Musical producer

Music Producer Rodney Jerkins Recalls How Mike Tyson Shaped Him

By the end of 1999, Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins was confident of his chances of winning a Grammy Award for producing Destiny Child’s “Say My Name.” When the girl group’s second No. 1 pop single received three nominations a few months later, the successful producer and songwriter was motivated to find a way to evolve with his musical sound — and his fitness.

Anticipating his big moment on music’s biggest night, there was no way Jerkins – also famous for producing hits such as Brandy and Monica’s classic collaboration ‘The Boy is Mine’, ‘It’s Not Right But It’s Okay” by Whitney Houston and many tracks on Mary J. Blige’s “Share My World” album was not going to be at its best. At the same time, the rigors of long hours in the studio hit him harder than an uppercut from Mike Tyson as he grew extremely overweight.

Rodney Jerkins won the Grammy that year and also lost a huge amount of weight, almost 50 pounds. Like any successful musical collaboration, this was a group effort. As one of the heavy hitters in the music industry, Jerkins had the luxury of being able to access his extensive contact list and seek help from a true heavyweight: “Iron” Mike Tyson himself. even, the former world boxing champion.

As a child, Jerkins and his pastor father witnessed Tyson’s meteoric rise from boxing prodigy to global icon. Now, months before his biggest professional moment, the then lusty and prolific melodic asked Tyson if he would be his personal trainer and boxing trainer. Tyson agreed, offering Jerkins the chance to move into his Las Vegas home for 30 days on one condition: He pledged to follow the boxing legend’s health regimen at all times during his stay. a month.

“I didn’t feel good about myself and my health,” the two-time Grammy winner said. “I said to myself that I needed to lose weight. I didn’t feel well and I didn’t feel very good about myself or my health. The discipline in me told me that I had to do this if I wanted to be awesome. The music is no joke. Nor is training with Tyson.

Rodney Jerkins finds himself in the world of Mike Tyson

Tyson, who trained for the fights in his prime at a gymnasium a few blocks from Jerkins Church in his hometown of Pleasantville, NJ, woke the out-of-shape producer every day at 4 a.m. morning for a three-hour workout, which consisted mostly of cardio workouts on the treadmill or pedaling an exercise bike. After practice, he was back home for breakfast, which usually consisted of egg whites, spinach, protein shakes, and sometimes oatmeal.

After a two-hour nap, Jerkins and Tyson returned to the gym around 11 a.m. for the second workout of the day, which usually involved weight training. Afterwards, the two would have a hearty lunch and then relax for a few hours.

At 6 p.m., it was back to the gym for more weightlifting and cardio, followed by a salmon or chicken and vegetable dinner. Jerkins says it was hard to keep up with Tyson’s energy, and sometimes fatigue would set in at different times of the week, especially at the start. Sunday, which was scheduled as a day off, usually became an 8 km walk or a long jog. But Rodney Jerkins got used to Iron Mike’s routine, and the results started to take shape, especially the mental side of fitness, which Jerkins was not used to.

“I could really see myself thriving on this and doing more even at a higher level,” said Jerkins, 45. “Exercising helps you think differently, and it opened something up in my mind. I had more clarity and I could hear the music I was making so much better.

This rigorous training with Tyson recalibrated Jerkins’ focus and dedication to his craft. The theme composer for the UPN sitcom “The Parkers” went on to create hits for artists like Michael Jackson, Toni Braxton, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Janet Jackson, Sam Smith, Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, Black Eyed Peas , Ariana Grande, ELLE, SZA and Summer Walker.

Surprisingly, the two never faced each other during the month-long stay in Vegas. Jerkins, however, says Tyson was “an animal” when it came to training and coaching, often telling his top student to calm down and never give up. That pain at the end of practices, Tyson told Jerkins, was a change leaving his body.

“What you put into your body is what you get back,” continues Jerkins, now 45. “My sleeping habits were better. If you eat well and train properly, it all counts in the workflow and daily life. Now I had the energy, so it was nothing. You would have to tell me to go to sleep because I had so much energy.

The results: Within a month, Jerkins went from a lofty 334 pounds to 290 before the 2001 Grammy Awards, where Destiny Child’s hit “Say My Name” won Best R&B Song.

Jerkins’ workouts with Tyson even inspired his collaborators. Tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams became regular visitors to the studio when he was preparing Brandy’s third album, “Full Moon,” in 2002. “Every morning before our sessions, Brandy would go play tennis with them,” recalls Jerkins.

Fitness helped produce a more focused leotard

These days, Jerkins, who won a second Grammy in 2014 when Sam Smith’s hit “Stay with Me” won Record of the Year, is empowering the next generation of musical talent with perseverance, discipline and consistency he learned by watching Tyson. . Wanted hitmaker conducts competition on Protege, a music-centric mentoring app, to find 10 unknown songwriters, producers or artists to attend one of its intense two-day songwriting camps.

Contestants can submit 60-second audition entries to get direct feedback from Jerkins himself. Selected budding talents will earn a stipend and the chance to have their music eventually featured or placed on projects with high-profile acts.

Comparing his songwriting camps to NBA tryouts, finalists are paired into rotating teams with Jerkins brainstorming ideas with them and monitoring their chemistry and work ethic. Protege helps Jerkins elevate the camps he started hosting at late singer Whitney Houston’s guest house in 1999, which launched the careers of his mentees like Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. ,

Grammy and Oscar-winning producer D’Mile, Grammy-winning singer Lucky Daye, and producers Harmony Samuels and Tommy “TBHits” Brown.

The camps remind Jerkins of the days when he didn’t want to get up early or feel the pain of a workout, but pushed himself to complete his sets. “It’s trying to get the best song possible,” Jerkins said, “and it gives me a chance to see who works well together and who doesn’t. It’s your chance to prove that you can If you want to be in this game, you have to prove yourself.

“It might not happen in the first two or three years, but in seventh year you walk down the Grammy aisle and come up to that point and get your fair share. It’s only because you kept pushing. You could have given up, stopped, but you made the choice to continue.

Jerkins continues his boxing journey – in different ways

Rodney Jerkins is currently developing and producing a project based on veteran boxer Roberto Duran slated for 2023. There’s also a television series in the works based on Jerkins’ own life, similar to “Everybody Hates Chris.”

The former executive music producer for “Empire” has teamed up with actress Taraji P. Henson on “Hyde Park Academy,” a series based on a music school in Chicago. “StoryMakers,” a new digital series produced by HUE Unlimited and Jerkins’ company, Evolve Media Group, allows songwriters and producers to share their journeys with the artists they’ve worked with. There’s also a feature-length documentary about Jerkins’ life and career accompanied by a new imprint, Alienz Alive.

Jerkins also became a member of the board of directors of SPARBAR boxing and fitness equipment brandOne of Jerkins’ closest friends, boxing trainer Raynard McCline, the same person who took Jerkins to the gym where Tyson was training, suggested he invest in something boxing-related. McCline introduced SPARBAR and connected Jerkins with its CEO, London-based Jasvinder “Jazz” Gill.

“I’m a sports chef and I love the whole fitness side,” Jerkins said. “If there are products out there that can improve people’s lives or their jobs, then I would love to be involved.”

Although he admits he hasn’t been as proactive in exercising as strenuously as those 30 days he spent with Tyson, Jerkins greatly appreciates the impact Tyson’s advice has had on his health and creative output. . “I just thought I had to get back to it,” Jerkins said. “I’m older now, so my metabolism has slowed down so much – I have to find a way to kick it back up,” he says. “I always live in the moment, so I have to make sure I stay on my toes and keep creating. I can’t wait to go back to a place where I have this diet.

Follow Rodney Jerkins on Instagram @rodneyjerkins.