Early in Dwight “Skrapp” Reynolds’ multiplatinum career as an R&B/pop songwriter-producer, Clive Davis chose his track “Bombdiggy” to include on the second album by Euro boy band Another Level, commenting, “Dwight creates the kind of song that can shape an artist’s career.” Reynolds spent the next decade fulfilling that promise, working with everyone from Usher (“Love ‘Em All” from Raymond vs. Raymond) and Justin Bieber (“First Dance” featuring Usher) to Akon (“The Rain” from Konvicted) and the late Whitney Houston (“One of These Days,” “Dear John Letter” from Just Whitney).
While still a powerful presence behind the scenes—with recent tracks by up-and-coming vocalists LeeLee and Tocarra Hamilton—the multi-talented musician and vocalist has fashioned a unique new identity for his highly anticipated emergence as a solo artist.
As I.C. Green, he has signed to RCA/Bystorm and just dropped his first radio single, the humorous and infectious “Strut,” with features by Busta Rhymes and Pitbull. He is also releasing the bonus track “Y.O.L.O. Turnup” on Soundcloud, while completing work on an upcoming full-length collection (tentatively titled Outside the Box). While sessions have included contributions from Musiq Soulchild and J. Holiday, nearly all of the tracks feature Green playing any number of the many instruments he’s proficient on—piano, guitar, drums, trumpet and trombone.
The Oklahoma born, Flint, MI bred, Atlanta-based performer chose his new stage name not simply because he’s that rare African American guy with green eyes. “When you see me,” he says, “I want you to see money, growth and dopeness.” In addition to focusing his writing and producing on his own artistry, Green’s evolution toward becoming an artist also entailed an imaging makeover. When everyone was getting to know “Skrapp,” he was 40 to 60 pounds heavier, with braided hair down to his shoulders.
After joining Usher as confidante and videographer on his 2005 Truth tour, Green—seeing the powerful results of his longtime friend’s hard work and dedication—decided to start reinventing himself and pursue the spotlight. He got close to his dream in 2009, coming within a week of signing an artist deal with Capitol Records before the label shut down its US-based R&B division. Though dejected, he saw the close call as affirmation of his potential as an artist.
“Normally, song ideas come to me when I’m driving at 3 or 4 a.m.; and when I came up with the hook for ‘Strut,’ I drove so fast I could have gotten 10 tickets!” he recalls. “I recorded the original version just with Busta Rhymes and sent it to my friend Keith Thomas, who was a consultant with Jive. Keith loved it and sent it to (President of RCA Urban Music and CEO of Bystorm Entertainment) Mark Pitts, who wanted to sign me immediately.”
Dubbing his vibe “R&B hip-pop,” Green is enjoying the balance of continuing his career writing and guiding sessions for other artists and developing his vision while laying the foundation for his solo career. “When I’m doing my own thing, I have freedom that I don’t have on other projects,” he says. “When you work with an artist like Usher, he’s got his brand in place and you have to put in certain Usher-style runs. Once when I worked with Whitney, I came up with a song and she was candid and said, ‘that’s not me right now.’ Your job is to put the artist first, and a lot of times the general public doesn’t recognize you. But when I’m producing myself, I can get my ideas out there directly and see how people respond.”
Making this transition, he adds, “is like throwing caution to the wind. You have to be a steamroller, championing your career and jumping over those high hurdles. So ‘Strut’ is my musical coming out party and, succeed or fail, this is me and I’m here to tell my story and make people sing, dance and feel good. I want to see people upbeat and happy.”
By Johnathan Widran