The mark of a great architect is not in the volume of what he’s built, but in the impact his creation has on its surroundings. The same can be said for musical architects. Producers are the architects of the soundtracks of our lives. The best ones not only have extensive resumes but they also forever impact whoever hears their songs. Bryan-Michael Cox is the epitome of such a producer. What Mozart was to classical music, Bryan-Michael Cox is to R&B and pop music.

“I’ve seen a lot of different styles come and go and come back. I’ve always tried to keep my ear to the streets; to what the youth is doing and to really pay attention. I’ve always embraced the youth and I’ve always wanted to understand what they’re doing. I don’t carry myself as an old person. This business keeps us young,” producer Bryan-Michael Cox told Level21 when he sat down with us for an exclusive interview. Cox may have been talking about what influences his style, but style applies to more than just the clothes on your back. In fact, it’s that style and Cox’s desire to stay engaged in current trends that contributes to the longevity of his career.

Raised in Houston, Texas, Cox’s career began as so many do—with an internship for the Georgia-based Noontime Records.  Since then, he’s been mentored by So So Def’s Jermaine Dupri. Even with Dupri’s mentorship, Cox has carved out his own place behind the scenes of some of the industry’s most lucrative stars. Cox is also responsible for over 100 million record sold and thirty-five No. 1 hits. With that in mind, Cox has done it all. “To be a great producer, you have to understand every genre. You’ve got to have a love and affinity for everything,” he explains. With a portfolio that boasts Grammy Awards and nominations alike (nine wins and twelve nominations if you’re counting), he also attained a Guinness World Record for the longest consecutive period of chart success (after spending over five years on the Billboard chart continuously), breaking the record previously held by The Beatles. Cox’s success speaks for itself.

Those accolades become even more impressive when you consider the declining popularity of R&B and pop. Even with the increasing popularity of hip-hop, Cox isn’t concerned about the future of either genre. “Music is always a cycle. As long as I’ve been alive, it’s been a cycle,” Cox told us when we asked about where he sees music trends, and listeners’ tastes, ten years from now. “I feel like R&B’s going to have a resurgence. You’ve seen what’s happened with the L.M.A. record, you’ve seen what’s happened with H.E.R., with Daniel Caesar, you see what’s happening with these artists who are making some real movement. It’s a reflection of people reacting, or gravitating to R&B music.”

The key to it all, regardless of genre, lay in the songs and how they’re constructed.  As a producer, that’s where Cox comes into play. “I discovered that when I worked with Usher. The best songs are conversations,” Cox explains. “The first song I ever wrote with Usher was a record called ‘U Got it Bad,’ and that song came through a conversation. I learned from him and Jermaine—‘Oh, sh*t, we want to talk about songs.’ We want to talk about what we’re going through, and through us conversing, these songs are going to present themselves, they’re going to develop.” This only happens because of a relationship, and because Cox has worked with platinum-selling artists like Usher, Mariah Carey, Kanye West and Mary J. Bilge, and has done so for over a decade, it’s safe to say Cox is a master of both. (continued)

(Full In-depth interview available on sale now!)

Written by Kaitlin Booe & Christopher Pointe

Photography: Antionne Duane  Jones

Stylist: JT’s Kloset

Wardrobe: Maurice Brown & Untitled Faced

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