Let the beat... drop

In the studio with LROC

Marietta's Lakewood area is an unlikely locale for one of the most successful producers in Atlanta. Here in a nondescript house on a run-down street, down in a basement dubbed Da Kitchen Studios, Elbert James "LROC" Phillips makes beats that are subsequently played on top-40 radio. "The neighbors are cool, but I like to keep it low-key," he says.

LROC is a producer in Jermaine Dupri's So So Def camp. Today, he's cranking out musical parts for Bow Wow's upcoming album, The Price of Fame. As part of Dupri's team, LROC has contributed to hits such as Chingy's "Pullin' Me Back" and Monica's "Everytime tha Beat Drop."

"With JD, what I'll do is create the music. I'll create some parts like ..." He then punches out the opening keyboard volley on Nelly's "Grillz." Though publicized as a Jermaine Dupri production, LROC (along with several others) is credited as a songwriter on "Grillz."

"I come with those musical ideas," says LROC, who plays on several of Dupri's better-known productions. "I do the keyboards, loop it and then he puts a beat to it." Meanwhile, Dupri handles the drum programming and arranges the musical parts. Dupri's knack for identifying memorable hooks and melodies makes him a genuinely talented producer. But he doesn't create those big hits by himself. "Jermaine Dupri is a brand," LROC says. "The buying public who don't read [song] credits don't know, but the people that matter know."

Born in Liberia, LROC moved to Atlanta in 1983. The 42-year-old musician was a charter member of Little John and the Chronicle, and played keyboards during the improv band's memorable Yin Yang Café run in the '90s. He eventually joined Lil Jon's production company as a musician-for-hire, adding keyboard parts to songs such as "Bia Bia" and "I Don't Give a Fuck."

By 2003, LROC graduated to a So So Def contract. "Lil Jon didn't offer me a deal," explains LROC, who adds that he still works with Lil Jon. "With JD, I get co-production credit on the songs I do with him." Ironically, considering Dupri's current issues with Virgin/EMI, LROC signed the contract just before Dupri's widely publicized tax problems and acrimonious split with Jive Records. LROC doesn't have much to say, however, about Dupri stepping down as Virgin's urban music president. "What I know is what I read in the media. I don't really get into those conversations. When I go into the studio, we do music," LROC says.

In addition to his So So Def work, LROC plans to become a producer in his own right. He is working on Heal the Motherland, a music and TV project that benefits AIDS research; as well as several artists he declines to name. "Look for LROC's name in 2007," he says.

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