Seattle breakthrough artists Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are well on their way to selling out a three-night stand, set for Dec. 10 to 12 at KeyArena. Meanwhile, a lesser-known hit-making duo is blazing its own trail to superstardom in Tacoma.
Providing inspiration for Curtis High School alumni Clemm Rishad and Will Jordan is their view from Platinum Reign, the Hilltop studio where they write pop hits. "We look at the Tacoma Dome from our studio every day with dreams of filling it up," said Rishad, 25, a rapper who cut his teeth performing at defunct, all-ages hip-hop spot Club Friday.
His words might sound like pipe dreams coming from someone else; but Rishad will be in Atlanta this weekend winning over new fans on the Dub Show Tour, a traveling hip-hop and custom car show that features the likes Rocko and Yo Gotti. It's just the latest development from the hot streak he and Jordan have been on since they formed a writing partnership, called the Writers Block, in 2010.
Rishad and Jordan pitch songs to their Los Angeles-based label, Beluga Heights, which in turn shops them around to some of today's biggest recording artists. The duo's stock started to rise with the placement of “Pretty Girls,” a track Iyaz and Travis McCoy recorded and rode to No. 43 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2011.
“We didn't think it would happen as quick as it did,” said Jordan. “There were months and months of hard work during that process; but the fact that the first song we sent ended up being a placement was more than we ever imagined.”
That initial success inspired confidence in label head J.R. Rotem, a producer who has shaped hits for Britney Spears, Rihanna and Rick Ross, among others. Rotem sent Rishad and Jordan a beat the duo used to compose breakthrough hit, “Fly.”
They wrote it with Justin Bieber in mind. Instead, rapper Nicki Minaj picked it up for her debut album, “Pink Friday.” The single – which also features pop singer Rihanna – went on to be certified platinum with more than a million sales.
“That was her favorite song on the album,” said Rishad, something he said learned when he got to meet Minaj in person. “It’s always a reality check. There’ll be times when we’re going through so much; bad stuff, negative stuff, the day-to-day regular life stuff. You’ll think, 'Man, we’re not making too many moves' or 'man, my day's not too good.' Then you’ll walk into a place and they’ll be singing your song on the radio.”
“When you make that song, and you hear people’s responses to your music it encourages you to keep on doing it,” Jordan said, “and it helps you to stay confident and focused.”
The two continue to shop songs, but they've spent the better part of 2013 trying to emerge from the shadows. Rishad released a new mix tape, called “Supaflyness,” that can be downloaded for free at http://www.clemmrishad.com. Jordan's lush, R&B-oriented debut, “In Case It Rains,” is available through iTunes.
They say they feel better equipped to navigate music industry pitfalls, thanks to their experience working behind the scenes as ghostwriters; and they draw further inspiration from Macklemore's ability to become a household name while sticking to his independent ideals.
“It's crazy to know that, that somebody from our area can be independent and still become this big,” Jordan said.
“I tell people only legends make it out of here. To grow up in Washington and to do music here you have to be phenomenal for people down in LA and people in Miami and New York to hear you; so that’s what we’re trying to get to. … So we have to work hard and we have to do everything it takes to make it. But it’s worth it at the end.”
Will Jordan's next local performance will be at Wright Park's Seymour Conservatory on Aug. 17. The show is fundraiser show for local local music web site Post Defiance with more details available at http://www.postdefiance.com.
Turn to B5 to learn about more buzz hip-hop acts from Tacoma what they may need to take their music to the next level.
Clemm Rishad and Will Jordan are just two artists drawing attention to South Sound hip-hop. Learn about more buzzworthy acts on B5.
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