Born in South Africa to Israeli
parents, Jonathan Rotem began formal classical piano training in Canada.
Naturally drawn to music of all kinds, Jonathans parents quickly
recognized and supported his talent and love for music. Around the time
of junior high school, Jonathan and his family moved to the San Francisco
Bay Area, where he continued his classical training with some of the
most acclaimed teachers in the area. He participated in countless recitals,
competitions, and music events earning a name for himself in the music
community of Northern California. Classical music was when I first
learned about the importance of discipline, and how daily focus and
commitment are key to reaching ones goals. Learning the works
of historic classical composers was also pivotal to the shaping of my
musical development, and I am still reaching to achieve similar textures,
harmonies, and melodies in my own music.
During high school, Jonathan supplemented his classical training with
playing piano in the school bands and choir, and also began taking music
composition seriously. In addition to writing instrumental music and
sequencing on MIDI keyboards, he played in rock bands with fellow classmates.
This was also when Jonathan began to discover his fascination with hip
hop music. Where I grew up, people were not into hip hop as much
as in cities like LA or NY. They were amused by the few hits songs that
got onto mainstream radio, but it was not recognized as the legitimate
art form that it is, and I did not have access or knowledge to a lot
of the historic groups and songs that made it what it is today.
Immediately after high school, Jonathan flew across the country where
he enrolled in the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. Originally
intending on studying film scoring, Jonathan quickly became engulfed
in the world of jazz music. Embracing it fully, he began to study jazz
piano and participate in many jazz ensembles and classes, all while
putting himself on a rigorous practice schedule of 4-8 hours a day.
He quickly became one of the most sought after pianists in the school.
When I was at Berklee, my goal was to catch up to the other jazz
pianists I looked up to who had been playing and listening to jazz music
since childhood. As a student of classical piano, my conservative teachers
never encouraged me to branch out into jazz. I had to start fresh, and
even though there are similarities between all styles of music, the
feel, technique, history, and sound of jazz is very different from classical.
After graduating Berklee College of Music, Jonathan moved back to the
Bay Area and began playing with the top jazz groups and musicians in
the area. By this time, he had developed an aggressive personal sound
and style to his jazz piano, and was composing a lot of original material
for his groups. He was playing gigs almost every night, sometimes 2
a night, practicing piano in the day, and teaching piano lessons when
he had time. Around this time, Jonathan began to listen and enjoy hip
hop more. He began incorporating contemporary hip hop songs into his
jazz sets in San Francisco clubs. People started to really respond to
this, and as he began to gain popularity, musicians and rappers alike
began to attend the jazz shows to freestyle with his group. Wanting
to take things to the next level, and reinvent himself, Jonathan decided
to take an entire summer off performing, and devote 12 hours a day to
intense practicing with the intention of emerging with a dramatically
new sound. This was the point where I felt like I could either
continue being a big fish in a small pond, or strive to take it to the
next level and reach for a truly individual sound like no one else.
Jonathan did indeed cease his performing, and began his mission. Ironically,
at the end of the summer, though he did achieve a new and personal sound
that people were impressed by, he did not carry out the plan in full,
as he found that he no longer wanted to be a jazz pianist. Instead,
after this summer of solitude, he found that he was more inspired by
process of composing rather than performing. Still playing a few gigs,
Jonathan began to compose on piano and keyboards . Listening to a lot
of hip hop at this point, Jonathan realized that the producers making
beats were the modern day composers. Excited by this concept, he began
to take making beats more seriously.
Shortly after making the transition, Jonathans beats got into
the hands of Dwayne Wiggins, of Toni Tony Tone, who took them to Beyonce
of Destinys Child. They ended up recording 2 songs, one of which
was placed on the Survivor album. Seeing the potential in
this new career, Jonathan decided to move to Los Angeles in order to
pursue a career as producer full time. Working hard as always, after
a couple of years, he met music manager/lawyer Zach Katz who took him
on as a client. When I first met Zach, my beats had a lot of music
in them but the grimy and edgy sound and sprit of hip hop was not quite
there. Zach helped me put the grittiness into the music, and helped
me listen to my music with hip hop ears instead of like a classical
or jazz pianist Learning tricks from producer Denaun Porter (D12)
along the way, Jonathan committed himself to the art form of making
beats. In a short time, Jonathan J.R. Rotem was working
with everyone in the industry including Dr. Dre, 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg,
Fabolous, Obie Trice, D12, Lil Kim, Fat Joe.
Recently, Jonathan and Zach have formed a production company together,
Net Worth Entertainment, where they are developing new talent. I
feel like I began in this industry 2 years a go as keyboard player/musician.
After hard work, I became a legitimate beat maker. Now, I want to make
the transition to a producer in the true sense of the word. Somebody
like a Dr. Dre, or Quincy Jones, somebody who is in control of every
step of the process of making a hit song.
The INTRO on the frontpage
is J.R.'s track.