Jonathan "J.R." Rotem was born in 1975 in South Africa, the son of Jewish parents. He began playing piano at a very young age and engaged in a strict pattern of hours of practice every day. He developed an early passion for classical music. Rotem's family moved to the San Francisco, California are around the time he entered junior high school. There J.R. Rotem began to discover hip hop music.
J.R. Rotem's Musical Education:
With a strong pedigree of acclaimed teachers and great personal discipline, J.R. Rotem entered the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts following his graduation from high school in California. At Berklee he intended to focus on film scoring, but Rotem soon became passionate about jazz performance. As a student of jazz piano, he participated in local ensembles, practiced 4-8 hours a day, and became one of the most prominent jazz pianists at the school.
Quote from J.R. Rotem:
From an interview with MTV:
"I don't want to say that jazz is dead, but hip-hop is the innovative music now that's really, really alive."
Hip Hop Conversion:
Following graduation from Berklee College of Music, J.R. Rotem returned to the San Francisco area and quickly gained acclaim for his aggressive jazz style with occasional elements of hip hop mixed in. He began experimenting with hip hop and made a decision to shift career paths and immerse himself in hip hop production. One of Rotem's earliest breakthroughs came when a tape of his beats ended up in the hands of Dwayne Higgins of the r&b group Tony, Toni, Tone. From there, they went to Destiny's Child and Rotem's beats ended up on the song "Fancy" from the Survivor album.
J.R. Rotem's Pop Breakthrough:
Soon J.R. Rotem's work was showing up on albums by artists ranging from 50 Cent to Jennifer Lopez. A major commercial breakthrough came with the #1 success of Rihanna's hit single "S.O.S." in the spring of 2006. Even greater success came when J.R. Rotem produced the entire debut album from Sean Kingston. In the summer of 2007, Kingston's single "Beautiful Girls" went to the top of the charts. Rotem was briefly romantically linked to Britney Spears in late 2006. He also worked with her in the studio, but it appears his work will not be included on the US release of the album Blackout.