Like an NFL running back looking to make a great play, Jazze Pha has found his opening and he's running with the ball. Whether it's singing hooks, like on Nappy Roots' "Awnaw," or producing hit tracks, like the Big Tymers' "Oh Yeah" or Trick Daddy's "In Da Wind," Jazze is taking any opportunity to shine, just as long as he gets to be in the video.
"I'm trying to work," Pha, who describes his musical sound as "futuristic ghetto," said on Thursday on the Los Angeles set of Jim Crow's clip for "Hot Wheels," which he produced. "The concept of the song is really just the girls and the cars. How the girls choose you 'cause you on 22s. It's real simple. [In the video] I'm just being me. Just sprinkling it with the effervescence of a real mack, you under dig?"
Toni Braxton, Snoop Dogg, Pastor Troy, Twista, the D.O.C., Nate Dogg, Craig David, T.I., Foxy Brown, Disturbing Tha Peace member Shauna, Outkast's Big Boi, Sunshine Anderson and Rodney Jerkins are just a few of the folks who have been digging Pha's jazzy ways. All have solicited him to write and/or produce tracks for their upcoming projects.
"It feels good, dog," Pha, who is already working on the new Trick Daddy album, gushed. "It's a great opportunity and I'm gonna take it."
One chance that he's literally been cashing in on is his 50-song deal with his adopted clique, the Cash Money Millionaires. After producing a song for the Big Tymers last year for a compilation by Atlanta super DJ Greg Street, Pha's skills forced Cash Money's co-CEO Brian "Baby" Williams to do the unheard of — welcome a producer other than longtime CMR in-house production mainstay Mannie Fresh to make tracks for his flossing family.
"'Say homie, I really like this," Pha, perfectly mimicking Baby's New Orleans cadence, said about how he joined Cash Money's extended family. "He was like, 'Man, what else you got?' "
Thirty-five songs and less than a year later, the Atlanta transplant has already churned out the aforementioned "Oh Yeah" and several cuts off of Lil Wayne's 500 Degreez. Jazze's also put in work on Baby's solo LP, The Birdman (see "Baby Ready To Unleash Balla Birdman With Help From P. Diddy, Cam'ron"), singer TQ's next album, and he and Mannie Fresh have formed a duo called Big Luv and are working on their debut.
"I do it for fun," Pha explained of the rapping that he will be doing with Fresh. "Just to show these young whippersnappers how to do it."
As a youngster himself, Pha didn't have any trouble developing his penchant for musicmaking. Like many a soulful crooner he was brought up in the church, but as the son of a famous bass player he was raised on the road.
"My dad is James Alexander of the Bar-Kays," Pha said. "It just made me well-rounded. Being young, I'm naturally gonna be into hip-hop. But when we get tired of listening to that sh-- all day, we listen to Al Green and Stevie Wonder and all that to get my mind right. I'm a producer, not just a rap producer.
"I was on tour a lot in the summertime [as a child]," he continued. "I'd be around Rick James and all these other cats. And I grew up around the people who were making it. By the time I [started making my own music], it was natural. It was like I was already doing it."
Jazze, who also spent time living in California and Tennessee while growing up, saw his first bit of paper as a producer in 1996, making the monster club banger "Sho Nuff" for Tela, which featured 8Ball and MJG. For the past few years, he's been crafting various selections for everyone from soulsters LSG and Dave Hollister to long-forgotten rapper Cha Cha to omnipresent MC Ludacris to lyrical legend Slick Rick.
"I'm just saturating it a little more," the rotund music maven said of his gradual emergence.
"I think it's really giving [artists] something fresh. But not too far out the way of what they doing. Just my rendition of what I think they should be doing. Basically, I think it's time for something new. No sleep, dog. I keep them checks coming in every day."