I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Warryn Campbell, an established multi-instrumentalist, record producer, performer, singer-songwriter, and owner of MyBlock Inc Records.
From a boy who grew up in south central Los Angeles, to a multi-award-winning (4 Grammy’s, 8 Dove and 1 Stellar) producer having many exceptional talents, he has worked with some of the best in the music industry. But what do you call someone who is proficient in over three skills? A triple threat would be an understatement because there is no limit to what Campbell can do.
A visionary before his time, Campbell got his start as a session musician and producer under the tutelage of DJ Quik on his third album, Safe + Sound.
As a producer, his productions have moved tons of records. Some of his credits include Stevie Wonder, Kanye West, Jill Scott, Erica Campbell, and Music Soulchild to name a few. He has likewise received multiple Grammy nominations and awards for his work with Kanye West, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Hudson, Mary Mary, and Missy Elliott.
On November 26, 2021, Campbell will re-deliver his compilation “WARRYN CAMPBELL PRESENTS MY BLOCK INC.” A 10-song diverse collection of his musical family to include songs from The Walls Group, Lena Byrd Miles, Jason McGee & The Choir, Jason Champion, Mc Lyte, Toni Estes, and Joi Starr. But getting here had its hiccups.
The initial release of the compilation is the epitome of “Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht,” an old Yiddish proverb meaning, “Man Plans, and God Laughs.”
“In 2019, I was working on the compilation to release it on September 25th,” states Campbell. “This is when Kanye was doing his Sunday Service and asked me to preach at a location in the mountains.” After the service Kanye invited Campbell to one of his studios as he wanted him to work on his ‘Jesus is King’ project. It was then that he found out that Sept 25th was both their release dates.
Changing his release date was an easy decision, but there was another surprise. “I moved my date to October 25th and Kanye unknowingly changed his release date to the 25th,” laughs Campbell.
Once he began moving forward with a 2020 release, the pandemic hit. “I had video shoots set up for each song at the house I grew up in on 52nd and Normandie, and everything came to a halt. 2020 was like a fire and a lot of things got lost, one being my compilation.”
Fast forward, Kanye drops another album in 2021 and as Campbell says, ‘it literally took over the Billboard gospel charts.’ “Now, I think he’s done for a while. I least I hope so. November is our golden month. The project is coming out, regardless.”
However, if you know the perfectionist in Campbell, he’s tweaked the original, giving it more legs than before.
In 2022, Campbell’s work-life balance will stretch as he rolls out new music with a new distribution partnership with Claude Villani’s SRG/ILS Group.
I sat down with Campbell for a deeper conversation. It’s time to get to know more about the man they call “Baby Dubb.” The man whose smile lights up a room. The man that will pray for you at the drop of a dime; and the man who will give you the shirt off his back with no questions asked.
Q. When did you know you wanted to be in the music industry?
A. I knew very early in life at 10 or 11 years old. I put a sign on my bedroom door “Cinnamon Productions” I don’t why I called it that, but I was serious.
Q. Who was your first artist?
A. My first artist was my sister Joi by default, because we grew up together. When my father would buy me equipment, Joi was the Guinea pig to help me try it out. This helped her with her craft as well. She started writing songs with me and has been signed to almost every label out there. But this is her time. Just like when I started working with Alicia Keys, she was signed to a label, but it took a while before her music was released.
Q. What is the best advice given to you and by whom?
A. I’ve had so many advisors over the years however I will always remember the advice from Teri Lewis and John Platt. Terri said, “Music and creativity in general does not like or give into pressure.” He was talking about money… He said, “Don’t go out and buy things where you have to make music to pay for it. The best music is music made with no pressure.”
I had hit records and some success, but that advice hit home for me. Sometimes writers and producers hit a wall. A lot of people call it writer’s block. I don’t because I’ve found that when I remove pressure and stress from my life, I don’ have a problem.
John Platt simply said, “Get the whack juice out! Keep writing because the next one may be amazing.”
Q. What advice would you give to artists?
A. Some artists write, don’t like what they’ve written, and they throw it away immediately. That’s because they’re editing while they’re trying to create. Writing is like water. You turn the faucet on, and if you haven’t tuned it on for a while the water is brown because the pipes are rusty. If you let it run for a while, the water turns clear. So, it’s best to continue the flow and edit at the end.
Q. How do you balance work, family and being a pastor at your church California Worship Center?
A. There is a pecking order. God, family, and then everything else. When I say God it’s not necessarily church. It’s the relationship with God. If I don’t put Him first nothing else will fall into place.
Q. What is most challenging about writing & producing?
A. Finding a home for the art. I look at it like an artist—Picasso or Ernie Barnes. A producer without an assignment is like an artist who sits in his studio and paints but has no buyer or place to hang their work. However, when I’m composing for TV or film, I have an assignment. I’m creating for a specific purpose.
Q. What is one of your pet peeves about the consumer or music lover?
A. In the Black community we have devalued our music and our artists. It’s disposable. Our music, especially our legends music should be on vinyl or CD, and it should cost at least 5K to purchase. Like a painting. Whitney Houston was the closest thing we had in the community to a Barbara Streisand. But we trashed her because she had problems in her life. We dispose our artist too easily. When the “other” fans are done with us, we must continue to support us. We need to support our artists like they used to support the Temptations and The Jacksons. We should put our artists on a pedestal.
Q. What does a week look like for you?
A. In a perfect world, Mondays I try to chill. Tuesdays and Wednesdays I focus on writing, making beats, and practicing my instruments. I also use these days to create music. Thursday - Saturday, I study the word for what I’m going to preach on Sunday morning and get together with the admin at my church for different ministries and events. However, if I’m on a project, it may take me into the weekend.
Q. How do you keep balance in your marriage?
A. Erica is involved in every aspect of what I’m doing. Even if she isn’t working on it, I keep her in the loop, so she isn’t feeling left out. Keeping the communication flowing is important. We’ve been married for 20 years so it works.
This article was originally published in Groov Magazine.