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Feature: IzyBeats On Producing Jorja Smith’s “Be Honest” and Koffee’s “Toast” + New Music



IzyBeats and Konshens

Andron Cross, commonly known as IzyBeats, is a Grammy-winning music producer, songwriter and artist. The Jamaican hit maker is renowned for his work with international acts including Koffee, Jorja Smith, Burna Boy, Masego, Vybz Kartel, Alicia Keys and more. His infectious tagline, “Yo Izy, Are You Kidding Me?!” can be heard at the top of dancehall, R&B, afrobeats, hip-hop, reggae and reggaeton hits across the world, including on the 2018 breakout hits “Toast” and “W” from Koffee’s Grammy award-winning debut EP, Rapture.

Following the success of “Toast,” IzyBeats went on to create the chart-topping single “Be Honest” alongside Jorja Smith and Burna Boy in 2019. His most recent Grammy nod was for his work on Masego’s Studying Abroad: Extended Stay, which was recognized in the Best Progressive R&B Album category. His new first single as an artist, “Up Deh” featuring Konshens debuted today (11/11).

Terzel Ron caught up with IzyBeats to discuss his forthcoming debut project, Edgehill, working with the biggest artists in the world, and transitioning from working 9-5 jobs to winning Grammys.

The first thing I have to say is, I see the plaques on the wall, man. Congratulations! Your hard work is paying off every single day, and I love what I’m seeing in the back. You want to just walk me through some of those real quick?

Appreciate that, man. It was a Billboard number one. 
That’s the Koffee album, the Rapture EP. The other one is Jorja Smith. Platinum. I went platinum with Jorja and Burna’s song, “Be Honest.” And then that one over there is “Toast” by Koffee. 

“Toast” was Koffee’s breakthrough single, right? Was that the song that changed everything?

Yes, definitely. Absolutely. That was the one that changed the game and opened the gate. A lot of blessings.

Wow. What was life like before that? 

Regular lifestyle, nine to five, but still putting in the extra, extra hours afterwards. You know, from five to five in the morning again, you know what I’m saying? 

That’s how I was doing it. For real? For real. Like going to work at 09:00 a.m.. after reaching back from the studio at 05:00 a.m. Putting in time. 

Tell me about that nine to five. What was the job? 

Man, I had so many jobs, man. I was a real Jamaican! I used to work at a Chinese restaurant. And then the last job before the song took off, I was working at my mom’s office. 
She’s a medical physician. So I was working at her private practice, and that’s how I was doing her billing for her. 

Wow. Shout out to mom. Shout out to mom, man. 

She was like, ‘you know what? You need to put more time into the music.’ 
She was like, ‘working with me is a little easier. So I’m going to give you a little bit more time.’ I’m going to bust your ass, but when you need to leave the bold decisions, I’m going to let you go.

You went from helping mom with billing to, ‘mom, don’t worry – I got all the bills.’
 What’s that feeling like?

That’s the ultimate goal. Once [family] is out the way and they’re good, you can worry about everybody else around you. I mean, I’ve helped everybody else around me even before that, so it’s just something natural, you know what I mean? 

Do you remember what that feeling was when you were able to say, mom, we made it. We did it. There’s no need to work? 

Absolutely. I mean, my mom still does work because she’s a doctor. She’s a physician. She has her practice, which she loves doing – taking care of patients, that’s her passion. So it was more so her saying, ‘go take care of your business now. Go take care of your business. Go handle that right now. This is the once in a lifetime opportunity.’ You know what I mean? 

Talk to me about the family part of your music career, because when you have a dream, it’s your dream. Your family members may not get it, your friends may not get it. But what was it when you initially realized that you wanted to do this with your career? Was your family receptive to that? 

For the most part, both sides – my dad, when he was still here, and my mom, everybody around me always knew it was going to happen. They just didn’t know when. Because of the dedication and the consistency I had when it came to music, everybody around me was like, just waiting for the time for something to kick off. 

They believed in you because they saw your work ethic. 

Exactly. I recommend that for anybody pursuing whatever, you should always just be dedicated to it. 
Be dedicated and consistent because, you know, you’ve got to let people see how serious you are.

I like to go back to the beginning when I interview, because I just figured there’s so many people who want to be artists. There’s so many people who want to be producers who look up to you. They have you as a poster on their walls and you may not even know it. 

I wouldn’t even know. I don’t even see myself like that, honestly. I feel like the same guy to the corner store and go grab, like, a bottle of water. The regular dude, you know what I’m saying? 

That’s why I like to always go back and see what the upgrade was like. Maybe the kids who idolize you are like 15, 16 right now. At what age did you know that this is what you wanted to do with your life? 

Probably like 11, 12. I was always listening to music, but mainly I was listening to the instrumentals. I was trying to listen to the music, but I listened to the beat in the background. I always wanted to figure out, ‘how did they do that?’ It was just a natural curiosity. I would listen to Timbaland, and I was always studying. Like, ‘how did you incorporate a baby’s voice into the beat with Aaliyah? How did you put that baby sound in there?’ You know what I’m saying? How did he make it twist? Like, it was just amazing to me. I used to study instrumentals. That was my thing. I was listening to beats all night, listening to drums and listening to how the producers put stuff together.

Was Timbaland your main inspiration?

Growing up in Jamaica, when Timbaland was dominating, I was 11, 12 years old. He was like the highest level American producer for sure. 

Were you looking at any Jamaican producers? 

Snow Cone was one of the dopest. Snow Cone and Sly & Robbie were some legendary dance producers. 
I used to look up to them War 21 super. Like, them guys were crazy with drones and go crazy, that stuff they were doing. 

At what age did you start to teach yourself production of the music? 

I got my first computer in Jamaica, and then I came to Miami on a holiday trip after school. And that’s when my homeboy Desi told me there’s a program called Fruity Loops. I was like, ‘what the hell is that?’ 

And he showed it to me. And he opened it up. He started doing drums there. I was like, ‘oh, this is what they use.’ And that’s when I started, you know, digging deep to try to figure out how I can get this program. 
And I got it, and I went back to Jamaica. When I put it on my own PC, I installed it. And I was just messing around with it, man. I just started teaching myself. 

So you had the new program. Were you a kid in a candy store at that point?

I was a kid in a candy store. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I was just pressing everything and see what everything does. If it was a button that was going to blow up the whole house, I’m still going to end up pressing it because I wanted to know what it all did. Everything in the program, I was just pressing just to try. And that’s how I figured it out, because YouTube wasn’t around. YouTube was there, but it wasn’t something where you could find anything on it. You know what I mean? Tutorials or nothing like that. 

So at this point, you’re hammering away at this new software, Fruity Loops and having fun making beats. But at what point did you ever start to believe, ‘hey, one day I want to win a Grammy. One day I want to work with the biggest artists in the world.’

You know what’s crazy? I never had the Grammys on my mind. 
I was never looking forward to winning Grammys or something like that. My thing was, I want to know how they did this. I want to know how Timberland did that. That’s all I care about. How did they do it? 
How do they make it sound this way? But I wasn’t really looking at it like, ‘oh, man. From this. I want to be rich, I want to have a Grammy.’ I was just loving the music. 

I was just loving the sound. And that was it for wow, you know? And it just led to me just wanting to do music forever. 

How many years was that when you first started to take music very seriously to when you got your first big placement? 

I started working on music very early. From when I was like 14, 15 is when I really was just going crazy. Like, I really want to do this. And I started making my brother sing when he was, when he was like eleven, I was twelve. 
That was the only artist I could use. I didn’t know if he could sing yet. We were just like, let’s try it. 

And he just started singing, and I was just making beats and I was just recording him, and that was me practicing. So I would say 15 to probably 20. I was taking it super seriously, trying to get on. And then my brother, I told you that was singing. He started singing and took music seriously too, which is dancing. We were going and he produced everything. 
From that time until about late 2018 is when “Toast” took off. So just do the math. That’s when I really got on, man. But before that, we were releasing our own big stage, releasing our own albums, just doing that on our own. 

Back when you was Yaddman Izzy, huh?

Yes! Exactly. And then when “Toast” took off in 2018, that’s when everything took a heavy run. It was crazy. 

Tell me about your new single with Konshens, “Up Deh.” How did that record come about? 

We would always see each other. Like every now and then I see him say ‘let’s link,’ you know? But we officially said, ‘alright, let’s do it.’ We booked a studio in Miami, more Play Studio, which is in the Winwood area. And we booked that studio and we just linked up on it. I started making a beat from nowhere, like from zero. 

And then from there we just came up with the idea of and actually documented the whole session. 

Those videos could be history one day. 

I documented most of the sessions that I had for the album that I did. Right now I’m actually working on a YouTube concept. It’s called “beats on a boat.” I’m just doing sessions on a boat. I invite other producers, other artists, other writers, and they come and we just make records. 

You’re dropping your debut album early next year. Why now?

I would say early this year, is when I started thinking like, I need to do this before I get to the point where I’m going to look back and say, ‘damn, I should have tried, I should have done more.’ 
I don’t want to live with that regret. And then my manager started finding opportunities or situations where I could get certain opportunities, and we started working from there. I didn’t even know that I already had the album done, had so many records done with so many people sitting there, just sitting there, and then the computer waiting. I already had the whole album on my computer. 
Now is the time because I’ve successfully been producing from early 2019 to now, and I feel like over the years of just being in the room, networking, building relationships in the business, and meeting up with labels, knowing execs, knowing A&R’s everybody I need, getting all the plugs I need, I have all the connects. 
When you get all the connections and everything that you want, you got to put them together and make it happen. You only get one chance to do certain things. And I feel like now is the time because I have everything behind that I need to make it happen. 
I have all the pieces of the puzzle that’s required, so why not? 

There’s a lot of artists that started as producers and then became legends by being artists. We can go from Kanye, we could go to The Dream, we could go to Ne-yo.

Yeah, I wanted to do it, man, because over the years, I’ve been developing everybody else, giving everybody else a soft, showing them the way, like, helping them with their project. 

Over the years, everybody keep telling me, ‘you’re better than so many people.’ I keep hearing that. I was like, ‘you know what? Let me try this.’ Ever since “Toast,” I’m in more rooms. I tend to control the room now. And I just kept getting better at it. 

Your debut project, Edgehill, is coming in early 2023. What made you think about that name for the project? 

Speaker 1 21:45
Well, I call it Edgehill because that’s the street where I was raised in Jamaica, on the beach. That’s my street name, where my house is. That’s where my father raised us. And with his passing a couple of years back, you know, I had to find a way to try to incorporate him into the project. 

That was my best way to do it, being that he’s not here to see all this crazy success, because he was already looking at me crazy before I even got on. He was like, oh, you’re good at music. He was proud of me for just being good. 
And now that I’ve achieved all of this and he’s not here to see it, it’s like I had to find a way to add him to my project. You know what I’m saying? 

You’ve touched pretty much every part of the globe at this point with the artists that you work with. 

It’s amazing. Just traveling opens my mind to so much more. 
Every part that I’ve been to has different vibes, different inspiration, different things that you learn that you had no clue about. 

Paris has a whole different vibe. And just being there, you learn so much, and you just take from all of these places. 

What is your favorite place that you’ve been to, outside of Jamaica?

I would say. I’d say London. London is special.

You’ve worked with Vybz Kartel, Alicia Keys, Burna Boy, H.E.R. Who are your top 3 favorite artists that you would love to work with?

Kodak Black! I love Kodak, man. Kodak is one of the best artists out right now. Rihanna is up there. Drake, of course, Chris Brown. That’s my top four. And of course I would say Burna Boy, but I did a song with him already. But I want to really link with Burna on some real music levels. 

Is there any song on the new album that you are most excited to let people hear? 

There’s one on there that I sing the whole song. 
I’m really excited to see how people are going to react to that because nobody expects me to be blowing like that. 

Do you have a five year plan that you have in terms of really taking over the industry as the main artist rather than behind the scenes? 


I want to be one of the greatest artists, producers on that list, you know what I’m saying? I’m trying to make it to the hall of Fame, you know what I’m saying? Yeah. So definitely in five years, I hope to be one of the main artists that people talk about that respect. 
And I see myself being there. If I keep my mind clear and just keep focus, I think it’s going to happen. Another question is, we’re wrapping up, too. 

Your tag, “Izzy are you kidding me?” How did that happen? 

It was my nephew’s son. He brought him to the studio when he was like, three years old at the time. And that was the only way for him to get to the studio that did it, because he had his son. 

He was like, ‘yeah, I’m bringing him because I need to be in the studio. And he brought him, but he was just sitting here quiet, taking in everything we’re doing. And just to entertain him, I said, ‘do in the booth. Go ahead, go say something. Enjoy.’ And I didn’t know it was recording. I just put him in there and put the mic down to his level and say, say something. And the first thing he said was, Yo, Izzy, are you kidding me? I was like, ‘that sounds good, say that again!’ But he was shy after that because he was frightened. I was like, Yo, I need him to sit exactly like that. But I ran into booths and realized it was recording. I was, like, ‘perfect. ‘

What are your top three favorite things in the world? Three things that you are always near and dear to your heart that could always make you laugh. Smile. That you can’t really live without. 

My kids, my family. 
Music, for sure. And the ocean. Being on the water. I love fishing. I love boats. I love the ocean. I love that. Yeah, man. I love that. That’s therapy for me. 

Is there anybody that you could always count on to bring you back down to earth? 

Oh, definitely. All my relatives, close family, everybody around me. 

Speaker 1 35:16
That’s close. Friends, my manager and you’ll check anybody at any given time. My pups, my mom, my pop is my. My stepdad to my brother. I was telling you about these huge father figures to me, as well. 
Those people, man, those people in your corner have been around from before you got in. You know, those people check you out, man. You know? 

Last question. You’ve been all over the world. 
What is your favorite food?

There’s nothing like home fried fish festival Jamaican style food? Yes. There’s nothing that touches all, like, Jamaican food. Aki and saltfish.