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Prezi­dent Jeff

QUIET, HUM­BLE AND HARD-WORK­ING ARE ALL WORDS THAT COULD DE­SCRIBE 28-YEAR-OLD, TORONTORAISED, BRAMP­TON-BASED PRO­DUCER PREZI­DENT JEFF, but hun­gry, de­tailed and pa­tient are the words that landed him a cov­eted spot cre­at­ing the city’s mu­si­cal fab­ric.

Though he has worked with the likes of Kevin Gates and Wiz Khalifa, and is best known for pro­duc­ing Roy Wood$’s hit sin­gle “In­stinct,” Prezi­dent Jeff grew up in a house­hold far re­moved from hip-hop cul­ture.

“We lis­tened to a lot of gospel mu­sic and [Ghana­ian] high­life mu­sic. I didn’t re­ally get ex­posed to hip-hop un­til grade 7/8,” he says. “Right when I got in­tro­duced to hip-hop, it was around the time that 50 Cent came on the scene, [who’s] ob­vi­ously syn­ony­mous with Dr. Dre. I was very in­ter­ested in that in­stru­men­ta­tion; those beats were so hard. I just wanted to fig­ure out how Dre made those drums sound the way that he did.”

Af­ter get­ting his first copy of FL Stu­dio at around 16 years old, Prezi­dent Jeff started skip­ping school to cre­ate beats for his friends, most of whom were test­ing the rap wa­ters them­selves. “It was pretty in­no­cent. I wasn’t think­ing of turn­ing it into a ca­reer, [it] was just su­per fun to do,” he says. A few years later, the then-22-year-old de­cided to ded­i­cate his life to it.

“My back­ground is in the au­to­mo­tive field, where I was paint­ing cars full time. I’d come home from work — I was mar­ried at the time too, so I had a fam­ily at home, and would kiss the wife and then go to the stu­dio. Even though I had the job, I was still flat broke. Hon­estly, I was spend­ing money that I didn’t have and putting my­self in a hole fi­nan­cially just to make it work, but I be­lieved in it, so I had to do what I had to do,” he af­firms.

It would take an­other two years be­fore the young pro­ducer landed a place­ment, in the form of “Wild Ride,” on Louisianan rap­per Kevin Gates’ 2014 mix­tape Luca Brasi 2.

“At the time, I was just trekking along not re­ally know­ing what I was do­ing. I wasn’t at the point where I was doubt­ing my­self, but I started pro­duc­ing in 2012 and by 2014, there weren’t any big place­ments. When [“Wild Ride”] came, it was a turn­ing point for me be­cause it sig­ni­fied, ‘Yo, you can do this.’”

Since his first place­ment, Prezi­dent Jeff has ma­tured as an artist, ex­pand­ing on rhyth­mic sounds and lay­ered melodies us­ing FL Stu­dio, but also Om­ni­sphere, Ana­log Lab, gear from Na­tive In­stru­ments and bun­dle of sounds from Out­put.

“Hav­ing over­dosed on Dr. Dre and Tim­ba­land es­pe­cially — Tim­ba­land more so than Dre, with the way he uses weird sounds and stuff that — [it was] a big in­flu­ence on how I move. I take great pride in turn­ing the most ran­dom sounds into some­thing that leaves peo­ple say­ing, ‘Yo what the heck is that?’

“I’m not a pi­anist, but I can fool my way around the key­board,” he con­tin­ues. “It’s very rare that I’ll start out with the drum lines, as I find it to be su­per-con­stric­tive — 99.9 per­cent of the time it’s melody [first]. The melody has to have some sort of bounce with it, so it can lead me in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion, so it can in­spire me with the drums.”

Roy Wood$’s “In­stinct” is a re­sult of just that — melody first and drums sec­ond, ul­ti­mately catch­ing the at­ten­tion of high-fash­ion brand Dior, and land­ing it­self in a re­cent Diorskin cam­paign.

“We started out as this artist-pro­ducer re­la­tion­ship, but it’s been cool, from work­ing to­gether to ac­tu­ally be­ing friends. That made that Dior cam­paign su­per spe­cial be­cause we did that to­gether,” Jeff ex­claims. “Just to think about me mak­ing that beat [here] at Di­a­mond Fac­tory Stu­dio, see­ing what it be­came, and then Dior pick­ing it up for one of their cam­paigns — it’s crazy, it’s all in the fam­ily.”

For Prezi­dent Jeff, his time has been a long time com­ing — but strate­gic on his part, sign­ing a pub­lish­ing deal with Sony/ ATV this past July. “It was the right time, you know? I held off for as long as I could [so] I could build up enough lever­age to get the deal that I wanted. It’s a re­ally nice tool to have, [be­cause] it opens up re­sources and op­por­tu­ni­ties that I can’t open up for my­self. I’ve only just re­cently started to take a step back and re­al­ize that I get to do what I want. I ac­tu­ally started to smell the roses a lit­tle bit.”

Though Prezi­dent Jeff now has the op­por­tu­nity to split his time be­tween Toronto and other cities, at his core, Toronto will al­ways be home. “There’s some­thing about pass­ing by that bas­ket­ball court or see­ing my el­e­men­tary school that just gives this feel­ing of re­turn­ing to my child­hood,” he says. “I don’t know how that in­flu­enced my sound, but that sense of al­ways feel­ing like you’re home plays some role in why I sound the way I do. This is the stuff I don’t take for granted.”

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