Producer's Corner: Amadeus Breaks Down Duties As Trey Songz' Musical Director, Role In Diddy's Hitmen
Exclusive: The veteran producer explains balancing time between touring and the studio, and his recent credits with Chris Brown, T.I. and Young Jeezy.
When you take on the moniker of one of the world’s most revered composers, chances are you are packing in the musical department yourself. This Bronx born musician aligned himself with former PC alum, none other than Deric "D Dot" Angelettie and eventually took on a role that his mentor had himself earned a decade earlier.
Antwan "Amadeus" Thompson has crafted the soundscapes for the list of urban artists, including Young Jeezy, Mike Jones, Cherri Dennis, Danity Kane, but his recent role, which he utilized his Bronx hustler mentality to secure, is what has him racking up the miles. The role of music director to Trey Songz has seen this family man travel the globe, not only with the Atlantic R&B crooner but with the likes of Usher and Jay-Z.
Able to bring his creativity to a live audience in such a role is an extension of what Amadeus has always advocated. Paying homage to the crews that he hopes his Platinum Boy entertainment can replicate in this interview, this genuinely appreciative and hardworking New Yorker is living proof that the good guys really don’t finish last.
HipHopDX: What exactly is a music director?
Amadeus: It is my job to take Trey [Songz'] vision for his shows and his performances and bring them to life. It’s my responsibility to choose band members, schedule rehearsals, choose the songs we are going to need and to work in conjunction with production and lighting, in regard to his ideas, entrances, exits and what songs we are going to perform. It’s very intensive and hands on with Trey and the band members. It’s about building the entire show you see when you come and see him perform basically.
DX: How much preparation goes into the tour before you actually get on the road?
Amadeus: Definitely a lot of management, from the production to the booking of shows in the various cities; that is the first thing of course, which isn’t necessarily my job. Once there is a green light in regards to the tour happening, that’s when I come in to discuss the vision and what we are looking to do. On this last tour, which was the Anticipation Tour, it was all about showcasing songs from his mixtapes, so we chose a variety of songs from the tapes which we thought the audience would want to hear live and combined those with the hit songs everyone around the world knows, that’s the first step.
After that we are locked into rehearsals for two weeks, 12-12 each day with Trey and the band. A lot of preparations goes into touring. When people are spending their hard earned money they can see now what goes into putting on a tour like this. We work really hard to provide them with the best show possible.
DX: How did you meet Trey then, were you producing for him?
Amadeus: The time we met I was working on Mike Jones’ [The Voice] album and we had a song called "I Know." Mike and I sat down and we were talking about putting a male R&B artist on there. We threw out Usher and Tyrese, Omarion and then we threw out Try Songz and we felt that Trey’s style and image fit the direction we wanted to go in with the song. He was down to do it. Mike was signed to Warner [Bros. Records] and Trey is signed to Atlantic [Records] so they were under the same umbrella. We all went to Houston where we recorded the song and mixed the song and in the studio, there was a drum kit and I was telling the guys I played the drums and these guys were like, "No, you don’t" and I explained I was a musician first and we threw a few jokes back and forth and I said, "Eventually you are going to need a band behind you," and left it at that and off we went in our own directions. But then a year later I got a call from his manager asking if I was ready to put Trey’s band together. That came from me saying something in the studio and here I am five years later on, Trey’s only ever Music Director.
DX: Where have you been on the Anticipation Tour?
Amadeus: We ended in Nashville; we played New York, [Washington] DC, L.A., New Jersey and a few more. After we did the last show we had a minute to look back on what we had accomplished, as when you are on the road it’s all about going forward. It was then we realized we had actually done 10 tours together. We’ve been all over, US tours with Usher, Jay-Z, an Australian tour with Usher and Trey has done a couple of his own tours overseas.
DX: Being that this has become such a huge part of your life, how does this interfere with your production, as this is obviously another huge dimension to you as the last time we spoke you had been signed to Diddy’s Hitmen?
Amadeus: I wouldn’t say it interferes, it somewhat takes me from it a little. Obviously being on the road, you can’t be in two places at the same time and I’m not obviously in the studio. But what’s good is when you work hard and you are creating music, I had enough music created where I was just able to get it placed on various albums whilst still being out on the road. I had placements on albums [and mixtapes] from T.I., Young Jeezy, Chris Brown and a lot of this came about when I was on the road. When I came in I would just lock myself in the studio. But I have got to see places I never thought I would see and the best part being I got to do this and it not being on my own expense. [Laughs] I met a lot of people and artists, you know Jay-Z, Usher, Big Sean and I got to connect with these guys and give them some music. I have a lot in the pipeline and there’s a lot of music people haven’t heard.
DX: You’re self-managed right?
Amadeus: I was for a long time, but that changed when I got down with the Bad Boy Management situation. Bad Boy Hitmen are basically producers managed by Bad Boy.
DX: So you’re still signed?
Amadeus: Yes, that’s the management situation, but before that I was on my own. Being a part of Bad Boy, I’m still the same person in regards to not letting opportunities pass me by.
DX: Well, let me ask you this as people always go on about Diddy not doing things for them when they are signed to him in whatever way. When you look at him and how he came up, he certainly didn’t have things handed to him on the proverbial silver platter. Do you think that that is what he is looking for when he signs people to the label, people who are able to be self-sufficient?
Amadeus: That is a great question. I couldn’t say that any better as that’s exactly how I feel. You have to show and prove and that is the same with everybody, the artist deals, producer deals. You can’t just sign on the dotted line and then watch everything fall into place. It’s the total opposite, even though you signed on the dotted line and your name is now connected with Diddy and Bad Boy [Records] and you wear that brand, you can’t just sit back, I had to work harder when that deal came about. Diddy has earned and created a lot of what he has on his own and I look at that as inspiration. Of course if I need something that is there or things given, of course I am going to take them, but as I always say, no one will work harder for you than you.
DX: How did the Bad Boy situation come about?
Amadeus: At the age of about 16 I got to connect with Deric "D Dot" Angelettie and he became my mentor; he was there to lead and direct me in my production. I got to meet Bobby Springsteen who was A&Ring at Bad Boy at the time; he put me in the studio with Heavy D. So I was always in the cipher with the likes of Harve Pierre, who is now president [of Bad Boy Records] and of course Conrad Dimanche. Then I realized you really get the attention when you do things in-house, like when I landed a placement on Cheri Dennis’s [In And Out Of Love] album, working with Danity Kane and Day 26 when they were there, that all brought awareness. They saw I was doing things and knew that I didn’t have proper representation and the door was opened. And it as like, why not? We just sat down, came up with a plan and moved forward and I became a part of the Bad Boy Hitmen production team.
DX: But you had got to this point without management so was it just pure determination that pushed you along?
Amadeus: I feel it’s the passion to music itself and for me wanting to create more music, that’s the thing I feel motivates me to keep going. As you grow, mature and become a man they way you look at things different. Then versus now? I was excited to be going on spending sprees and buying 20 pairs of sneakers. You do that and then you grow up and you realize, "I have a wife, a son, a home and all these things I need to take care of." So your way of thinking changes. This isn’t a game, I love doing it but now I take it a lot more serious as this allows me to eat, take care and provide for my family. That alone gives you the determination to keep pushing forward no matter what. Even though I’m in this situation with Bad Boy, that hustler mentality never left. I’m my own publicist, all the endorsement deals I get for touring, I get those by finding out who does what and securing deals for cymbals and drums, I do all that and enjoy doing it.
DX: So the grass is not always as green as you think it might be on the other side, you have to put that work in regardless. What is on the cards for you with Platinum Boy, your own set up?
Amadeus: You know that all started one day sitting in ASCAP and I was thinking about a name I needed for my company and well I want all the records I make to be platinum and being that I am male, from there I got Platinum Boy. It’s grown over the years, I have Tiffany Mynon, we call her "the angel of R&B" and we have producers and writers. I have learned through my years in this business that you don’t have to do everything yourself, you can put together an ill team and where everyone has their areas of expertise and create some amazing music, just like the original crews. When you look back at the Hitmen, Ruff Ryders, Murder Inc., everyone had a crew, everyone had a job to do and from there they came together and made great music.
DX: How do you balance it all when you have obviously been out on the road so much lately?
Amadeus: I have a partner Ro Garcia, who isn’t really involved with the creative process, the making music, etc. but in terms of getting the business done, he does that.
DX: Was it easy to find someone to off load to as you have already stated in this interview that no one works harder for you than you?
Amadeus: We were friends first as we went to the same church and he has watched me grown and wanted to be a part of that. He supported everything I was doing and it has just grown from there. He comes up with ideas how to market the Platinum Boy brand and how to get our artists out. He does what I can’t do, he’s there holding everything together. It works but I am still happy to do the groundwork as that is the person I am and that will never change.