Category: Los Angeles Times Music Producers Roundtable

From an idea to a single: RedOne, Alex Da Kid and Ari Levine discuss making hits

Grammy-nominated producers discuss their lives, careers and pop music in general at a roundtable event. 

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In 2010, the songs were ubiquitous, even if the music producers who helped create them were less well-known: Lady Gaga's “Bad Romance,” Eminem's “Love the Way You Lie,” Cee Lo Green's “[Forget] You” and B.o.B.'s “Nothin' on You” and “Airplanes” blanketed airwaves and filled earbuds with indelible hooks and melodies. 

But those hooks and melodies took work. Though they may drift out of the car stereo effortlessly, much sweat equity was spent crafting them. No one understands that process better than the music producers, whose job it is to turn an idea into a song. If the timing's right, the song hits. 

LADY_GAGA__AP_350 In advance of the Grammy Awards, which will be held Feb. 13 in downtown Los Angeles, three of today's hottest hitmakers, RedOne (Lady Gaga, Enrique Iglesias), Alex Da Kid (Eminem, B.o.B.) and Ari Levine of the Smeezingtons (Cee Lo, Bruno Mars) sat down with Times pop music critic Ann Powers for the first Los Angeles Times Music Producers Roundtable, an intimate conversation with artists who helped shape 2010's pop-music landscape.

On Saturday evening in front of a sold-out crowd, Powers led a freewheeling conversation that sought to put into words the magic that turns a bunch of notes on paper (or, these days, a hard drive) into a hit song.

“I think the most important thing is having a vision. Being able to see things before other people can see it,” Alexander Grant — better known as Alex Da Kid — told the audience inside the Grammy Museum's Clive Davis Theater. “Most of the songs you're working on, they won't even come out for three or four months at least, maybe longer, so you have to be able to think what's going to be a hit record in six months.”

Nadir Khayat, the Moroccan-born producer known as RedOne, knows something about foresight. His best known collaborator, and muse, is Lady Gaga.

“I just saw the vision,” he said of Gaga. “I just saw this girl that could be this [huge] thing. We went to the studio and talked about Queen, Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen and I'm thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, she knows music,'” Khayat said. “She was inspired. I've always thought of music as one, it's a universal language. That's what we did with the sound of Lady Gaga.”

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In advance of Times Roundtable, producer-songwriter Alex Da Kid talks Eminem, Grammy-nominated breakout year

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Alex Da Kid fast-tracked himself to one of hip-hop’s most-sought-after producer-songwriters after crafting two of last year’s biggest singles: B.o.B’s “Airplanes” and Eminem’s “Love The Way You Lie.” 

But the 27-year-old, born Alexander Grant, didn’t follow a typical path into music and was working toward a much different career goal. 

Born and raised in Wood Green, north London, he originally had his sights set on becoming a professional soccer player. Grant played for England’s Bristol City youth team before distractions — and an injury — sidelined his foray into the big leagues.

“To cut a long story short,” he jokes while lounging in a Beverly Hills office suite. “My friend gave me a program, Fruity Loops. I had just finished playing soccer, and I decided to start making tracks.

“I didn’t know anything about [making music], and I hadn’t had any experience with it before … but I just fell in love with it.”

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