Empire’s music director had no idea the show’s soundtrack would be such a hit, but he considers the wide reception of it all a blessing. Jim Beanz, who also appears as Titan on the show, has been working with Timbaland, Empire’s executive music producer, for a decade, and he’s the genius behind the show’s hit song “Drip Drop.”
Find out what Beanz had to say about working with Timbaland, Jennifer Hudson, and up-and-coming rapper Tink, as well as his former addiction to Love & Hip Hop Atlanta. Look forward to the rest of Empire Season 1 with these three things you need to know about the rest of the season, and enjoy this throwback song, which Beanz had a hand in creating.
You’ve been working with Timbaland for a while. What’s your relationship with him like?
Me and Timbaland have been working for about 10 years. I was usually the guy who he would pull in whenever he had any singers. I started working with him along the lines of vocal production. Over the past four or five years was when he started to see that I was a writer and a producer also.
What’s it like producing for artists versus producing music for TV? Does it limit your creativity in any ways?
It’s a different world than just doing music for artists or singers. A lot of the songs have to carry out the story line. It’s definitely been boot camp. [laughs] It’s taught me how to also implement different characteristics within the songs. Each character has a different kind of song.
“Drip Drop” was number one on Billboard’s Emerging Artists a couple of weeks ago.
What? Can you just say that one more time for me? No, I did not know!
Yeah, I saw it up there one afternoon. It was still charting a few days after, too.
Wow. God is good. I had no idea.
How does it feel to see your songs be so well-received outside of the show?
It’s a blessing. You just now told me that news. I had no idea. I’ve been so in this work bubble that I’ve had no chance to breathe and see how the numbers are doing, but it feels great. Wow. That’s a blessing. The amount of songs that had to be turned over in such a small amount of time, I didn’t really even get a chance to fall in love with any one because I was always on to the next scene or the next episodes, so to hear that the songs are actually being received like that, it’s amazing. It really is.
Have you ever watched Love & Hip Hop?
Yeah, I have. I’m not gonna lie, I used to be addicted to Love & Hip Hop. [laughs]
Do you have a favorite one?
I love Joseline and Stevie J. To me, they are a hilarious couple.
Joseline recently said something like she thinks Cookie’s character from Empire is based on her. Thoughts on that?
[laughs] She’s definitely outspoken. I’ve heard a few women say they feel like there’s a little bit of Cookie in them. I think it’s amazing anytime a girl stands up for herself. I think that’s really cool.
You appear on the show as Titan. I read in your January interview with The Wall Street Journal that that was a spur-of-the-moment thing. What was that like?
It was four o’clock in the morning. [laughs] I got a phone call from one of the writers from the show and they said, “Hey, you have to come and do this part. You gotta wake up.” And I said, “Excuse me?” And they said, “Yeah, the artist whose song it was for, they ended up not showing up for their part, so you have to do it.” I said, “I’m not here to be an actor. I play music and that’s hard enough!” [laughs] They said, “You don’t understand, you’re the only person that can do it because you know the words for the song.” I asked if I called a friend in Chicago, would it be okay if I had them do it. They said, “Well, we think you’d be fine, but sure, they can if they’re available.” I called the friend up, they said they’d do it, but when I told them where the friend stayed in Chicago, they said it was too far. At that point, I said I gotta look out for Team Timbaland and step up to the plate and just man up. I went there and met Terrence Howard and he walked straight up to me. He mentored me right there. He helped me put whatever I was feeling in that moment into that character.
Hakeem’s character seems hard to work with. Have you ever experienced working with an artist who is like him in real life?
You know what’s crazy? None of the artists on the show are actually hard to work with. I think people see the character and they relate the character as far as how they are on the show to how they would be in real life. Each and every cast member that I’ve done music with has been the best to work with. They’re really open for ideas, and they understand that me, coming from not only the production side but also writing of the songs, they recognize that, because I know the story line usually in more detail than them, I’m usually the one to make the song connect with the story. They’re usually always open to what I have to say.
Different sites have compared artists on the show to artists in real life. Do you think each artist on the show mirrors someone in real life?
No, I don’t think that. People love to have something to associate with something that they’re familiar with. There are so many different ways that people compare something to give guidance for if it’s good or not. That’s their gauge of whether or not the person has credibility for something they’re used to seeing or knowing. As far as in the show, I would say none of them have anything that reminds me of any other artist or anybody out there.
Who, in your opinion, is one of the most powerful musicians or artists today?
There’s a girl named V Bozeman, Veronica Bozeman. She’s one of the first faces that you see on the first episode of Empire. Timbaland put me on her project in Miami. We worked from March to September/October on her album. That girl is remarkable. She sings a song called “What Is Love?” There are so many people who have recorded their version of the song on Instagram. You have children singing it, adults singing it. As far as her voice, I know it’s a huge statement to say, but she would be the generation’s Whitney Houston. I really do believe that. She’s gonna be coming up again in future episodes.
That scene of her singing got me hooked on the show.
A lot of people say that. What’s crazy is she’s such an amazing artist. She has some huge songs on her album. Very similar to the first time you heard “I Believe The Children Are Our Future” by Whitney, or even like Michael Jackson. She has big power ballads that will cross different genres, from pop to R&B. I’m really happy to work with her and excited to see what the world thinks.
Who do you think is the most powerful couple in music right now?
I think Timbaland and Monique Mosley. What’s been amazing with that is that they have a lot of groundbreaking music that is on the way from an artist named Tink. She’s gonna be coming out on Mosley Music Group. Her and also V Bozeman, they’re both artists who are on Timbaland’s record label. I think that the reason some of these songs on Empire are being noticed is because they don’t sound like what you hear on the radio lately. So I would say Timbaland and Monique Mosley, definitely.
What are some of the highlights of your career so far?
Definitely working on this television show has been great. I worked on Britney Spears years ago with a producer named Danger. That was a huge moment. Working with an artist at the moment that was trying to revamp her career, so that was really cool to see. I worked on [Britney’s] Circus and Blackout albums. That was a really cool moment in time. Years ago, I worked with Nelly for her last album with Tim. I’ve worked with artists who are either trying to revamp their careers or step back into the spotlight. I’ve done some songs for Jennifer Hudson that are amazing. She’s gonna be on Empire this season. I’m excited to see how those are received.
Do you have plans to release an album of your own?
I’ve never thought about it. A lot goes into being an artist. Your privacy is gone. Anything’s possible. Timbaland asked me a few years ago would I ever think about doing an album, and I told him “No.” [laughs] Only God knows what the future holds. I may not do a Jim Beanz album but I may do a Titan album.
I just wanna say how blessed I am that Lee Daniels and Timbaland have asked me to work on this with them. It’s such an honor.