Amadeus: Piano Man

After achieving platinum status with his first mainstream release off the Cradle to the Grave soundtrack, Antwan “Amadeus” Thompson became more than just your ordinary, run of the mill producer. A musician since the tender age of eight, Amadeus has proven that hard work and individuality are the keys to success. Having produced tracks for […]

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After achieving platinum status with his first mainstream release off the Cradle to the Grave soundtrack, Antwan “Amadeus” Thompson became more than just your ordinary, run of the mill producer. A musician since the tender age of eight, Amadeus has proven that hard work and individuality are the keys to success.

Having produced tracks for some of the biggest names in Hip-Hop, from Camron to Talib Kweli, Amadeus is steady on his grind and shows no signs of slowing down. We hopped on the grind too and chopped it up with the extraordinary producer as he discussed his philanthropic efforts and gears up for the launch of his new sneaker, the release of Mike Jones’ sophomore album, and the introduction of Platinum Boy Records to the world. It’s good to finally speak to you.  How are you?Amadeus: I’m good, can’t complain. I’ve been doing some work with this non-profit I started. That’s what’s up. Tell me a little about the organization…Amadeus: It’s a non-profit organization I started last year, called Making A Difference (MAD), to give back to the community and to the youth. There are so many young people out there searching for themselves or something, but there aren’t enough outlets and people to help them get started.  That’s something I want to give them. We have had a few events to get things going.  We had one in November. I had Lil’ Mo, Remy Ma, some Bad Boy [Records] producers, and a lot of different folks come out just to talk to the kids and get them motivated. This year, I wanted to do something different.  Kids out here want to be producers, rappers, singers, writers, and don’t know much about the business. I wanted to inform them about important aspects they should know about. So I recently had an event at my church where I had BET come out, attorneys, artists…just to speak about the different aspects of the business, in their entirety. Any particular reason why you decided to do it in a church?Amadeus: You know, I started instrumentation at school in like the fourth grade.  I took drums and piano all throughout junior high to high school, but at the age of 15 I went to church and heard the music department and was blown away.  It kind of inspired me to pursue music more seriously, and I became a musician at my church by the age of 16.  And to this day, I’m still there as a musician- church drummer; and no matter how successful I get, I remember where God has brought me, so I ain’t goin’ nowhere.  So I just wanted to do something different and not just give back to the community, but give back to the church as well. That’s very admirable. You always hear that Hip-Hop is the devil’s music, and talk about the evil messages and that sort of thing.  As a spiritual individual, what is your particular view on that?Amadeus: I used to get that a lot in the past, but even back then I would say “Listen, I’m not the rapper, or writing the lyrics that could possibly be making you feel a certain way. I’m the guy behind the scenes making the music, and I don’t have the power to stop someone from expressing themselves musically.” And as far as the church, of course I love music and I have a passion for this, but it’s also my job.  Just like a sanitation worker or a banker, I ask them, “How is what you’re doing glorifying God?” I compare what I do to that same thing. This is what I do, I make beats for a living, but it doesn’t change who I am. So that’s my whole thing with church and Hip-Hop music. Good point. The kid should be a preacher. [Laughs] I know you’ve been busy with various production projects lately as well.  What do you have coming up?Amadeus: Yeah, I just completed three new songs for Mike Jones’ new album- one featuring Pimp C and Lil’ Mo, one featuring Trey Songz, and one featuring Slim Thug and Lil’ Flip. What’s crazy was that I initially started out doing nine songs, but you know sample clearances didn’t go through and he was dealing with not getting the people he wanted on [the album] in time. He wanted Mary J. [Blige] and a few other people. I did a track on Fabolous’ new joint, featuring Lil’ Mo, called “What Should I Do?” I also produced Lil Mo’s new single “Sometimes I.” There are two versions, one with Jim Jones and one with Fabolous. I produced about four to five records for Papoose. I just did a joint for Young Chris from Young Gunz, featuring Lil’ Wayne. I did a song for Freeway’s new album. In previous interviews you’ve said that you’ve enjoyed working with Mike Jones.  What is it about working with him that’s so different and exciting?Amadeus: I’m glad you asked that question. He’s probably one of the artists I’ve enjoyed working with the most. He’s very passionate about music and expressing himself. He’s a real genuine dude, really hands on with his project.  I emailed him last December saying “Merry Christmas.”  He wrote back, “Merry Christmas. Send me some beats.” [Laughs] He’s just really dope.  And he really stepped his game up on this album, lyrically.  You know, the last album was that whole “Mike Jones, Who?” stuff. He’s still doing that, but he definitely has more in depth joints on this one. You also did some work on Marcus Houston’s latest album, The Veteran and have worked with Lil’ Mo on several other projects. Being so emerged in raw Hip-Hop and battle records, how do projects like this peak your interest? Amadeus: It’s funny because I don’t really separate the music. I just call it all music. And I create totally off of feelings, so however I’m feeling that day is what you’re going to get.  Someone might call and say they want an up-tempo track, and I may not be in that kind of mood. They probably won’t get that track for like a week or two. I have to feel the music. But really, as long as the track is melodic, you can do anything. You can have a Hip-Hop or R&B record with the right melody. It’s funny how the lines that used to separate genres are steadily becoming non-existent.  Music is just music.Amadeus: That’s true. Everything is Pop now, for real. Very true. Subsequently, it seems like you just keep hearing the same thing on the radio, because since there are no lines or barriers anymore, everything just meshes together.  Do you even listen to the radio? Amadeus: I used to listen to the radio, but since I moved upstate I don’t get Hot97 and stuff really clearly.  It’s cool though, ‘cause it gives you more enthusiasm to create your own sound and not imitate what you hear.  Like the Young Joc song [“It’s Going Down”], not taking anything from him, but the track has like three instrument sounds and some drums, and it’s a hit.  But I would feel bad doing something like that, because I feel like I am a musician and I have a responsibility with that, you know? But music is music. It’s all about expression, so I would never take anything away from what’s going on right now.  I mean, if it knocks, it knocks. Like, people are knocking R. Kelly’s new album, but I think it’s alright. At the end of the day, no one can just stay on top. He had his time where every song he had ladies were just like “ahh” and we were like “yeah, that’s dope,” ‘cause ya’ll were lovin’ it.  But you kind of have to go where the times are sometimes.  He’s just trying to adapt, to me, which sometimes you have to do to stay afloat. Being in the game for so long, having had platinum records, do you feel a sense of accomplishment, or do you feel like the grind is just as serious and as grimy as when you were breaking into the industry? Amadeus: I mean, now it’s kind of scary. The business side of it is scary as far as like getting paid on time for records and getting the appropriate amounts that producers are asking for. People don’t want to pay anymore. And that’s insane because you can’t cut back on people that are getting you where you need to be musically.  The grind is harder now, there is a lot of competition-well, not all of it is competition.  There are a lot of quick fix producers, who are just hopping on albums because they made a track that sounds like someone else’s track. The grind just changes, or at least it has for me. I have a family now. You don’t just do it for the drop-top Bentley or to say, “Yeah, I’m on such and such’s album.” You do it to get the mortgage paid, to get your son or daughter through college, you know? I feel like the world of writing, deejaying and producing is one of the grimiest in the business right now. With copyright infringement cases left and right, and ghost producing becoming a big deal, there are just so many shady things going on.  How do those things affect your work?Amadeus:  You know, I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve ghost produced, but I’ve been in positions where I’ve sent tracks to more established producers and they asked if they could push it and give me half the credit. I actually sent some of my stuff to this very well-respected producer in the business right now, and he wanted like eight tracks, which is dope. I bet you want to know who I’m talking about don’t you? You know it!Amadeus: Nah, I won’t say. I don’t want to jinx it, but the dude is hot. And I’m cool with that, as long as it’s done properly. I have young producers under my wing, and I believe in giving credit where credit is It seems like the safest thing right now is to be an in-house producer at a major label, huh?Amadeus: Yeah, it’s safe. And I mean, if you can be an in-house producer for a major label you get first dibs on their albums. So the moment Jay says that he’s ready to record a new record, the in-house producers get to get to him first, before he goes outside.  Plus, you can attach the name of the label to your work, which can help you get where you need to be. You can be dope, but if you ain’t attached to someone that’s poppin’, it kind of slows you down. You and Damon Dash have been working together lately. Tell me about that.Amadeus: Yeah, Dame and I are working together on the Amadeus Platinum Boy Sneaker, with Pro Keds. We are working on trying to release it in ‘08 You have a lot going on over there. So tell me what a typical day in the life of Antwan Thompson is like, and does it differ from the life of Amadeus?Amadeus: Wow! What’s funny is that the majority of it is Amadeus. You really don’t get Antwan Thompson too often.  I do separate the two, so it’s funny. I feel like I’m two people. When I wake up in the morning, with my son and my wife, I’m Antwan, but when they leave at eight or nine in the morning, Amadeus is on.  I immediately go to my Blackberry to see what’s going on.  Then I work on beats all day until I’m burnt out, mentally. Another day could be a day where I’m emailing and making phone calls all day, following up on tracks. Another day could be me at church practicing the drums. Is that Amadeus too?Amadeus: Nah, that’s Antwan. I’m behind the drums, and the boy is hot too. [Laughs]  Well whomever you choose to be, make it happen.  We need more people like you in the industry. Amadeus: That’s what Platinum Boy Music Inc. is all about.  We have two artists right now, one R&B singer, Tiffany Myn’on, and a rap artist by the name of Ravenus. Plus we have two producers signed to Platinum Boy Music- Buda Da Future and Cito.  We are trying to make moves in this music game, for real.