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Around this time last year, Jeffrey Robinson Jr. -- better known as the producer J. Oliver -- was living at Bryant McKinnie's house in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The Ravens' all-pro left tackle, who entered the hip-hop industry after creating the B Major Music Group in 2011, had invited J. Oliver to network down south and work on music.
At least, the plan was to work.
"I was partying every night," J. Oliver, 25, said. "I had a goal to grind and [McKinnie's] got me out here partying with Chris Brown. I was trying to make this money. I said, 'I'm living someone else's life.'"
Late-night clubs, and the decadent fun that comes with them, served as a wake-up call to the aspiring producer and artist from Pikesville.
"I don't need to be partying right now," he said then. "I need to be working."
J. Oliver has been practically living in the studio ever since, splitting his time between Baltimore, Los Angeles and his current location, Dallas. The re-dedication to his craft is starting to pay off: J. Oliver says his first production for a major-label album tentatively comes in May, when French Montana releases his debut studio album, "Excuse My French."
It may be J. Oliver's first major placement, but it's far from his first time working with an artist signed to Sean "Diddy" Combs' storied label.
Los, the Baltimore rapper and Bad Boy artist now living in Los Angeles, has worked closely with J. Oliver since meeting him at Morgan State University while J. Oliver was a student there. Most recently, J. Oliver produced "Purple Reign," Los' anthem for the Baltimore Ravens. J. Oliver says Los' many motivational speeches fueled his desire to be successful in the music industry.
"When he got signed, he'd be like, 'Guess what? There's a producer who just sold his beat out here for $10,000. But he's not you, J. Why can't you come out here and get this money?'" J. Oliver said. "He'd always give me these talks that made me want to work, work, work."
He's become one of the city's best hip-hop producers because his beats sound ready for radio now. They're crisp, with just enough grit, character and 808-thump to distinguish from other radio staples. J. Oliver says the melody matters most in his beats.
"In the studio, I'm thinking of making a creative melody," he said. "If the drums hit, that's cool, but drums hit in a lot of songs."
When he's not writing songs for his own upcoming project, "Legendary," J. Oliver is working on Los' next mixtape, "Becoming King." He says he's also working with Trae tha Truth, from T.I.'s Grand Hustle label, and even "Jersey Shore's" DJ Pauly D, who is signed to 50 Cent's G-Note Records.
While a Los speech can motivate him, J. Oliver says he's focused on success for his family, and in particular, his mother. He never forgets the sacrifices she made for him, like paying her son's tuition for Cardinal Gibbons School, after J. Oliver lost his basketball scholarship for "messing up."
"I really want to make enough money to unite my family," he said. "For Thanksgiving, I want the whole family together. I keep them on my screensaver to remind me why I'm doing this. When I'm not inspired, I look to them."
February 20, 2013