Going Underground With The Underdogs


02.01.04: They call themselves The Underdogs, but this dynamic production team is far form being the little guys.  When Harvey Mason Jr. and Damon Thomas met three years ago, no one really heard much about them.  But even then, Mason worked with Rodney Jerkins and Thomas worked with Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds.  when the two linked up and created Underdog Entertainment, it was only a matter of time before these Underdogs became big dogs.  The first project the two worked on together was Tyrese two years ago, and today they are the hot producers to have on your project.

On his way to the studio to meet up with his partner Damon, I had an opportunity to chat with Harvey Mason Jr.

Inside Cx: What are you currently working on?

H.M.:  We're working on a couple of records for Ruben Studdard, the American Idol winner, and Craig David's new record.  Actually, we've been working on Craig David's record for the last two months. (We're doing) a bunch of songs for that.  we're doing a couple of new things for Janet Jackson right now and working with a couple of new artists for different labels, but that's kind of the bulk of what's going on.

Inside Cx: Do you write lyrics for most of the tracks you produce?

Yeah, we pretty much write everything.  we write music, we write lyrics.  we have people that co-write lyrics, we have people in our camp that sometimes do music with us.  Sometimes they do lyrics with us.  So we kind of just all put our talent together and come out with whatever we come out with.  It's a product of all of us together.

The Underdog Camp is located in Los Angeles, and according to Harvey Mason Jr., the studio is a basic music factory with state-of-the-art facilities and offices for A&R and production staff.  Both Mason and Thomas play a couple of instruments, including the piano, bass, drums and guitar, and do a lot of recording using both studio equipment and live music.  Mason says the studio has a room for every creative cause and everyone is working on something at the same time.  There's always something happening in all the different rooms.

But the studio is only a piece of the picture.  When Mason and Thomas signed an exclusive label deal with Clive Davis; J Records, this camp, which consists of about nine other talented individuals, became a place where the duo could not only produce acts but develop and sign new acts while still producing artists on J Records.  With a steadily growing discography that currently includes Ruben Studdard, B2K, Babyface, Brandy, Brian Mcknight, Kelly Clarkson, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Faith Evans, a host of other artist and several soundtracks, it is amazing how humbly the conversation flowed.

Inside Cx: How did you get your foot in the door?

I've been writing songs for a long time.   Once I graduated from college, I started actually doing music for commercials.  Jingle music and stuff like that first to spend money, buy equipment and put together a studio because I always wanted to produce records.  So as I started doing more and more jingles, I continued to build my studio equipment and started writing records and songs, and coming out to L.A. trying to meet people to play my music.  At some point an A&R guy just heard one of my songs and said "I like that,"  and I started working for him.  I saw that I wasn't going to be able to jump right in and make records, so I needed some kind of way to bridge just being in the studio doing demos and making records.  so I kind of started in that way, but you definitely have to put in work.  You can't expect someone to hear your first song and love it.  You have to write and write and create and produce and get the product out there and really meet people.