Grammy Awards: 'Empire State of Mind' producer Al Shux knows hip hop -- and the metric system
Backstage at the pre-telecast show for the 53rd Grammy Awards on Sunday afternoon, Alexander Shuckburgh, better known by his producing name Al Shux, spent most of his time convincing reporters that he’s a hip-hop head –- one entrenched enough to have crafted one of 2010’s most ubiquitous hip-hop/pop hits.
Shuckburgh, a University of Westminster grad -- and noticeable Brit: dapper in a polished black tux, coiffed hair and thick accent -- is the songwriter and producer responsible for Jay-Z and Alicia Keys' “Empire State of Mind.”
The anthemic ode to their New York City upbringings took home best rap song and best rap/sung collaboration earlier in the afternoon.
When quizzed on his love of hip-hop, Shuckburgh mentioned Dr. Dre, one of the usual suspects that are oft thrown out at these types of events (along with 2Pac, Biggie, Nas, etc.), but also went deeper into the rap repertoire, listing Gang Starr as one of his all-time favorites.
Despite his love for the genre, Shuckburgh admits the track, which samples "Love on a Two-Way Street" by the Moments, wasn’t originally meant for a rapper.
“We thought it could work though. It didn’t have a complete vision,” he said. “Originally the song had [vocalists] on it. When Jay-Z heard it, he wrote his verses and then Alicia Keys wrote the bridge.”
The single, also up for record of the year among some pretty stiff competition (Eminem's “Love the Way You Lie,” Lady Antebellum's “Need You Now,” “Nothin’ on You” from B.o.B., and Cee-Lo's “… You”), was the rapper’s first No. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100 chart as a lead artist in his 14-year-plus career.
As for the way the final product turned out?
“Obviously there is only one person who can pull that off,” he said.
--Gerrick D. Kennedy
Photo: Producer-songwriter Shux arrives for the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Credit: Robyn Beck /AFP /Getty Images.