How do you go from a music-loving high schooler to a legit songwriter/producer working with Kehlani, Drake, Eminem, The Carters, Ty Dolla $ign, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, and more? Just ask Jahaan Sweet.
The Jacksonville, Fla., native rocks a unique blend of talents built upon a classical background, a jazz obsession and futuristic instincts. "I have a natural feeling when it comes to music, but I also learned a lot," says Sweet. "Understanding theory is definitely a massive part of it. I’m always listening to classical and old jazz records. That’s where the sound and harmony come from. At the same time, I love the rhythms of hip-hop and R&B right now. It's a balance."
This time 10 years ago, Sweet was a high school student looking for ways to grow his passion for music into a career. Fortunately, he found GRAMMY Camp, an interactive summer music experience focusing on all aspects of commercial music led by working music professionals. Known by those who've participated by its unofficial slogan, "This is NOT fantasy camp," the program aims to provide teenagers with a real-world view and hand-on experience in the music industry.
Success at GRAMMY Camp is not about being discovered overnight, but rather about discovering if and how your own passion for music can be developed into a career. For Sweet, the program marked the beginning of a successful journey toward living his dream, and it involved tons of hard work along the way. And while he humbly admits, "I'm still trying to find that breakthrough moment," the future looks bright for the accomplished young producer. We caught up with him on the phone to chat about his remarkable credits list, his GRAMMY Camp experience, and more.
When Kehlani's debut mixtape You Should Be Here came out back in 2015, I did a double take when I heard you co-wrote and produced six tracks on it. I said, "Wait, I know Jahaan Sweet from GRAMMY Camp 2009!" How did you get in position to work with her?
It was amazing, man. I was just grinding in New York. I was still in school. I was going to the studio at night. I would just go to MBK Studios in New York, and I would just be there all the time. One day, she just walked through, and I was, like, "Man, who is that singing? Her voice is really dope."
We got introduced, and from there, we just kept working, always making music… I did two [songs] on the Cloud 19 project that she had. We had a few other loose records that we put out, and then we just started just sending music back and forth to her all the time. I came out to LA. We worked together. Pretty much, just all the things that we were working on just compiled into You Should Be Here. I guess that was really my first entrance into, "Oh, hey, Jahaan Sweet, he's a music producer, a new music producer,"… It happened right before I graduated school in 2015.
Wow, what a way to kick off your career. From there, can you walk through how you were able to connect with the likes of a Drake or an Eminem or the Carters? How does that play out from your side?
It's definitely a blessing. I would say that none of that would have been possible without my bro Boi-1da. Boi-1da definitely was very, very instrumental in bringing me around town to a lot of sessions with him because he had a lot of time. He was doing Drake music from the very beginning, and they have a great relationship.
Before I got in the mix, it had been maybe a half a year of us just always creating music together and being in the studio together. He finally just one day said, "Hey, man, you want to come with me to work with Drake?"
I was, like, "Man, of course." Drake is my favorite rapper. Well, just not even just rapper, just artist, period. It was just a dream come true. Then, he also got in to work with Beyoncé and Jay-Z on their project, and he was thoughtful enough to say, "Hey, man, I really want to bring my guy, Jahaan, Jahaan Sweet." They were super, super receptive to it, super nice about it, and it was an amazing experience. We were in Paris field working. It was amazing.
Same thing with Eminem, [Boi-1da] has a great relationship with Eminem, and he was just really being like a mentor and always having me around and being super fair. That's really how those opportunities came for me. If it wasn't for him, I don't even I would have even gotten close to that.
What have you learned most from Boi-1da as your mentor?
First, I would probably say just work ethic and the importance of just being a good person and doing good business. I see how he does business. I see how he treats everybody. He's such a great person, and I feel like, more than anything, that's the most important thing is to treat people fairly and try to make sure you're being the best version of yourself that you can be. That's probably the biggest takeaway I have of him. He's such a hard worker as well.
I want to ask you about GRAMMY camp. What was your mindset back 10 years ago going into attending Camp? What about your skillset?
Man, I'm still the same way to this day! When I was getting ready, I was excited for the opportunity to work with new people, meet new people, and that was also my first time coming to L.A.
I knew that my skillset wasn't that great, but it was just so good to be around people who were all there to learn and create together. I feel like that's the biggest takeback I have of GRAMMY Camp: It was amazing to have all those people together under one roof, all in the same vicinity, all doing creative things.
What were some experiences at GRAMMY Camp that stuck with you your first decade in the industry?
Man, working with [GRAMMY Camp faculty director] Jason Goldman. He's a great guy, and he was such a good, carefree band director. I feel like when I first starting touring with Kehlani, I was able to understand how to conversate with an artist and know just the right things to say and how to make them feel comfortable. Also, relationships, I feel like, through [GRAMMY Camp], it helped me just understand how the music industry works. Hey, I'm still friends with some of those people to this day.
What advice do have for teenagers who say, "I see you landing all these huge records. I want to do that"?
I would say, once again, meet as many people as you can. Try to build genuine relationships with people. I feel like that's one of the most important things I would tell anybody that young.
Life, not just music, is all about relationships, and the best thing you can ever do is always make sure you maintain great relationships. –Jahaan Sweet
That's great advice, and congrats on everything! Lastly, what's next for you?
Man, I'm always just making music. That's a hard question for me to always answer. Most of the times, I'm doing something and not even knowing exactly what I'm doing or where it's going or what's happening. I'm just always just constantly just trying to create and work with as many people as I can and see where that takes me.
GRAMMY Camp offers tracks in audio engineering, electronic music production, music business, music journalism, performance, songwriting, and video production. The five-day program is open to talented high school students from the U.S. and will take place in Los Angeles this summer. For more information and to apply by the March 31 deadline, visit the GRAMMY in the Schools website.