The musical pairing of songwriter-producer Rogét Chahayed and rapper Jack Harlow seems so pre-destined, it’s hard to believe the seed was planted by DM. It was back in May 2021, just as Harlow was starting to conceptualize his just-released album, “Come Home the Kids Miss You,” when he reached out to Chahayed, whose credits include Travis Scott’s “Sicko Mode” featuring Drake, Halsey’s “Bad at Love” and Doja Cat’s “Kiss Me More” featuring SZA. Chahayed, a nominee for producer of the year, non-classical at this year’s Grammy Awards, had Harlow in his sights ever since he heard the breakout Top 10 single, “Whats Poppin’.”
“I felt like Jack was onto something,” says Chahayed leaning forward in the captain’s chair in his home studio in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, a short distance away from where he grew up the son of a Syrian father and Argentinian mother. “Jack’s got such a fresh approach and sound and is so mature for his age. He really has the vision. He always comes first with the ideas. He selects everything from the samples to the sounds that he wants, very particular in detail. He has been an incredible artist to collaborate with.”
The collaboration has resulted in Harlow’s first solo No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, “First Class” (Harlow had previously topped the chart with Lil Nas X’s “Industry Baby”), an honor achieved on its debut week in mid-April and again on the current chart — following Harlow’s performance on the Billboard Music Awards , which includes streams and airplay.
Indeed, the numbers continue to rack up for “First Class”, with 180 million on-demand streams to date, according to data from Luminate, and radio airplay reaching 138 million listeners since its release. And it’s no wonder: from its opening notes, which segue straight into a smart interpolation of Fergie’s 2006 hit “Glamorous,” the hook is undeniable.
“Jack had the idea of sampling one of his favorite songs, ‘Glamorous’ by Fergie,” says Chahayed who is credited as producer and songwriter on “First Class.” “My co-producer Angel Lopez [Babe Truth] chopped the sample and moved it to a certain key, then we had drums come in. Between me, Angel, Charlie Handsome who helped produced the track and another young producer, Jasper Harris, plus Jack, it took a few sessions to get it together and get it right, to figure out the chords and sounds we wanted. We used a smoother musical approach: Rhodes, piano, strings. We basically played around the sample chord-wise. Each section has a different switch up. The first verse feels a certain way. Then the second verse changes. We wanted to make the song feel like it was going somewhere, building up.”
According to Chahayed, he, Lopez and Harlow are the architects of “Come Home the Kids Miss You.” The album, which includes features from Pharrell, Drake, Justin Timberlake and Lil Wayne and debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 this week.
The songs on “Come Home the Kids Miss You” were created in-person and on the spot, with no music solicited or accepted from sources outside of the studio. Says Chahayed: “To be able to create in that realm of high caliber of music where people consider the songs to be hits, there’s a responsibility on the part of the producer. It’s a combination of fresh sounds and a chord progression or a riff that gives the song an identity. A hit has to have that identity off the first few seconds of the song. Then, combining that unique musicality with a really good hook, something that people latch onto instantly and love. It’s like an addiction. That’s when you know you have something special.”
Chahayed began making beats while he was in college at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, earning a degree in piano performance. He was connected to Dr. Dre’s protégé Mel-Man through Stat Quo and began his real training under the established producer and songwriter. Mel-Man brought Chahayed into the studio with Dr. Dre to be on-call for keys or production.
Says Chahayed: “That was an experience of a lifetime. If [Dre] would hit me up again, I’d go back and work with him whenever he wanted. He’s a genius.”
Even with 10 years of production and songwriting practice, the last six decorated by hits with DRAM featuring Lil Yachty (“Broccoli”), Miguel featuring Travis Scott (“Sky Walker”), and his first No. 1 with “Sicko Mode,” Chahayed’s years of traditional training — he studied piano at a conservatory — are ever present.
“Making the switch from being a player to a producer, I always retain that sense of musicality, theory, technique, it’s embedded in me,” says Chahayed. “But I’m also open to trying to forget about training and incorporating a more considered feeling or groove.
“Working with Jack, Angel and all those guys pushed me to become a better producer, a better listener, a better visionary overall. When you’re really searching and digging together, that’s when you unlock some of the craziest musical moments ever, especially working on this album. It’s been like training all over again to be quick with sounds, to be able to match what we want to hear together, to be better in all those ways for myself.”