Every artist dreams of having their song take off, but life after a hit record is not just about glamour. There are newfound pressures, anxieties, and a need to keep up the momentum of a chart-topping smash.
For producer Rogét Chahayed—the man behind hits like “Broccoli” with Shelley fka DRAM and Lil Yachty, Halsey’s “Bad at Love,” “Kiss Me More” with Doja Cat and SZA, and the undeniable “SICKO MODE” with Travis Scott and Drake—life after scoring a big placement centered around remaining humble and knowing which opportunities to jump on and when to rest.
A classically-trained pianist and jazz lover, Chahayed’s productions are marked by their incredible drama and tone-setting. In 2014, Chahayed began working with Dr. Dre as his keyboardist in Los Angeles, which propelled him to make a name for himself in the songwriting and production space, all culminating in his synths on “Broccoli” in 2016. From there, life changed very quickly for Chahayed, who recalls a flurry of phone calls and a dizzying change of pace in his life.
“You work harder,” Chahayed explains of life-post-hit. “You get on a wave that you’ve been praying to get on, and once you’re on it, you’ve gotta keep going. A hit song, to me, is fuel for more. I grew up with the impression that once you get a few hits, you don’t gotta work again. You don’t gotta worry about money. The truth is, every hit brings you closer and closer to the bigger artists and producers, and to the attention. But now you have the attention and the circle grows. As far as changing your life, it really is up to you as the producer or writer, how to ride that wave and keep going, and not get comfortable.”
For Audiomack World, Rogét Chahayed recounts his foray into music and breaks down his best advice for producers who just landed their first big placement.
Let’s start with some background. How did you first get into music?
When I was seven, I woke up one morning and there were three dudes lifting up a grand piano into my living room. My dad said he found a good deal and wanted to sign us up for lessons with this teacher he found in the PennySaver magazine down the street. We just started going. I was seven, so I didn’t have much of a choice.
When I was 15, that’s when I really started caring about music, practicing, and getting more into it. I got into classical, and while I was in high school, I fell in love with jazz. I ended up going to a conservatory for classical piano in San Francisco. During that time, I started digging into hip-hop, production, and beat-making. I fell in love with it and found my new goal while I was in college, studying piano.
At what point did you feel like you found your sound?
There was definitely a period where I was doing a lot of playing and studio sessions, still coming up and learning. Sometime around 2011-2012, I started to feel a deeper connection with hip-hop and R&B and started to really understand my place and role in this. The kinds of sounds and chords I heard and felt there was a place for [my sound] in the world of rap.
Which production placement really cemented in your mind that this music thing was going to work out?
One of my first official placements was “Broccoli,” and that was definitely something that happened where… You go to the studio, so many late nights, your whole life everyone’s talking about, “We’re gonna get one.” Didn’t seem like it was happening for a while. The day we made “Broccoli,” I felt my life had changed that night. Energy shifted. Harmonically speaking, it’s not my most sophisticated work, but it doesn’t matter, because we captured a moment.
How do you strike a balance between continuing to challenge yourself as an artist, and making sure you’re delivering a signature sound?
A lot of people have told me, after “Broccoli” came out, “We need five more of those.” I believe innovation and progression are essential. I would say, “Okay, we did this with these sounds and this equipment… What’s the next step?”
I just keep searching for new ways to create. It could be sitting at the keyboard, pulling up a new sound, and playing. I’m past that stage, where now I want to create more sounds, samples, and loops, and hit a different spot emotionally. Expanding who you work with is also very important. Different people bring out different things in you. Plus, the environment you’re in [matters].
What are the new anxieties that come with having GRAMMY nominations and Platinum plaques?
It’s definitely gotten crazy busy, and it’s exciting for me. I’ve accepted a new lifestyle as far as “Go where you’re called to, where the music is calling.” If there’s five people calling you to work, who’s the one person you feel you will connect with the most? Not even make a hit with, but when you’re making music with people, you wanna feel like it’s a hang. You’re not worried about pressure and anxiety. Lately, it’s been [about] finding artists that bring out the best in me, who feel the same way about me. It’s a matter of taste and time management.
Don’t worry about saying “No” to somebody if you’re too tired or out of it. It’s okay because it’s better to [say “no” than] to show up and not be able to give 110 percent of yourself.
Do what you wanna do! It’s such an interesting field because you don’t really have to do anything. You get 100 people calling your phone? Just don’t worry. Handle it a message at a time, and prioritize your list.
Were you always comfortable with the sting of saying “No” to an opportunity?
I had the biggest case of FOMO, ever. To the point where most relationships and friendships I had before things started getting busier, I sacrificed a lot. I would go to any session—big, small, jam session. I dropped what I did in life. I learned my lesson when everyone started calling me. I showed up everywhere, but I started finding I was getting tired quickly. I realized you have to work with everybody first to figure out who are the people you want to lock in with. After working with different people, producers, and writers, I’ve learned who I meshed with. Then you start to organize and prepare yourself a little better.
What’s your best advice for a producer who just got their first big placement and now their phone is ringing nonstop and they’re struggling to choose between work and living life?
There’s different ways to go about it. The first way: Follow your heart. Either go to the session or go to the dinner. It’s up to what matters to you. But, if you really wanna try and do both, that could be pushing it. A lot of times you have to organize yourself and your life—this is a big lesson in time management and balance. You have to have those good hangs. Those are the memories you create, that can inspire you to make something incredible.
Photos by Jocelyn James.
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