With a sound as infectious as his spirited ambition, Jonn Hart is turning heads-and ears.
The young Bay Area singer/songwriter, is currently forging his own lane on the modern R&B highway with debut single "Who Booty" featuring French Montana. Buoyed by a smooth, bumping groove underscored by Hart's seductive, pillow-talk vocals, it's easy to hear why Epic Records Chairman & CEO L.A. Reid quickly signed the newcomer. And why Hart is one of the bright lights in the West Coast's growing era of new melodic music.
Hart pegs his hybrid, new wave sound as "R&Bay Slap." Describing himself as neither "a R&B singer nor a rapper," Hart explains, "But I'm taking a hard-hitting 808 beat, putting a melody on top and then singing melodically on top of that. Yet a rapper can still rap to one of my beats. It's modern R&B for a younger demo that's had few voices to embrace."
And those fans are clamoring for the hypnotic track. "I would like this song a million times if I could," declares one Hart admirer on YouTube. Another proclaims, "I'm completely addicted to this."
Written by Hart, "Who Booty" is produced by emerging Northern California talented producer RawSmoov with a version featuring rapper Iamsu. RawSmoov has racked up serious credits producing for Sean Kingston, Lloyd, Dorrough and Bay Area rap icon E-40. As has Hart, who first connected with RawSmoov after becoming a member of E-40's protégé group.
Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area's East Bay, Hart hails from a musical family. His mother sang in the church choir; his musician stepfather operated his own recording studio. As a pre-teen Hart began writing songs against beats crafted by his stepfather that sparked young Hart's first oh-wow moment. "The first time I entered the recording booth, I knew I wanted to do this for the rest of my life."
Hart began honing his singer/songwriter chops as a member of a group out of Oakland. The group drew immediate attention with its enticing harmonies and lyrical swagger. In addition to collaborating with producer Drew Money (Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj), Hart and the group gained regional buzz via a hit single in 2011.
"That experience opened up my eyes to a whole other world between recording, radio and touring," says Hart of his stint with the group. "It also helped me evolve as a vocalist and writer."
Inspired to pen a song that melodically and lyrically portrays what happens intimately behind closed doors ("I'd never heard anyone do a record like this"), Hart went solo last January with "Who Booty" on his own indie label Cool Kid Cartel. After influential Los Angeles radio station KPWR ("Power 106") broke the record, airplay expanded beyond the Bay Area and Los Angeles into Las Vegas and Phoenix. That's when nearly every major label placing bids on the burgeoning recording artist, but ultimately Hart settled with Epic Records' L.A. Reid
"I was a little jittery," recalls Hart with a laugh about auditioning in Reid's office. "But I told myself that I wasn't going to leave without giving 150%, whether they offered me a deal or not. I put it all on the table."
Counting Michael Jackson, Usher, Chris Brown, Lil Wayne and Drake as key influences, Hart is busy recording his Epic album debut between a cross-country round of showcases and promotional appearances. But music isn't his only game. The R&B maverick is also a budding entrepreneur who co-founded the entertainment company, Cool Kid Cartel, with his management team, HEROIC Entertainment. The long-range goal: to become a full-fledged label, production and publishing powerhouse for a roster of artists.
For now, however, the focus is on rising star Hart-ready to stake his claim as part of modern R&B's exciting new wave.