you want to do something right you just got to do it yourself.

Especially if you have a certain vision, right? Imagine an artist during lockdown and stuff, if you’re at the house and you don’t have your engineer then you were kind of fucked. You’d be surprised, there’s so many artists out there that don’t even have studios at their house. That’s crazy, that’s like being in the NBA and not having a basketball hoop. You have to be able to get in whenever, you might have an idea when you wake up and you’ve got to be able to just lay it down. You can’t wait on the engineer to pull up or wait on your manager to book you a studio.

You have this great song ‘Testament’ on the Quality Control compilation album. On the song you give a shout out to P for signing you and you talk about how you relate to him because you guys have both been betrayed. What was it like when you first met Coach K and P and can you expand more on the betrayed line? 

First and foremost, that was the best song on the whole compilation, I can say that now two years later. This is probably the first time I ever publicly said that but it’s literally the best song on the whole compilation. I love Coach K and P, but they put me down at track 32 on it. If it was in the top five, it would have probably been one of the biggest songs of 2019. I feel like that’s one of my proudest that I’ve ever done, I love it. I was performing that song on tour before it was even released and I just knew it was special. When it comes to Coach and P, I remember when I was unsigned, I had no label, no management, no nothing and I knew I had to fill that void; I just needed to add to my team. I had a lot of big ideas and a lot of big music and I didn’t have nobody to help guide me in the right direction. I did a lot of research and I was taking a lot of meetings and I wasn’t really fucking with nobody. I didn’t like no one’s vibes, I didn’t like the corporate vibes. I’ve always been into people that I feel like I can relate to, real hustlers, people that are going to get their hands dirty, spend their money and that was Coach K and P. After doing all my research, I finally met them and they were real genuine people, pure people, I just felt their vibes immediately. Then I did more research after meeting them and I realised who they were and I felt comfortable right off the rip, they made me feel like family; it’s just a beautiful thing. As far as the betrayed line, if you think about the old QC, even before I was signed they had 15 artists, then it just became Lil Yachty and the Migos. Then it was me and Lil Baby but before that, they had Rich the Kid and Jose Guapo and all these guys. I don’t know what their business was or what their situations were and all of that, but I know that I’ve been through that where I’ve signed artists and I’ve helped build them up and then they’ve left me. I watched it happen with P and I don’t know what happened if he was betrayed or what, but that’s how I looked from the outside looking in; I felt it, that’s why I said that line.

You’ve been songwriting for a while and you’ve also written songs for other artists, including Jason Derulo. What’s it like writing songs that are outside of your norm?

I never like woke up and said, “I want to be a writer.” When I was young, probably like 18, there was this football player named Bryant McKinnie and he had a female artist and he would tell me, “I’ll pay you this much if you write songs for her.” I was like “say less!” I’m a kid, I needed the money; I was paying my bills off of that. There’s a stripper from Miami, a famous stripper her name was Tip Drill and I used to write for her too. In the beginning, it was a lot of females and I felt comfortable writing for females; it was always weird to be writing raps for a dude. It’s like, “I’m a dude that raps so you’re going to basically be me before I’m me, right?” So with females, I never really felt like that. I actually enjoyed it, I love being around women. She used to literally pay my bills, she used to get off work and pay me with a huge stack of ones and buy a freestyle from me once a week. That’s how I got into it, I started making a lot of music and Derulo is from Broward County as well so he ended up at my studio. I played music and he looked at me like “yo, you could be one of the biggest writers ever.” I never looked at myself like that, he was like, “you want to come work with me on my album?” I was like, “fuck it!” So I went with him to LA, I didn’t know what to expect. I just hopped on a plane, I got there and like this guy is rich as fuck. Like this guy’s Pop music is different and I was just around that, enjoying that life and scene. There’s levels to this shit and he’s one of the highest levels that I’ve seen.

You wrote the whole song for him? 

Yeah, well because he’s talented as fuck – this guy writes songs for other artists – he doesn’t need nobody anymore, he’s fucking awesome but he sings with a high pitched voice like a super-high, falsetto pitched voice. So when you’re working and collaborating with him, I had to like try to make my voice like that in order to sell the song when we were doing it. I can’t go in the booth with a low voice if it’s high, so I learned how to use my voice in ways that I never in a million years thought I could and that’s fucking dope. After working on his album and leaving LA and coming back to Florida, that’s when I made ‘Sorry For This’. That’s an album where I was super melodic and that was my first time ever doing that in my career; super melodic and super vulnerable. Shout out to him man, he helped me a lot.

I’m sure you learned a lot from him.

I ask questions, like engineers are my favourite! When I see an engineer and I’m in the studio with a big artist, I’m sitting next to the engineer like, “yo what plug-in is that?” Or “why did you do that?” or “how did you do that?” I want to be able to go back and tell my engineer how to do it. When I’m in studios and I see like certain equipment they’re using and I sound good on it, I’ll go back home and start researching it and the next thing you know, I buy it. I’m very in to gear, me and my engineer buy a lot of gear. A lot of rappers buy jewellery, we buy jewellery too but there’s levels to this. If you want to compete with the Drakes and the Travis Scotts – where their quality is at the next level – they’ve got people like Mike Dean and OVO 40. I want my engineer to be like Mike Dean but you can’t be Mike Dean unless you got the equipment, you got the knowledge. I just know that I want to compete with these guys man, I want my videos to be as good as Travis Scott’s. To me he has some of the best videos but his budget is like $500,000, even more who knows? My budget would be $30,000, you know what I’m saying? I got to compete with that so I know I have to dig deep with my creativity in order to compete, to get close. A lot of times people tell me to stay in your league, compete with your league, compete with other people that got 100,000 followers and you’ll feel better about yourself because you’ll feel like you’re winning more. I can’t live like that, I’ve got to compete against Drake even though I’m nowhere near it. That’s just the competitive nature of this music shit, that’s what keeps me going and that’s what helps me dig deep every day.

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Interview by Calvin Schneider

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