Can a Physics students from Hampton make hot music? He can if his name is Chris Henderson.
A native of Detroit, Henderson never saw music as a career but after taking an Audio Engineering class in college he realized he had a gift for composing music.
“I switched to business management. I knew that [physics] was a waste of time. I knew I was a creative person. I could pretty much do the work but I needed to be creative in something.”
After starting a production and party promotion company called “Hung-Lo” Productions with a fellow classmate he met Teddy Riley at a celebrity basketball game on campus and began working with the music veteran on his side projects.
“I did a remix for “Before I Let You Go” that was picked, but not credited,” he explains. “I felt that I was an asset there and I was working on the inside projects, but none of them saw the light of day.”
But cream rises to the top and Chris eventually booked work with everyone from Mya, 3LW and Case (he wrote he wrote, produced and arranged Case’s most memorable hit “Happily Ever After”) Trey Songz, R. Kelly and Jamie Foxx.
Celebrating his Grammy win for “Blame It” Henderson spoke with TheUrbanDaily.com about making the alcoholic anthem of 2009 and gave us his thoughts on the R.Kelly/Trey Songz “feud.”
TUD: There were a lot of hands involved in the cocktail that became, “Blame It.” What exactly was your contribution to it?
Chris Henderson: I did the track, wrote both verses. I pretty much wrote the entire melody except for T-Pain’s part. Lyrically I did the verses, melodically I did verses and hook and produced the whole track.
“Blame It” was one of the first tracks I did when I got back on my production with new equipment and got through the relearning process. I sent it out to writers and didn’t like what I was getting back. I had a melody but I didn’t have a concept to bring it to it’s potential. I finished the track in ’07 and I was in a writing session with Trey Songz for that track. The way Song Book is, they really try to work for their piece of the record. I saw where the song was going and tried to steer it back to that stutter in the synth track but they were ignoring me. What popped in my mind was a line I heard in someone’s rap demo. That’s why one of the co-writers on that song is the guy that provided that hook.
Weeks earlier I was playing someone’s demo and it had a different tempo and feel, but it said “blame it on the goose, got you feeling loose, blame it on patron, got you in the zone, blame it on the aaa-aa—a-a alcohol.” It was a different cadence but when I said out loud “a-a-a-a alcohol” I sang the whole thing out and said we’ll screw it right there. And they must have been thinking “no, leave it alone. You can’t get publishing on this.”
I was being very politically correct and let them keep working on it. They went to eat and didn’t return to the song. I waited about four days and called Trey’s manager and asked them if they ever finished the song and he hit me with the “aah, you know sometimes they don’t get the vibe. It is what it is.”
So I called the rapper kid and told him that “I have a great idea for one of them songs you sent and if I could use the words from your hook and put it in this song I think it can really be big.” He came and heard it and he liked it. But I guess he got writers block that day. When I made up the first verse I was just singing into the mic, trying to get him started. That’s why it starts out so slow, with the pauses. I was throwing words out just to get him started. I later found out that another writer, this guy’s friend actually wrote that hook, but luckily I found out about him in time to get him on board as well.
I knew it was a hot idea and had my co-writer on board so I started to shop it with just the first verse to see if we could bait R.Kelly, Trey Songz or even a rapper. The song traveled with just the first verse and the hook. Young Joc had it, R.Kelly had it, but no one was committing. Jamie had the earliest release date so he had to commit sooner. Because it was traveling more writers were being added. There was another team that wrote the vamp “Poppin bottles with the Henny in the cup.” That was somebody else and T-Pain was added just before the mix because they were trying to figure out who to feature. For a while it was between Kanye, Lil Wayne and T-pain. Secondly they considered T-Pain and Lil Wayne. I think when T-Pain heard it he was like “I’ll do it but you can’t put nobody else on it.” It was the best choice to me. Jamie doing an Autotune song with T-Pain as a cosigner [made it ok]. But it did give the perception that T-Pain [produced] the record.
What’s it like working with both Trey Songz and R.Kelly and then reading stories about them going at each other in the press?
It’s almost like you have money on both fighters. It wasn’t really affecting me. First of all it was really Trey going at R.Kelly. R. Kelly didn’t really defend himself. They are in different weight classes. Even if a young woman these days would say Trey is that sexy singing dude like R. Kelly was, that was just one layer of R.Kelly that Trey is competing with.
R Kelly owned a couple of eras of music. He had his production eras where the radio was just saturated with his writing and production. Trey can’t compete with that on that level. Writing and producing for Celine Dione? It’s good press for Trey to come at R.Kelly because they’re so not in the same weight class. It’s funny. If you look at R.Kelly as just a recording artist I see what you’re saying but it really wasn’t a good comparison for Trey.
When R.Kelly came out with the storytelling songs with Ron Isley that was significant because Hip-Hop was the only urban mainstream music one providing story lines at that time. It breathed life back into the art form. When he got with Jay-Z and did the rap signing things now most R&B singers do that style. Every R&B writer and producer owes a lot to R. Kelly.
Produced by Chris Henderson:
Trey Songz “Be Where you Are”
Case, “Happily Ever After”