You can’t mention R&B without mentioning Bryan-Michael Cox. He has written and produced some of the greatest soundtracks of our lives. Whether it was helping us find the right words for a breakup, healing from a break or begging for our significant other to stay, Cox’s pen game never missed. In a one-on-one interview, he shares how he met Jermaine Dupri, his favorite songs that he has written and the ins and outs of his new record label.
Keytron: Many people argued about what is Bryan-Michael Cox’s greatest hit. What is your all-time favorite hit that you have written or produced?
Bryan-Michael Cox: It changes. But right now, my favorite one is Lil Mo’s Forever, just because it’s such a unique-sounding record. Nothing really sounded like that at the time. With the long intro, then it goes to the beat drop. I like the uniqueness and where my mindset was at the time when I made the track. It just was a special, magical time. I love You Got It Bad, I think that was phenomenal, Where The Party At, I love Why Did I Get Married.
Keytron: When did you find that love for music?
Bryan-Michael Cox: It has been with me since I was a child. I’ve been a musician since I was born. Music was my only destiny. I don’t know if there’s a story I can tell. Must has been my only destiny, and I’m fulfilling that destiny a couple of times over. Early on, I knew I wanted to be a musician, I knew I wanted to sing, I knew I wanted to play an instrument. That’s the only thing that ever kept my complete attention. Music is my first love.
Keytron: When did you start writing your own music?
Bryan-Michael Cox: That happens when you start having feelings for girls. Probably like 10 or 11. For me, when the piano became the center of attention for me. That’s where I fell in love with composing. I remember doing a talent show. I had a friend who asked me to be in a group and sing a song with him. I ended up doing a solo bit, and I’ll always remember I did a song called Smile by Guy. The response of the girls, I had never seen anything like that. In a matter of minutes, I went from unknown to known.
Keytron: Where do you get your inspiration from when you’re writing music? Did someone break your heart?
Bryan-Michael Cox: “What I learned is that these songs come through conversations. I think our songwriting sessions are a lot like therapy sessions. Whether we’re talking to each other or whether we’re talking to the artist about what they are going through, or we’re talking to another co-writer. There’s a little bit of me in a lot of the songs. Whatever is happening in that space or at the time, and that’s what was happening.
Keytron: How did meet Jermaine Dupri, and describe your relationship?
Bryan-Michael Cox: I met Jermaine through Brian and Brandon Casey from Jagged Edge. What happened was my manager was like ‘Yo I want to put you with Brian and Brandon, they want to work with you.’ They set a meeting up. We met and we made a song that day. It felt like something amazing. We had instant magic and instant chemistry. They went and played the song JD. He says ‘Yo, I want to meet this kid. This is y’all album. From there, it’s been nonstop, really. That was in 1997. He’s one of my best friends. We talk everyday, all day. We’ve been together for 25 years.”
Keytron: What was it like trying to get into the music business? How did you dodge the craziness that some artist and producers may go through?
Bryan-Michael Cox: I had a beautiful team. I was blessed to get down with a couple of guys who came from a different code of ethics. They came from another world that was transitioning into the music business. When you’re dealing with those kinds of guys that come from a level of loyalty and high ethics, I was just blessed to be with a guy who was honest.
Keytron: what advice would you give to another artist who may want to follow in your footsteps?
Bryan-Michael Cox: Number one, don’t be so eager. No matter how it feels. Never be thirsty about it. It’s hard not to be when your dreams are about to become a reality. You have to take in that these are business people, and they are looking at you like a commodity. Read your contract and know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. Work your ass off.
Keytron: Tell us who’s on your R&B Mount Rushmore.
Bryan-Michael Cox: I mean, this is hard. It changes. It’s not going to be set in stone. For the ladies, you have to put Aretha Franklin in there. You have to put Whitney Houston in there. You have to put Chaka Khan in there, and from a contemporary perspective, I’m going to go out on a limb and say Jazmine Sullivan. From a men’s perspective, you have to say Usher, you have to say Baby Face, you have to say, Marvin Gaye. This is going to be controversial, but you have to say R. Kelly.
Keytron: Would you say that you’re happy with where R&B is going right now?
Bryan-Michael Cox: I think this is an exciting time for R&B. Especially coming off of Victoria’s album, SZA’s album. This is an exciting time for R&B, especially going into 2024. Even this run that Beyoncé is coming off of.
Keytron: Tell us about your new project, Illustrate New Ideas.
Bryan-Michael Cox: Basically, I wanted to create a platform for artists that allows them to move around freely. We’re defining what the music business is and what the rules are now. Want to make sure that we write new rules that benefit everyone. The artist and the producer. When I’m moving into this next thing, I want to make a platform where we can make music freely, in and out and make the business easy. We will operate as a proper production company and a proper label. I want to create a certain accountability for the label and the artist.