BMI‘s “How I Wrote That Song” is an annual pre-GRAMMY weekend event that celebrates GRAMMY winners and nominees, and serves as a platform for panelists to discuss the process of writing, producing and performing hit songs.
The Knockturnal was on the scene for the event at The Roxy on Feb. 13, where we got to chat exclusively with panelist and legendary producer Jerry Duplessis aka Jerry Wonda. This day was extra special as it marked the 20th Anniversary of iconic Fugees album The Score, which yielded hits like “Ready or Not,” “Killing Me Softly,” “No Woman, No Cry” and “Fu-Gee-La.” The Score also turned Fugees members Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean and Pras Michel into super stars.
Duplessis co-produced the “Red Intro,” “How Many Mics,” “Ready or Not,” “Zealots,” “Family Business,” “Killing Me Softly,” “The Score,” “The Mask,” “Cowboys,” “No Woman, No Cry” and the outro “Manifest” on the project. He went on to produce countless hits like “Maria Maria” for Carlos Santana and “Hips Don’t Lie” for Shakira. Read our interview below:
How’re you doing?
Jerry: Lovely. It’s Grammy weekend, LA is on fire. There’s so many parties between the studio, there’s a lot of things going on.
How does it feel that today is the 20th anniversary of The Score’s release?
Jerry: Man 20 years, it just feels like I go back to that time, in that basement, in that studio that my father gave to my brother Wyclef and telling us, “go do music”. I think about everyone that was apart of that basement like John Forté. To me, today is a special day and I’m lucky to be here because a lot of people aren’t around or they’re doing something else and I’m doing music. I’m still relevant and I love it.
What’s the story behind “Ready or Not”? How did that come together? Was it in the same basement you guys worked in?
Jerry: Everything, “Ready or Not”, “Killing Me Softly”, the whole Score! The only record I wasn’t a part of was “Fu-Gee-La,” and big shout out to Salaam Remi, that really helped the Fugees. That one was recorded in his studio in New York, but everything else was done in that basement. I mean “Ready or Not” is a special record, man. “Killing Me Softly” was a special record, and I mean I could go on and on.
What’s the most important lesson you learned while working on that album?
Jerry: I just learned music, culture, Hip Hop. Coming from the island I was about the reggae and the Haitian [sound] you know? I was playing bass guitar in a top 40 band, I was making $100, playing for weddings. So that record changed my life. Musically, it made me a better producer because I didn’t know what production was. I just went to school and wanted to be an engineer. I learned how to bind the SB1200 and the MPCs and today I have one of the best recording studios in New York: Platinum Sound and I’m working with everybody. I’m going on tour. On tour with Melissa Etheridge, playing country rock and I’m doing the Joey Badass record. So that’s what it is for me.
When you were making the record did you have any idea it was going to have the impact that it did?
Jerry: No. Not at all. You never know and if you did then that’s a problem. It’s not going to happen. It just happened organically and I’m glad I was a part of it because everybody is so talented.
What are you working on now and what’s in the future?
Jerry: Well right now I’m still doing production and I’m more of an entrepreneur. I’m going to different countries and on tour. I’m in the studio with Joey Badass, working on some Mary J. Blige Records, you know, everything man. I’m glad. I’m happy.