Anthony “Lee” Norris:
Born on February 11, 1990 in Queens, New York, a borough that has spawned acts like Nas and Run DMC, Anthony “Lee” Norris grew up inspired by hip- hop. With a father and uncle tied to the music industry, and a mother who would introduce him to a variety of hip hop albums as a child, his interest in rap was deepened at an early age. It wasn’t until he was a teenager however that he began rapping and producing his own material as well as making beats for local acts in Queens.
Growing up, Norris’s father and uncle were both associated with Desert Storm Records, a record label headed by Skane Dolla, Duro and DJ Clue that is currently distributed by Def Jam. This connection gave him access to the music industry throughout his childhood as he is able to recall hanging around artists like Fabolous growing up. The admiration for these figures that he was constantly around grew and grew, and it wasn’t long before he decided that their life was the kind of life he wanted for himself.
Honing his musical craft during his high school years, things really started to take off for the young producer after he graduated in 2009. Not attending college and continuing to produce, he supplemented his passion for hip hop with telemarketing, delivery jobs, and a SoundClick account. During this time he was able to keep the lights on and practice his music all while networking on a financially stable platform, eventually leading to some very valuable connections.
Norris would soon garner a reputation by producing for local acts such as Ox and Young Prince early in his career. Before he knew it, he was in the same circle with producers like Sonaro, who ended up making the 2012 summer jam “Pop That” possible. The established producer would give him the e-mail of Chinx Drugz, a member of The Coke Boys, where Norris sent the “Pop That” beat to. Chinx showed the beat to French Montana who was so impressed, that he decided to make it the lead single off of his debut album “Excuse My French.” This was his first big break.
“Pop That” features hip hop heavyweights like Lil Wayne and Drake, and it’s the biggest placement so far for the 22 year old producer. It has created more opportunities for Norris as his talents have been coveted by several music industry conglomerates. He continues to stay persistent and consistent as he builds his production credits, working with acts such as Kid Ink and Meek Mill, but he one day hopes to produce for artists outside of hip-hop. It didn’t happen overnight, after 7 long years of producing, everything is just beginning for this Queens native.
So you’re from Queens. Can you tell me a little about how your background has influenced your style?
Well I’m from Hollis so I grew up around a lot of LL Cool J and Run DMC and all of that stuff. LL really inspired me when I was younger. I grew up around Clue and Fab and like Stack Bundles. I think my sound really came from being around them, but I also really had my own type of thing.
Have you ever had any aspirations as a rapper?
Yeah that’s how I started making beats- I rapped. So maybe like two years ago I was a rapper. That’s what made me start making beats when I was 14 because I always wanted my own beats to rap on, and I was actually just stealing people’s beats and it got corny. I just started making my own. I hit my uncle one day and he told me about Fruity Loops and that was it from there.
Do you want to build up your production credits and eventually come out with your rapping debut?
I actually was thinking about that, but I want to have producing solid. Like Kanye was going hard with producing before he started rapping. Even Pharrell, he was doing hooks and stuff like that, but he was producing songs years before he actually started doing songs for his own album. I would consider it, but I just want to focus on one thing at a time and get one thing straight. Then I’ll think about something else.
Are your parents into music? What made you start rapping and producing?
None of my family creates music. I always loved music as a kid. I remember sitting in front of the TV watching Kriss- Kross and Onyx and stuff like that. I remember listening to full albums. That’s another thing, my mom used to buy a lot of albums. I used to listen to everything, all the way through Juvenile, Cash Money, Jay Z “Reasonable Doubt,” all of those. I was only like 6 or 7 listening to this stuff, so I was always a fan of music but when I started getting older and seeing what my uncle and my father, the people they hang out with, like Skane and Clue and them, when I actually saw what they were doing [that’s what got me into it more].
Fab was the first rapper I started to look up to, because he was the first rapper that I was around. That’s another thing people used to say I sounded like him, so that’s why I stopped rapping for a while, but I think that’s what really influenced me to go forward with it; being around those people. And then I had people my age who were in the same circle, so we were all just the same way. We wanted to be like them, so I think it was that whole Desert Storm thing.
What are some of the obstacles and challenges that you’ve had to overcome as an up and coming producer?
For me, I think the hardest part of it was actually being able to stay consistent when you have reality to deal with. Like you’ve got to eat, you’ve got bills to pay, stuff like that. You need a job, and when you’re working, it’s hard to balance working with creating. I think the hardest part for me was staying consistent while worrying about stuff that’s going on.
I used SoundClick, so instead of working I used it to eat and actually build my craft at the same time, and it helped network. I just started doing that in 2009, and I know a lot of local artists, and we were messing with Stack Bundles. When he passed, we started messing with people that he knew, like Sonaro, he produced for Fab, the “Body Ya” track. He was a producer that was out there, and he’s the one that gave me the e-mail that made this all happen. He gave me Chinx’s email, he was a part of Riot Squad, but he’s on Coke Boys now, and I gave him the beat, and from there, it was over.
What songs have you been listening to recently?
Recently, I’ve actually been listening to a lot of dance music. I’m really trying to learn that sound. Like Flo Rida ‘Wild Ones,’ Nicki Minaj ‘Starships,’ stuff like that. I’ve been really trying to down pat that sound.
Is that the next step for you, moving into the party sound?
It’s kind of early because I only have one placement, and that placement is not even close to that. I mean its close because it’s kind of like a club record, but, I just have to build. I don’t want to jump into that too quickly. I’d rather let it come to me. Like when the time is right, I’ll do that, but I’m not going to say that I’m going to do it right now. If it happens, it happens, but I won’t say it’ll happen soon.
What other artists do you aspire to work with? Is it all just hip- hop?
No. I want to work with Justin Bieber [laughs]. I want to work with Justin Timberlake, I’d work with Katy Perry, the list goes on. Ne- Yo, Usher, Jay, Kanye, Alicia Keys. I would do something with Pharrell, Ryan Leslie. I’m not just thinking about hip hop, I would work with everybody.
How do you feel about the rap game in general and the direction of where it’s going?
It’s actually getting interesting. I don’t know, out of nowhere, Chicago just came back up. They just got a whole new movement, and I mean the west coast is going crazy because they’ve got all of these new artists. There’s a lot of underground stuff going on in New York. I would like to see New York come back up. I just think it needs to be a little more competitive as far as east, west, south, and stuff like that. I think New York specifically needs to step it up a little especially cause all we’ve got right now is A$AP, French, and like Fab. I want to see more New York artists being heard.
What advice do you have for any up and coming producers?
I would say that they can’t get discouraged because they are going to go to a lot of people and get turned down. That’s one thing, they can’t get discouraged by that. Another thing, they’ve got to stay consistent. You’ve got to be more consistent than anything when it comes to this shit. Another thing is, they’ve just got to network. They ask ‘how did you make this happen?’ They’ve just got to use their social network. I mean Twitter right now is a key. I got a Kid Ink placement off of Twitter- just e- mailing. It’s just having the right beats at the right time and getting it to the right people.
Another thing is, I’ve been producing for seven years, and I just now got this placement. Even though I’m unknown, I’ve been doing this for a while. Some of these producers do it for like a year or two and then they tell me ‘yo, I wanna get on.’ They can’t expect it to happen that fast, it took time. Some of them don’t understand that your work has to be up to par too. Even if you do get that placement, people are going to want more, and if you can’t deliver then you just put a hole under whatever it is you just did. Just be consistent and ready for when your time comes. It’s not going to happen overnight. It takes time.
What inspired the ‘Pop That’ beat?
Even though I was young when the sample came out, even when I was going to parties in my teen years, that was always like the last song they played before a party was over and that was the shit that the bitches went crazy for. So I knew what the record was even though I was young growing up. And being 22 now, and just looking back and studying music, you know what certain records meant, so when I actually did the record, this is another thing that I want to clear out. A lot of people think that I stole the record because there were other people that used the sample, but like I said this on Twitter one time; ‘I’m not the first to sample 2 Live Crew, I’m just the first one to get it to the right people.’ So it was just one of those things where I was just inspired by something one of my friends did. I had the record, and I was listening to it like ‘yo, let me try this.’ I wanted to try it but I didn’t want to try it in a typical way.
If you could work with any artist dead or alive, who would it be?
I would say like a Big and Pac collab, or something like that, or a Pun and Big L joint. I would do a song with all of them on it. Just get a crazy stupid beat, and have them all body it. I don’t know, like a six minute joint and pick the three hardest ones out of all of those.
Any upcoming deals you’d like to discuss?
I don’t know if I’m going to be taking any deals but I’m just getting publishing deal offers. An A&R from Atlantic hit me up, asking me to send some records to T.I. EMI, Sony, Universal, they want to try to get me over at Cash Money. A couple of people honestly, but I don’t know yet.
By Joshua “Spider” Blackwell