The uncompromising writer for the stars

The 2011 Mobo awards ceremony was a good day for producer and songwriter iSHi.

Not only did Tinie Tempah, for whom he penned the worldwide hit Written In the Stars, win the Best UK Hip Hop/Grime Act award, and Professor Green and Emeli Sande perform Green’s single Read All About It, which he co-wrote and produced – even the incidental music during the awards ceremony was composed by the multi-talented musician (a job that was a result of producing the vignette for MTV show The Lick, way back in 2002).

Yet, though superstars such as Tinie and Professor Green to Usher and Shakira have got Ishi on their speed dial, he remains elusive to the general public – something that seems to suit the humble Swede. Matter of fact, nothing gives him more pleasure than developing new artists.

Ishi was raised on a diet of hip hop and R&B, spoon-fed by his older brother who refused to watch anything but Yo MTV Raps on the family’s only television, and learnt to play the drums before moving on to piano – spurred on by his first crush, he came to the conclusion that the “laydeez” like the romantic stuff – and singing in a gospel choir.

In 2007, he started his own label, 2Stripes Music, and signed rapper Lazee, inviting his old friend Sebastian Ingrosso of Swedish House Mafia to co-write the first single, Rockaway. With its unique blend of hip hop and dance, the track became a huge hit in their native country. But being Lazee’s manager and tour manager eventually became so time consuming that there was little time left over for iSHi to make music, and so the team split amicably in 2009.

“At that time, I felt a bit lost,” he says. Guy Moot, the head of iSHi’s publishing company, EMI, came to the rescue, convincing him to work with unknown, and yet unsigned, artist Tinie Tempah, and the two settled in at iSHi’s Stockholm studio. The first fruit of their collaboration was Invincible ft Kelly Rowland, which ended up as his fourth single. For their third track, iSHi recruited Eric Turner, a rock singer he’d discovered at a hair dressing show the previous year, on vocals. “It took us 20 minutes to write the chorus on the piano and record it. Turner left after the first vocal take, as he was sick with a fever,” says iSHi. Little did they know that the result, Written In the Stars, would end up topping the charts as well as being the ticket for Tinie breaking America, and become the official song of the 2011 Major League Baseball season.

Awaiting the release of the single, iSHi got busy writing for and producing Alexandra Burke, JLS, You Me at Six and Tinchy Stryder’s Game Over, which featured the star-studded line-up of Tinie Tempah, Chipmunk, Example, Professor Green, Giggs and Devlin.

Since then iSHi’s working schedule has been gruelling: He’s been writing and producing songs for Tinie’s sophomore album with Labrinth in Ibiza, spent a week in the studio with Usher – with one of the tracks featuring Tinie – and with Shakira. Game Over Part 2 is also in the works, with another stellar rapper line-up.

“It’s important to me to maintain my sound, whoever I work with”, he says. “I write everything from scratch on the piano. I’ve realised through the years that that’s how you get the best result. The song comes first and we’ll worry about the production later.”

That’s how iSHi’s current pet project, Turner’s debut album, was made. The first single, to be released at the beginning of 2012, features both Tinie and Lupe Fiasco for whom iSHi co-wrote and produced Break the Chain featuring Turner and UK rapper Sway, on his album Lasers (2011).

iSHi believes it’s important for a producer to be hands-on from beginning to end, even if it’s incredibly time-consuming. “To me, there can’t ever be any compromising,” he affirms. The long list of stars that have benefited from his hit making can confirm that it’s a winning recipe.

Helienne Lindvall

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