Cardi B's Producer on Her Stardom: "She Literally Says What She Wants to Say"

Cardi B hair-Getty-H 2019
John Shearer/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

The Hollywood Reporter talks to nominated musicians on the Grammys red carpet on Sunday night.

Music producer J. White knew Cardi B was special as soon as he met her in a basement in Queens.

“I was like, 'Oh this girl's special.' I was like, 'You know what? I'm working with her and her only.' That was it. She was going to make it,” White told The Hollywood Reporter on the Grammys red carpet. “Now look at us.” Indeed, Cardi B is nominated for five awards, including record of the year for "I Like It" and album of the year for Invasion of Privacy. She won her first Grammy this year for best rap album.

White said he knew the rapper made it big when she was part of the Super Bowl two years in a row. As for what makes the Trump opponent such a music sensation, White told THR, “It's real. It's authentic. Like name me another female rapper who is as real as Cardi B right now. She literally says what she wants to say in song form and we all like it.” Cardi B recently called out Trump for shutting down the government and engaged in a Twitter feud with Fox News’ Tomi Lahren. 

For White, who is working with Iggy Azalea, he said living out of a suitcase and not being home in two months has been worth it: “You know why I'm in a great mood? Because I'm happy to be alive. There's a lot going on in the world that we could be sad about, but we're here talking about what? Music.”

Top winners from the night so far include Drake for best rap song, Lady Gaga for best pop solo performance, Childish Gambino for best song and Ariana Grande for best pop vocal album. Nominees talked to THR on the red carpet about how life-changing recognition at the Grammys can be.

Lorenzo Cardona, who worked with Post Malone on record of the year nominee “Rockstar,” told THR being nominated was a blessing and “definitely a dream come true.” He believes that winning a Grammy is a “life-changing experience I'll say. It's like the Willy Wonka golden ticket. That's how I feel about it.”

On the red carpet, songwriter David Hodges recalled a rainy Thursday two years ago when he wrote “Dear Hate” in a living room with Maren Morris. Now, on a rainy Sunday, he's at the Grammy Awards, where the track was nominated for best country song.

“I never imagined I'd be on a Grammy red carpet for it, but I did think 'This song is really special. I really hope people get to hear this song,’” Hodges told THR. “[When] people had the reaction they did to it, it made me feel like this is the reason why I do the job. So this, to me, is just the icing on the cake.”

He said with the increase of streaming, the music industry is shifting more toward a genre-less future. “Genres never made a ton of sense to me. It's always been exciting to just blend a bunch of stuff together … I feel 2019 is just more into this genre-less way of writing music,” added the songwriter, who has worked with Blink 182 and Ed Sheeran. (He met up with Sheeran six months ago to write a new project: “He's so fast. He's so in tune with what's happening with music that to me it's almost trying to slow him down in the process. … He's a real joy to work with.”)

The Grammys nod is a culmination of work he’s done with his friends. “I get to be friends with some of the most talented people in the world," Hodges added.

Music’s biggest night also celebrated musical legends, with Diana Ross giving a special performance, stars from Katy Perry to Miley Cyrus singing a Dolly Parton tribute, George Clinton being among the lifetime achievement award honorees and Quincy Jones scoring his 80th nomination for best music film.

“It's so humbling to come into Quincy's world and see him celebrated for his 80th nomination. That's unbelievable. We're just so happy for him,” documentary producer Paula DuPré Pesmen told THR.

Clinton added, “The award means everything in the world to me. It means after all this we put into it, people recognize it for what it is.”