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He arranged for the band to perform in front of his boss, David Geffen, and the record deal they signed with Geffen Records was Jackson's first major contract. It was also the commercial birth of the Roots, one of hip-hop's longest-lasting bands, now toiling nightly on Jimmy Fallon's late-night show.
The white boy on the keyboard was the group's sonic brain: Scott Storch, the human jukebox. During practice, bandmates liked to hurl song titles at him — anything in the Top 40 in the past 20 years — and watch his fingers spring to action. "Scott's mind is a computer," Jackson says. "His memory is his greatest gift."
Jackson, an all-business, frugal family man, became Storch's career-long manager. He says their relationship "falls somewhere between me being his father and me being his big brother."
Band members received $40 per diem in "food and weed money," says Dice Raw, then the group's teenaged rapper. But Storch drove a Jaguar XJ and lived with a girlfriend in a South Street apartment. "Scott was broke too," Dice explains, "but he would spend it the first day he got it."
"I don't want it to make me lazy," Storch would explain. "I want to get rid of it so I'm forced to work."
Then he would cop a new watch or a Range Rover. "Money never changed Scott," Dice says. "It just enhanced him."
Storch was never one for the road grind. So in 1995, when Jackson swung him a $10,000 advance from Ruffhouse Records to join a conceptual hip-hop/soul/pop trio called Madd Crop, he quit touring with the Roots.
The Madd Crop project never birthed an album, but it marked Storch's musical adolescence. Bandmate Chuck Treece remembers Storch as a "tyrant in the studio" who drew inspiration from his own eclectic musical tastes: Barry White, Average White Band, the Ohio Players, early Stevie Wonder. "And then he took that swing and put it into our music," Treece says. "Even when he was programming a beat on a [drum machine], this cat made everything swing. We all have our own musical cadence, and Scott was finding his."
In 1998, Philadelphia rapper Eve introduced 25-year-old Storch to Los Angeles gangsta-rap demigod Dr. Dre. Storch moved to Los Angeles to help produce tracks for Dre's Chronic 2001. The music Storch helmed — most memorably the addictive piano symphony behind the hit "Still D.R.E." — sealed his status as a top prospect in hip-hop production. After working with Dre, he partnered with beatmaker Timbaland to cowrite Justin Timberlake's smash "Cry Me a River."
Storch was a millionaire by age 26. But he already showed symptoms of an allergic distaste for bill payment. In 2001, the posh Le Montrose Suite Hotel in West Hollywood won a decision against him for nearly $3,000 in unpaid room bills after the producer moved to the Sofitel in Beverly Hills.
Following the megahits with Dre and Timbaland, Jackson persuaded Storch to hoard his golden touch for himself. In 2001, Storch returned to South Florida to set up shop with his own company, Tuff Jew Productions. Says Jackson: "By then, we knew he could be a superstar in his own right."
Yolanda Storch digs through her musty bedroom, which is clogged with hundreds of magazines featuring articles about Scott. She's looking for an audiocassette she made with him when he was 11.
Scott's grandfather shuffles, aided by a walker, into the living room, which is decorated with stuffed cats, Italian kitsch, clown puppets, and seated Barbie dolls. Photos of Scott and Matthew — wearing leisure suits for elementary school photo day, their thick reddish-brown hair gelled in identical fashion; sitting on Santa's lap; posing with their prom dates — cover every surface.
Julius is a lucid former Brooklyn storekeeper with a big, square head and skeptical eyebrows. He wears a polo shirt and boxy blue jeans. The octogenarian Jew gained an encyclopedic knowledge of hip-hop by mining mention of his grandson in music magazines at bookstores.
"Did you know that Scott won producer of the year in 2005? Did you?" he demands. "He beat out Dr. Dre, Timbaland, and Kanye West."
Yolanda remembers reading that her son returned to South Florida to spend more time with her. That's not the way things turned out. He'd send for her and his grandfather two or three times a year, shuttling them by limo to Café Avanti or Smith & Wollensky in Miami Beach, where he'd sit with a silk shirt undone to his abdomen, shades blocking his eyes, and a new girl by his side. "There were always bodyguards at the table, and they'd listen to the conversations, so he never liked to talk about too much besides the food," Yolanda recalls. "Ninety percent of the time, he was in a hurry to get done with dinner because he would say so-and-so was waiting for him at the studio."
Once his spending began to get out of control, she tried to persuade him to slow down a bit, to maybe buy a Burger King or two. He didn't listen. "Ma, this is my image. This is what's separating me from other producers," she remembers him replying. "They expect this from me."