Everybody please stand up for the creator of Eminem's most catchy hook...
In 2000 the airwaves were rife with a certain peroxide blonde and, for the first time in a while, it wasn't Britney.
Eminem's charismatic and star-moulding second album The Marshall Mathers LP was heading platinum and the single The Real Slim Shady was storming the charts. Besides the the humour and attitude, what carried the song was its riff. The simple harpsichord part practically became Eminem's signature tune and, according to many, was the ditty that launched him into true mega-stardom.
So where did this Elizabethan-sounding set of notes Come from? Tommy Coster Jr, the son of Santana keyboard-master Tom Coster. At the time, Coster Jr was cutting his teeth in the industry looking for a break to make a name in his own right.
"I started targeting people I wanted to work with and one of those people was Dr Dre. Dennis Chambers introduced me to Dre's right-hand man, Larry Chatman, who knew who I was and invited me to come by the studio. So I did. Dre liked me, he liked how I played and the rest is history. They needed a song, they called me and I came up with the opening line and chord progression for The Real Slim Shady. Em [Eminem] liked it and that was it. From then on, things spring-boarded for me and I got to work with other people and score movies."
"I started targeting people I wanted to work with and one of those people was Dr Dre"
However, the enormity of the single wasn't the first success Coster had achieved musically. In fact, the perks of having a celebrity father paid off at an early age: "When he got his break, my dad was touring the world, so he disappeared for a while. But I instinctively went in that direction and showed ability for it. I really didn't take my music too seriously until I was about 19, but I had something special happen to me when I was 11. Carlos Santana did a record called Moon Flower and they needed a song. I had written an idea for a song and my dad said 'maybe Carlos might want to get with you on this idea that you have'.
"So I wrote a song with Carlos when I was 11 and had a gold record by the time I was 12, and was making a residual income every three months. I didn't really buy the bullshit, I wasn't walking around thinking I was a superstar or anything. What it did do was show me the power of being a writer.
"I wasn't walking around thinking I was a superstar or anything""You can't make a lot of money in this business just playing an instrument, so if you do a few different things and you do them well, you have a better chance of being able to sustain yourself."
Dr Dre is now, arguably, better known as a producer than a rapper, pushing artists such as Eminem and 50cent onto the world stage. He's renowned for being a strict analog man, part of the old school production crew. HT&E was intrigued to discover whether Tommy has embraced digital, especially now he is running his own studio, Tommy Sound.
"You have to use digital," he says. "On some level, you have to use it. What I really dig about that stuff is that you have so much control over it. Secondly, I can work in different countries and not have to be there physically, because of DSL and T1 lines and digital recording."
So what of the Doc? "Dre still uses a pair of two-inch machines. In my ideal situation, it's a two inch machine and a monstrous digital rig."
With a love for both digital and analog, does Tommy believe the time will come when technology requires him to throw away the tapes? "No, I don't, but I think we'll think that it's better. I don't think it's possible for digital to replicate tape because I think at that point it's beyond music and becomes physics".
"Famous people in history became famous because they were unique"And how does one emulate Tommy? "Listen to the music you're interested in, study the charts and figure out why it works and is popular. In most cases, it's because it's simple and has many hooks. Look at who was involved in making it and study what they've done before. Know where the music came from and study it. Then figure out how you would interpret it and follow your heart. Famous people in history became famous because they were unique."