When the 2018 Grammy nominations were announced last week (Nov. 28), Ray Romulus was genuinely surprised.
He, along with Jonathan Yip, Jeremy Reeves and Ray Charles McCullough II (a.k.a. The Stereotypes) had an inkling they would score nominations for working on Bruno Mars’ multi-platinum album 24K Magic, but a nod for Producer of The Year (Non-Classical) was a shocker.
“You just can’t believe that it’s happening,” Romulus said. The group’s packaged nomination includes cuts from Sevyn Streeter (“Before I Do”), Iggy Azalea (“Mo Bounce”), and Bruno Mars (“That’s What I Like,” “Finesse”). “…You’re a part of the conversation of being a top producer,” he adds. “You work hard to make great stuff and hope that people appreciate it but you never think that people are watching and paying attention, so when you hear that, that’s stunning.”
With over ten years in the game, The Stereotypes have ushered bouncy rhythm back into R&B by working with the likes of Fifth Harmony, Fantasia, and Mary J. Blige. Their organic approach is a simple one; by incorporating their Asian, Haitian, African-American, Samoan, and Caucasian heritages, the guys have been able to blend their traditions into chart-topping hits.
Now that The Stereotypes are riding the pulse of R&B, they’re looking to explore some more. Their other wins this year included Kyle’s “Sunshine” featuring Miguel, which was crowned ESPN’s official tune for 2017-18 college basketball coverage and “Jungle,” a collaborative single with Pitbull, E-40, and Abraham Mateo.
VIBE spoke with Romulus about the magic of The Stereotypes, watching the evolution of friend Bruno Mars and what’s next for R&B.
How did you feel when you first found out about The Stereotypes’ Grammy nominations?
Ray Romulus: I felt a little frozen because you just can’t believe that it’s happening, that you’re a part of the conversation of being a top producer. You work hard to make great stuff and hope that people appreciate it but you never think that people are watching and paying attention, so when you hear that, that’s stunning.
I would imagine. I know you guys worked with Bruno super early when not a lot of people knew who he was.
I’ve known Bruno for 10 years, back when we were doing the whole circuit of trying to write for people, get songs off, and get placements. Bruno and Philip Lawrence (of The Smeezingtons) were our go-to writers. Those are the guys we would have in every session with us. To watch him go from that to producing a song for B.o.B (“Nothin on You”), being featured on it and watching his career taking off has been incredible.
That’s amazing. Would you say there was a difference in tactic between working on “That’s What I Like” and “Finesse” compared to any other time you all have worked together?
No, but you know what’s so crazy? Like I said, we worked so much together but when he did his solo projects, five to six years went by without us ever being in the studio. When we came together last year you’d almost think, ‘Man, I wonder how this is going to be,’ but once we all got back together, it literally felt like no time has passed. That’s the same Bruno, so we made our records exactly the same. We were just having a good time and had fun.
What do you love about the cultural melting pot of The Stereotypes?
We have myself who’s of Haitian descent. John who’s Chinese and Jeremy who’s German and Russian and all types of white (Laughs), and Charm who’s black and Samoan. We have all these guys from different backgrounds, but the one thing that brings us together is this music. I grew up in church and just having that background and John coming from listening to old-school hip-hop, bring all that just gives us different perspectives on what we create.
It just feels like the mood is set for any song that you guys produce. Much like that song you guys did for Nina Sky (“Beautiful People” from the 2009 EP, The Other Side).
No way, you brought up “Beautiful People,” that is crazy! (Laughs) And that’s what I mean. For us, for you to listen to “Beautiful People” and love it that’s how it felt when they told us we were nominated for our award.
So that feeling of, ‘You heard that? That’s crazy!’ That’s the same reaction.
I don’t know if you guys call it R&B but I love the setting that you guys have created in that genre. How do you feel about R&B now and its representation through people like SZA, Childish Gambino, and Bruno?
R&B is definitely thriving right now. It’s funny because it’s crossing over so much that our favorite rappers are almost technically singing R&B songs. They’re rapping with melody. I like that melody and musicality is coming back. We all grew up listening to Brandy, Stevie Wonder, stuff like that. Those were R&B driven artists.
What did you learn about yourself in 2017 via your music?
Perseverance, patience and continuing to keep swinging. This game is full of so much doubt. There’s so many points where you doubt yourself. When you feel like you’re doing great stuff and the outcome isn’t what you think it should be, just keep going because eventually, it’s going to cut through if it’s great.
I learned to definitely keep going and have more tunnel vision. Don’t worry about what’s going on around you. Stay true to what you love to do and surround yourself with like-minded people who are focused on going in the same direction. That’s really what I learned, to trust in your team, trust in yourself.
Even if we lose we’re going to lose together. But I’m so happy right now that we won together. We might not win, but I see the nomination as a win.
What’s on the horizon for The Stereotypes?
We’re working with three different artists we’re looking to develop and break. We just put out a song with Pitbull, E-40 and Abraham Mateo for Pitbull’s album called Jungle that we’re very excited about. For us, we’re really working on trying to develop what’s next to come.