damn, fellas, if y'all need some, y'all gettin' it lol
ALL FALLS DOWN.
Four Years ago, superproducer SCOTT STORCH's beats dominated the Billboard Singles chanrts,while he amassed a $70-million fortune.
Today, he's a survivor who's overcome financial ruin and drug addiction and now struggles to secure album placements. How did it all go wrong?
Scott Storch doesn't consider marijuana to be a gateway drug. After all, he was a pothead for 20 years before ever snorting cocaine. Now fresh out of rehab, Storch still smokes weed. He claims that it doesn't jeopardzie his sobriety. It's more like a performance-enhancing drug.
"Every day I come in [to the studio] I have to make three hot [beats], "he says. "That requires a lot of mental energy and focus. That is where the weed helps You get fatigues, stop for a second and then you smoke a joint. It sets you back into where you're reinspired and recalibrated."
It's July 2009, and Storch is pacing back and forth in The Hit Factory. He's in a Christian Audigier-designed Van Halen T-shirt, jeans and dirty periwinkle Timberlands splattered with spilled bong water. An expensive watch and flashy chain complete the look. In the past, Storch would wear $5 million worth of jewelry, but that was before he blew $30 million in less than three years.
And here he is. After Completing his in-patient rehabilitation in April 2009, Storch has made over a thousand beats and considers a hundred or so of them keepers. Tonight, he wants to preview some of the music, but first he lights a big, fat joint. “Look,” he says, flaunting a “Six Months Sober” key-chain from Narcotics Anonymous.
“s3x months?” asks Storch’s longtime engineer, Wayne “The Brain” Allison. He squints closer, “Oh, six.”
“s3x months? What are you thinking about?” Storch responds. Naturally, that sparks an anecdote about getting freaky in rehab. “There was a place you had to go,” he says, his voice trailing off. “I should shut up.”
Storch’s jowls are still a little puffy, but the dark circles under his eyes have faded. That’s not the only change. “This is the first time that I have a guy who sells weed who is my friend,” he says. “You don’t want to be around some guys. I mean, this guy has been to St. Tropez. He’s cool.”
It’s unclear whether he is being sarcastic. “Certain people, you just don’t want to be around them. What did he say in Pineapple Express? ‘Lingerrrrr!”
Like most people, Storch acts kind of goofy when stoned. And hungry. Over the next three hours, he inhales four cans of Coca-Cola, a Starbucks strawberry Frappuccino, a snack bag of Cheetos and half a pack of Zingers. “I’m just going to sit on my a.ss, smoke a bunch of weed tonight and do nothing,” he says. “Got to sleep early and get in here early tomorrow, to get back on my schedule.”
Nowadays, Storch keeps early hours for a music producer. He’s usually in the studio by 2 p.m. and out at midnight. It’s a departure from his days on the Bolivian march powder. “We should work 20-hour days,” Allison remembers. “I used to say, ‘I’m not doing all those drugs. I can’t work this long.”
“He was repulsed by me,” Storch says. “He would be wearing a respiratory mask because I was blowing my nose all the time.” Both of them laugh.
“I’m glad he’s better now,” Allison says sincerely. “Things are great.”
Storch adds: “We’re making money now.”
It comes back to money because—let’s be frank—it always comes back to money, especially for Scott Storch. His father was a stenographer who liked to play the ponies. Scott, too, was infatuate with wealth at an early age. When he was a 15year-old piano prodigy, he drew a picture of him and his then-manager in a Mercedes driving toward a sign reading “Money $.” This teenager would later become the poster boy for conspicuous consumption.
He amassed his fortune as the go-to hit-making producer for Beyonce, Chris Brown, Jadakiss, Christina Aguilera, Baby, Lil Wayne, Ice Cube, DMX, Busta Rhymes and 50 cent, to name a few. But as Storch racked up money, he gorged himself on the finer things in life. Trips on a private jet were routine, not a luxury. Thirteen cars weren’t enough, a $1.7-million Bugatti. The 90-foot yacht didn’t cut it when a 117-footer was available. And where else would you call home but a $10.5-million, 30,000-square-foot castle on Miami’s exclusive Palm Island?
Of course, he wasn’t alone. Storch exemplified a society that not only created but encouraged monstrosities like $175 gold-dusted cheeseburgers, $10,000 bottles of cognac and $53.4 –million bonuses for CEOs. As we all know, that era is over, gone along with millions of people’s jobs, homes and 401 (k)s.
But Scott Storch’s fall was more tragic than a garden-variety corporate flameout. In an economy buoyed by false commodities—I’ll trade you my toxic mortgage for your collateralized debt obligation—Storch actually peddled something tangible: a Scott Storch beat.
Storch made his first million after co-writing the Grammy-winning hit “You Got Me” for The Roots in 1999. He entered the business as the group’s keyboard player but quit in the mid-1990s to focus on producing. After struggling for a few years, Scott got his big break working on Dr. Dre’s 2001, which sold over sever million copies. While it didn’t make him a household name, the right people wanted in on his brand. “Every door flung open for me at every label,” he says. “[The labels said,] ‘We want that. Can you make that for us?”
Storch later moved to Miami and obliged, flooding the marketplace. His beats had certain characteristics—Middle Eastern melodies, dramatic intros—but weren’t easily identifiable, and his going rate quickly reached $100,000. Unlike most producers, Storch didn’t sample, so his bottom line wasn’t affected by shared royalties. By 2006, Storch was worth a reported $70 million (that included cash, investments, his publishing catalogue and a.ssets).
Despite the impressive curriculum vitae, Storch wasn’t a star. He was regarded as a studio wizard, not a marquee name. Meanwhile, his superproducer brethren—Timbaland, Lil’ Jon, Pharrell and Swizz Beatz—had become celebrities. Maybe it was because he lacked a branded public persona. That would soon change. Storch cultivated a decadent image that was part of Scarface wannabe, part Sultan of Brunei. Basically, it was new money running out of control.
“[I] was marketed as the guy who was balling,” he says.
Storch played the roll to perfection. He showed off his luxury cars—a fleet that included a Mercedes SLR McLaren and a Ferrari 575 Maranello—in magazine spreads and on MTV Cribs. “He always had an attachment to automobiles,” says Rich Nichols, a former manager who met Storch in 1988. “Scott had a BMW while he was in [The Roots]. I don’t think anyone else in the group had a car.”
He also had a thing for jewelry. “I would wear a $2-million dollar watch,” Storch says. “I would have, not 30-carat rings.. 30-carat stones, bro. Thirty-carat-f**kin’ rocks, where one stone was 30 carats, like, clean, brilliant.”
But his greatest expenditure was private jets. He even once flew from Miami to New York just to eat dinner at Mr. Chow’s, the gauche Cantonese restaurant favored by industry scenesters. “I was Mr. Excess,” Storch says. “It was, Do whatever you want with any girl you want—al the f**kin’ superstar b**ches. Go to St. Tropez, Brazil, go to Vegas on a private jet from the club. Leaving Club Space at 10 in the morning, and it’s like, ‘Let’s go to Vegas. Get the whole floor at the hotel.’ Crazy s**t. I was doing it big.”
But he still needed to blow off steam. On July 28, 2006, Storch went to Los Angeles. His manager, Derek Jackson, says it was Storch’s first vacation in years. “He never came back,” Jackson says. “I couldn’t get him to focus. All he was concerned about was Paris Hilton and this socialite life… I called her Hurricane Paris. Then you saw the drugs come into play, and it changed his personality.”
Earlier that year, the producer and the heiress started dating, while they were recording Hilton’s vanity project, Paris Is Burning. Storch produced nine records, but the album tanked. Still, he was hurled into the spotlight by a.ssociation. “All of a sudden, I was in pictures with Paris, and I’m catapulted into that world,” he says.
Did he enjoy the attention? “The pictures snapping and the paparazzi jumping out of trees? Yeah.”
To the Us Weekly and tmz.com crowd, Storch was merely Hilton’s latest boy toy. The fact that he created the indelible piano riff on “Still D.R.E.” was irrelevant. “He became more of a socialite than a producer,” Jackson says. “I felt like there was a great deal of confusion when it came to who he was, what he was and what he represented.”
Especially since he grew up with his parents and older brother in a middle-class family in Fort Lauderdale, before his parents divorced when he was a freshman in high school. From there he moved to Philadelphia and taught himself how to play piano. After becoming fixated on music, he dropped out in the ninth grade. “[At] 14, I made the decision that if I had to be a poor musician or a rich lawyer, I would be a poor musician,” he says. “All my parents would tell me is, ‘You’ll never make money in music.’”
Within a decade, he’d made millions in the music business, and now, instead of him chasing work, work chased him. That created a whole new set of problems. “I remember [Jay-Z] told him, ‘Don’t get a big head,’” says Storch’s former collaborator, the rapper Robert “EST” Waller. “It was like, ‘Okay, you wanted to be successful. Now you’re going to see what success is.’ I don’t think Jay saw what was going on, but he knew how [success] changes you.”
But even after that warning, Storch acted as though he still needed validation. “It’s like there was a competition [with] this girl I had a crush on, Paris Hilton.” he says. “I always felt like I had to do it bigger and bigger, especially after we broke up. I thought I was in love with Paris. I was in love with the idea of having a girlfriend that big.” He flew Hilton to the French Rivera—that’s $250,000—and bought her a Maybach. Then gave Lindsey Lohan a million dollars in jewelry and a Bentley to Lil’ Kim (more on that later). More damaging was is posse of sycophants. “Yeah, I could see people taking advantage of me,” he says. Storch estimates that, at one time, he employed 15 to 20 “assistants.” “When I got up, my cars were fueled, washed and started. Everything other than drugs, f**king, making music and watching TV was done for me.”
Rich Nichols remembers visiting Storch on Palm Island. “He had security with automatic weapons tucked in their pants,” he says. “It took his hangers-on 10 to 15 minutes to decide what care they were going to drive. These guys were completely broke and arguing, like, ‘I don’t want to ride in the Maybach. That’s wack.’”
Storch even developed some unlikely friendships. “One time, he took [me] out to dinner with O.J. Simpson.” Says Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson, drummer for The Roots. “We get to this restaurant; it feels like the Bada Bing. I [sat down], looked to my left, and was like, ‘Holy s**t, it’s O.J.’ Ten drinks later, O.J. [says]… ‘Yeah, Bob Dylan wrote this song about this boxer named Hurricane Carter and how he wasn’t guilty. I want the rappers to make me one.’ I tell Scott, ‘How is your life?’… He’s like ‘Hey man, it’s been a long time since St. Albans Street in Philadelphia.’”
These days, Storch is tightening the circle. Tonight, he’s eating a late alfresco dinner at Carpaccio’s, an Italian restaurant in tony Bal Harbour, up the road from Miami Beach. He’s joined by his investment-banker friend Adam Linder, Los Vegas showman Jeff Beecher and his date, and Storch’s gorgeous Brazilian model girlfriend. “You look awesome,” he tells her.
Storch is in storyteller mode, so he recounts “the DMX story.” After spending $15,000 to place X in rehab, Storch received a call from the rapper three days later. “He was trying to get into this club where I knew the owner,” he says. “I was like, ’Come to my house immediately.’” (There was an arrest warrant out for DMX. He was later apprehended at Storch’s Palm Island home.)
The party then moves to Linder’s oceanfront penthouse condo, where he is lighting firecrackers on the terrace. It’s now 1 a.m. Storch moves to an office for an interview but is interrupted by the house phone. “Don’t tell me it’s the front desk already,” Linder says barging into the room. He’s concerned it’s the neighbors complaining.
“It’s not,” Storch replies. “I have to loan somebody a hundred bucks. He got fired. It’s going to be one time and that’s it.”
“Do you love him like your boy?” Linder asks.
“I’m not going to support him.”
“Do you love him like your boy?”
Storch’s friend, a middle-aged White guy in a button-down shirt and jeans, hangs with Linder during the interview.
Storch then turns and says, “This house that you’re in, energy-wise, is one of the best places you can be.” During the summer, he split his time here and at Miami’s Fontainebleau Hotel. He currently ives in a condo in Miami’s W Hotel. After rehab, Storch avoided his Palm Island mansion. “The vibes I get in there are…” he trails off. It was foreclosed on August 2009. “Yeah, I snorted off every f**kin’ surface in the f**kin’ house. A lot of bad things happened in there.”
By late 2006, Storch’s cocaine addiction was ruining his career. He went AWOL on drug binges and left artists such as Janet Jackson waiting in the studio. Even when Storch made it to work, his beats were underwhelming. “I didn’t make anything good on coke,” he says. “Cocaine is not a good drug for a producer.”
He appeared gaunt and sullen in paparazzi photos. Celebrity blogger Perez Hilton even posted one where Storch clearly has cocaine residue on his nostrils. It was evident that he was physically deteriorating. He was also falling apart emotionally. ?uestionlove was stunned after running into his old friend inside a Miami restaurant in early 2008. “[Scott] was talking all this crazy paranoid s**t, like, ‘Watch out for who your real friends are, because they are going to backstab you,’” ?uest remembers. “[Scott then] said, ‘Yo, man, I just want to go back to how it used to be. You and me in a room, no distractions, no nothing, just making music, man. You know how much I miss dialing 215…?’ He recited my father’s phone number and corny outgoing message verbatim. He is reciting a phone number and answering machine from, like, 22 years ago! It was like, ‘You are the loneliest person in the world right now.’’