When you hear the words “Justice” and League together you normally think of the fiction group of superheros that would from time to time defend us all from impending doom. Where these guys aren’t superheros nor going to save anybody from impending doom they are far from fictional ambiances of our imagination. The J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League ,or Just Undeniable Some of The Illest Producers Ever,is comprised of Rook, Kenny, and Corleone and have been crafting hits for artists from Rick Ross and Mary J. Blige to their current endeavors with pop superstar Katy Perry. With a bright future ahead of them these Tampa natives are by definition, ceasing the day. On one very scorching summer afternoon they sat down with yours truly to speak about several topics including their fantasy pick for one artist to start a label around. Enter the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League…
illRoots: First I have to thank you for sitting down with me today. If you three weren’t in the music industry right now what would you be doing?
Rook: We probably wouldn’t know each other, and for me personally there was no other option. I’m pretty sure I can speak for all of us when I can say that we were determined that this is what we were going to be doing, no other options.
iR: All three of you have manufactured a wide variety of hits all ranging from R&B to hardcore Hip-Hop. Why do you create music?
Rook: Another good question. There are several reasons why we love making music. We get paid making music so you have to love that.
Kenny: When you’re born with a specific talent and you have the option to pursue and further that, why not? I love making music first and foremost and eventually the opportunity presented itself to get together with a team to produce full time.
iR: In 07′ you guys received several accolades from Billboard to the Grammy’s for your work with Mary J. Blige. What songs, released and/or unreleased, are your favorites and what did you take from the studio sessions with such a talented person?
Rook: I think working with her it kind of made us realize that we actually are REAL music producers. When we are in the studio with her she actually listens to the input and we listen to hers and it is a collaborated effort. Not everyone can go in the studio and work with Mary and we have at least three to four unreleased songs that are amazing. Of course the crown jewel is No One that got us our Grammy.
iR: That has to be a crazy experience to work with Mary, but when you were making “No One” what was the specific process of putting the record together?
Rook: Back then we were just getting into the music business. So on the Breakthrough album we didn’t meet her. It was all done through Chris Hicks. He heard the skeleton of the beat and he loved it so much that he was like “Go ahead and finish that beat” and we finished it and added some live instruments. Then Chris got one of his writers on Warner/Chappelle, they got it to Mary and she loved it. When we finally got in the studio with Mary it was crazy because we didn’t know how much of our work she knew. She pointed out little guitars and sounds that were underneath sounds and she really had an ear for music and she loved our music. We were humbled.
iR: After you got the publishing deal through Chris Hicks, how did set yourself up for success?
Rook: We had a plan when we first got together and we first sat down with our managers and the plan worked out pretty well. Creatively we were just ourselves, we never conformed to something that somebody else wanted us to be. We were so talented that we could remake a beat that somebody wanted us to remake to what they wanted. Our main thing was that we would never deviate from this plan and so now it worked out.
iR: Now that you have your publishing deal whats steps have you set up to make sure your sustainable?
Rook: When you get your publishing deal that’s when the work really starts. When you start turning your songs into the publisher and to the artist and building relationships with the artists and managers. For us it was more about the relationships with the artists and managers rather than the A&Rs and publishers and what not. We get along good with the artists first; its like a snowball effect and we all mesh well in the studio.
iR: One of the biggest songs you guys produced was Maybach Music. What was the exact starting point on making Maybach Music?
Kenny: That particular skeleton started back in 2006 and Rick Ross was in Tallahassee doing a show and that’s when we were living in Tallahassee as well. My manager Ivan set things up to where he could come to the house and listen to a few tracks and we basically got together some beats that would push the envelope as far as Ross’ sound and he ended up coming over. That beat was one of the beats that he heard and ended up going crazy over. It seemed like automatically he had this idea for “Maybach Music” because that was the first thing he said. He’s like “Yo I’ma need that Maybach music” and he’s like “Yo, I’ma get Jay on it” he had the full vision right then and there. He did his vocals right there and we ended up having to replay and re-imagine certain elements of that beat and make it totally original because first off it was a sample in that beat. There was obviously going to be a lot of problems with getting that cleared because it was a Beatles sample. We went back and forth with the label clearance department about seven times trying to get that beat correct. That in itself made it much more of a challenge because we had to get it correct for it to work. Obviously it ended up where it ended up and we are grateful.
iR: Over the course of a producers career, from a media standpoint, there always seems to be a visual progression from the timeline of songs that are manifested. What is the greatest piece of advice that you ever received?
Rook: I mean we’ve got a lot of advice from a lot of people. I remember Mannie Fresh told us don’t sleep on the independent artists because they got just as much money.
iR: Yeah Pastor Troy has been doing fine for being completely indie.
Rook: Right, so we’ve gotten a lot of advice whether it be technical advice or career advice. That’s one that stands out to me.
iR: I’m a huge basketball fan and there is always a conversation about who you would start your team around. If you were starting a label right now, who would be your flagship artist?
Rook: I’m going to have to say Jay-Z.
iR: Okay so Jay-Z right now?
Rook: Yes, age doesn’t matter.
iR: I really don’t know why our genre looks at that because Madonna is a smooth 50 at least, and she’s still prancing around like she’s in her early twenties. I mean you see a lot of younger artists saying that its a bunch of old dudes in the game but realistically if your 30’s is old than damn. I mean I see that you relating to a 30 year old is going to be rather difficult but that just goes to show you how much knowledge is actually given to the younger generation, my generation.
Kenny: Why you guys are fucking around, my first pick would be Taylor Swift, get this money.
iR: Okay yeah, speaking of that what is one non-hip-hop artist that you would work with right now?
Kenny: Well right now we have been submitting and putting together tracks for Katy Perry and yeah, we seem to be fitting the bill pretty well. We had a few meetings and that seems to be a very good possibility.
iR: Any other good production from you guys coming?
Rook: Today we already did another one song with Jeezy and after this we are going to do one more. We’ve got Plies, Fabolous, Mary J. Blige, Shareefa, I can’t remember any other ones. We just had a meeting with Ron Fair so we are supposed to be working on Pussycat Dolls real soon. It’s so many in the works.
iR: Lastly how would you define success?
Kenny: Well you were right before for saying “Success Is Self-Defined” but for me I feel like we are almost there. We have had a lot of success in building our brand and having it be a household name and what I say would put us over the top would be to have a steady client list that always fucks with you. As well just to get that ASCAP check every quarter from publishing would be a beautiful thing. That plus the fact that we love what we do, I feel like we are almost there.
Rook: On top of what Kenny said someone once told me that you’re not successful until somebody copies you. So there is a few copies out there and it doesn’t upset us because they are copying what we did years ago. I’m not mad because I wish people the best in whatever they.
iR: Well thank you both for sitting down with me today and come back anytime.