Scott Storch doesn’t consider marijuana to be a gateway drug. After all, he was a pothead for 20 years before ever snorting cocaine. Now fresh out of rehab, Storch still smokes weed. He claims that it doesn’t jeopardize his sobriety. It’s more like a performance-enhancing drug.
“Every day I come in [to the studio] I have to make three hot [beats],” he says. “That requires a lot of mental energy and focus. That is where the weed helps. You get fatigued, stop for a second and then you smoke a joint. It sets you back into where you’re reinspired and recalibrated.”
It’s July 2009, and Storch is pacing back and forth in The Hit Factory. He’s in a Christian Audigier–designed Van Halen T-shirt, jeans and dirty periwinkle Timberlands splattered with spilled bong water. An expensive watch and flashy chain complete the look. In the past, Storch would wear $5 million worth of jewelry, but that was before he blew $30 million in less than three years.
And here he is. After completing his in-patient rehabilitation in April 2009, Storch has made over a thousand beats and considers a hundred or so of them to be keepers. Tonight, he wants to preview some of the music, but first he lights a big, fat joint. “Look,” he says, flaunting a “Six Months Sober” keychain from Narcotics Anonymous.
“Sex months?” asks Storch’s longtime engineer, Wayne “The Brain” Allison. He squints closer. “Oh, six.”
“Sex months? What are you thinking about?” Storch responds. Naturally, that sparks an anecdote about getting freaky in rehab. “There was a place you had to go,” he says, his voice trailing off. “I should shut up.”
Storch’s jowls are still a little puffy, but the dark circles under his eyes have faded. That’s not the only change. “This is the first time that I have a guy who sells weed who is my friend,” he says. “You don’t want to be around some guys. I mean, this guy has been to St. Tropez. He’s cool.”
It’s unclear whether he is being sarcastic. “Certain people, you just don’t want to be around them. What did he say in Pineapple Express? ‘Lingerrrrr!’”
Like most people, Storch acts kind of goofy when stoned. And hungry. Over the next three hours, he inhales four cans of Coca-Cola, a Starbucks strawberry Frappuccino, a snack bag of Cheetos and half a pack of Zingers. “I’m just going to sit on my ass, smoke a bunch of weed tonight and do nothing,” he says. “Go to sleep early and get in here early tomorrow, to get back on my schedule.”
Nowadays, Storch keeps early hours for a music producer. He’s usually in the studio by 2 p.m. and out at midnight. It’s a departure from his days on the Bolivian marching powder. “We would work 20-hour days,” Allison remembers. “I used to say, ‘I’m not doing all those drugs. I can’t work this long.’”
“He was repulsed by me,” Storch says. “He would be wearing a respiratory mask because I was blowing my nose all the time.” Both of them laugh.
“I’m glad he’s better now,” Allison says sincerely. “Things are great.”
Storch adds: “We’re making money now.”
It comes back to money because—let’s be frank—it always comes back to money, especially for Scott Storch. His father was a stenographer who liked to play the ponies. Scott, too, was infatuated with wealth at an early age. When he was a 15-year-old piano prodigy, he drew a picture of him and his then-manager in a Mercedes driving toward a sign reading “Money $.” This teenager would later become the poster boy for conspicuous consumption.
He amassed his fortune as the go-to hit-making producer for Beyoncé, Chris Brown, Jadakiss, Christina Aguilera, Baby, Lil Wayne, Ice Cube, DMX, Busta Rhymes and 50 Cent, to name a few. But as Storch racked up money, he gorged himself on the finer things in life. Trips on a private jet were routine, not a luxury. Thirteen cars weren’t enough, even if one was a $1.7-million Bugatti. The 90-foot yacht didn’t cut it when a 117-footer was available. And where else would you call home but a $10.5-million, 30,000-square-foot castle on Miami’s exclusive Palm Island?
Of course, he wasn’t alone. Storch exemplified a society that not only created but encouraged monstrosities like $175 gold-dusted cheeseburgers, $10,000 bottles of cognac and $53.4-million bonuses for CEOs. As we all know, that era is over, gone along with millions of people’s jobs, homes and 401(k)s.
But Scott Storch’s fall was more tragic than a garden-variety corporate flameout. In an economy buoyed by false commodities—I’ll trade you my toxic mortgage for your collateralized debt obligation—Storch actually peddled something tangible: a Scott Storch beat. —Thomas Golianopoulos
To read the rest of Scott Storch’s engaging story be sure to pick up the March 2010 issue of XXL, which is on newsstands now!!!