BEVERLY HILLS, California — Even with serious A-listers like Tom Cruise, Jay-Z and Paris Hilton on the guest list for his Grammy party, Kanye West still had to beg a certain celebrity to attend.
“I’m like, ‘I’ve seen him all week and I’ve seen him perform before; I don’t need to see him perform no more,’ ” recalled former P. Diddy assistant Fonzworth Bentley, who’s now a rapper on West’s G.O.O.D. Music label (see “Run-In With A Bentley Uncovers Some Kanye West Remix Plans” ). “I just wanted to catch some of the other stuff, but he’s like, ‘No, I need you to come. I’ve got a surprise for you.’ ”
So, like any dedicated protégé would, Bentley made the show, only to find a postcard with a silhouette of himself, dancing with his signature umbrella, plastered all over the Avalon Hollywood.
“It just said ‘Coming Soon,’ ” Bentley said the next night at Clive Davis’ Grammy party. “He just wanted me to see it, and it really crystallized [my upcoming record], like this is real, all of the grind and all of the hustle I’ve done, it’s real now. So this summer, it’s on, believe it.”
Fonzworth has yet to settle on a title or release date for his debut, but he was scheduled to turn in the album on his birthday, February 13.
“Originally my goal was the Grammys, but the parties and everything’s been so much fun that I had to push that back,” he said. “But everything looks great. Kanye’s really excited. I’ve been collaborating with some really good producers and good friends.” Among those collaborators are West, Outkast’s Andre 3000, singer Esthero (whom Bentley called his “favorite female voice in the world”) and experimental hip-hop trio Sa-Ra, who were coming off working with Dr. Dre and Common.
“They’re an eclectic team, man,” Bentley recalled of Sa-Ra. “Their house is funked-out, there’s no space that is useable at all, with guitars or drums or something that does something crazy to make some noise [everywhere], but I had a really good time with those guys. I was really ignorant to their music and their following, and Kanye was like, ‘You really should go over there.’ And he didn’t tell me what I was in for, and I’m glad he did it that way so I really just went and just appreciated them for what they are. But they are funked-out.”
Bentley’s album will also feature several up-and-coming producers.
“With technology being the way it is, with ProTools so accessible and so many people working and making music, your hit could be right down the street,” Bentley said. “And I really take the CDs [people try to hand me]. I remember being on the street and wantin’ to be part of the game and I’ve gotten some really crazy hot records [from newcomers], and because Kanye really is about his brand, which is G.O.O.D. Music, it’s not an ego thing as far as who’s producing what. So I’ve gotten some really good music out of some ‘no-name’ or newer producers.”
One of them, Tony DeNiro, produced a track called “Since I Was Nine” that Fonzworth is eyeing for his first single.
“That’s Andre’s favorite, and it’s kind of Kanye’s favorite too, but we’ll see,” Bentley said. ” ‘Hey Ya’ came like four weeks before [Andre] turned in the album, so you never know. Dre was just very adamant in telling me to make sure that I stay creative all the way up until the end.”