Charlie Heat is far more than just Kanye West’s producer. You may have seen his name through his work with Ye, but real name Ernest Eugene Brown III is an artist in his own right. Signing to G.O.O.D. Music a few years ago, it was actually Off-White founder Virgil Abloh who showed Kanye Charlie’s work — eventually flying him out and cooking three records in the lab within the very first week. Regardless, it’s his talent, ear, and love for good music that pushes him to be great.
Hailing from New Jersey but currently residing in Los Angeles, the 29-year-old has made tremendous strides in the music industry, on top of his already-established accolades. Having received three Grammy nominations for his work on Ye’s 2016 album The Life of Pablo, Charlie has his eyes set on the trophy/prize. With that comes a relentless work ethic and passion for creating music for the soul, something he truly doesn’t take for granted.
Charlie’s standout collaborations do not go unnoticed, working with everyone from Madonna to Kehlani to Lil Uzi Vert. Now, he’s ready to go full-fledged with his own artistry putting out his debut album as a producer, enlisting all the homies on Fireworks. Flaunt Mag caught up with Heat to discuss how he chooses his features, his goals, biggest takeaway working with Ye, and more.
Being from New Jersey, when did you move to LA?
Two years ago. I was back and forth a lot, but I finally made the move when I could afford it.
How does Jersey play into your life and career?
Just the East Coast energy is different, we’re a lot more straightforward. We don’t really play games with our time and that’s a real East Coast thing.
What’s your favorite part of the West Coast?
The weather 100%, and the people here too though. There’s a lot of people here I get along with who are from LA, like LA LA. The transports be hit or miss, but the people from LA, I love.
How important is it to come to LA as an up-and-coming artist?
If you have a good networking skills, it’s very very important. But if you’re not that type of artist, you’re more reclusive, a “my art is my words” type of person, you could probably make it from anywhere.
At what point did you realize this music thing was forreal?
Junior year, I went to go see Drumline.
Really? The Nick Cannon movie?
Nick Cannon, yup. I tell that story all the time. Before that, I was playing basketball. I was heavy in basketball, then I’m like “now I want to do music.”
At what point did you realize “okay, this shit is happening for me”?
I’ll be honest, I still don’t. I’ma come clean, I wake up everyday still hungry. Like [Mike] Tyson, he gets so scared to lose until he steps in the ring, then he’s the most confident person in the world. That’s how I feel. I know I’m going to be who I need to be and I know I’m already him — but until I’m actually him, I’ma be on point everyday.
Congrats on your new album Fireworks. How’s the fan reception been?
It’s been really good so far. We gotta get some ears on it, but all the ears I’ve gotten have all been “timeless, no skips,” all the great compliments. It’s been three years coming, a long time.
What took so long?
Really the paperwork honestly. But I will say the album that came out is the best version of the album because I was working all those three years. I kind of found myself too, musically. I mean three years as hard as I work, I got exponentially better. This is all I do now so it’s like the original versions of some of these songs weren’t even touching where it’s at now. It was all God’s timing, I can’t even really give an exact definition.
What’s the significance of the title?
It’s two things: the first one is the literal meaning of fireworks, Charlie Heat’s the brand. Then fireworks gives you different emotions. An analogy I use is if you’re a kid, it could scare you. But if you’re an adult, it can be the most beautiful thing. You’re with a significant other, it’s a romantic moment. Win a championship, you see the fireworks and you get excited. It’s all different emotions.
How do you choose the features to include? You probably have a big network in the industry.
I just what’s best for the song mostly. Really what’s best for the song. Most of the people, I’d say 95% of the people on the album I have personal relationships with. That has a lot to do with it too.
“Celebrate Life” is a vibe. Bring us back to that studio session with DRAM.
It was crazy. Actually that was me and Ant [Beale] at our climax man, me and him were going crazy. That’s from when we did the “Sunshine” record. We did that and the whole album all over an eight-month span. That was one of the records, then we sent it to DRAM. Me and DRAM were already working a lot. I didn’t even think he was going to get on it to be honest because he was working on his own album. You know, album mode. But he sent it back and it was amazing. It was fire.
How does “WWYA” relate to your own life?
Everything. It’s definitely a lot of people back home that are new-found proud of me, like “always knew you could make it.” [laughs] It’s perfect for that.
How was linking with G Herbo & Lil Baby?
Sadly I didn’t get to get in with Herbo, we sent it over to him. But Baby was tight, he was going through beats and he picked that one. He gassed it real quick. It was quick too, we did that in 30 minutes. He’s fast, he’s fire.
How’d you get the “Good Work Charlie” producer tag?
It’s crazy, I used to rap back in the day. I was trash though, I was trash. I was really trash.
What were you bad at?
My voice, I didn’t like it. I didn’t like my tone. This kid I was working with, his name is Paris Artelli. If you know anything about Philly music in the hipster era when Uzi and everybody was first coming up, he was one of them ones. He actually said it. That was my boy, we were working a lot. He said it after my verse, he’s like “good work Charlie.” I’m like “that’s my tag! I’m never rapping ever again, that’s it.”
Who or what inspired “Dream”?
Honestly the guy I worked with, Tdot Illdude. He cut it on a pretty regular beat then we just produced it out like Quincy type vibes. It was already done and he let me have it, so I re-produced it out and turned it into something different.
The “Aloha” record with Denzel is super cultural. What did it mean to have his energy on the project?
That’s just my boy man, it wouldn’t have been right without him. You gotta think, we got three records together. We got “Sumo”, I got “WISH” on the last one, then we got “Aloha.” We got a bunch of ideas, like we did beats together. It’s a vibe.
Talk about being in the studio with all these artists, how do you gauge their mindset?
You really gotta produce the room, I had to really learn. That was probably in the beginning one of my weakest parts, not being confident enough as a person to just speak my mind on different things. Even if I don’t know you, we have to respect each other. That’s why I’m also picky working with artists because I can’t get into a room with someone who doesn’t respect me. It won’t work out, we’ll butt heads. I’m not scared to express my opinion on music. We gotta respect each other. Or if we get in and I’m not rocking with it, it’s like…
You just cut the session short or what?
Nah, I ain’t gon’ cut it. I’m not going to disrespect them, we’re not playing the same game. I’ll just know moving forward you’re not trying to make great music, you’re trying to get your ego up. Even if I don’t even make the beat — there’s been a couple sessions where we couldn’t find a beat and they start pulling out other people’s beats. And I would help those. Do arrangement stuff, do whatever. Try to make myself an asset. That helps with the relationship with the artist because now they think “oh he’s really tryna help, he’s not tryna just get his shit off.”