Experience the Fanatic
For Andreao “Fanatic” Heard, life wasn’t supposed to go this way. Hailing from Greensboro, North Carolina, there weren’t many hip-hop artists for Heard to look up to in the ’80s. As an up-and-coming producer, most of his influences were based in New York City so he knew that’s where his future would lie although he couldn’t afford to move there yet. Nevertheless, he made a way for himself. Working as a hotel desk clerk at the time, Heard and partner Eli Davis would drive down to NYC on his off days and hang outside the famous Manhattan recording studio The Hit Factory. “We would network, take meetings, and try to hang out at the studio,” he recalls. “We were couch-surfing, sleeping in the car – anything we had to do.”
Heard’s break came when a mutual acquaintance introduced him to executives from the Bad Boy record label; he got to play his records, and one of those would later become Lil’ Kim’s hit single “Crush on You.” Heard soon became a member of Bad Boy’s renowned production team, The Hitmen, who would produce a string of smash hits in the late ’90s and early 2000’s.
Even after parting ways with the label, Heard parlayed his past successes into new opportunities, including a chance at producing a record for all-time icon Michael Jackson. “I figured out how to play six degrees of separation,” he says. “I realized that there wasn’t anybody on the planet that we couldn’t get to – because we always knew somebody that knew somebody.” Heard and Jackson’s “Heaven Can Wait” collaboration is a perfect example of his take-no-prisoners mindset. Originally meant for singer Kevon Edmonds, Heard ran into roadblocks of label executives and A&Rs while trying to get the record in Jackson’s hands (“They told us nobody would cut this record because it’s about death”). Never one to be swayed, though, he managed to get it to Teddy Riley’s assistant, who then passed it on to Riley helping produce Jackson’s upcoming album. “Next thing I know, two weeks later, we were in Miami – Michael Jackson was standing two feet from me talking about this record,” he adds.
Having produced music for the likes of Will Smith, Beyoncé and Anthony Hamilton for over two decades in the industry, Heard has seen his fair share of success. For the love of the art, he continues to produce and record music through his new band, Billie Lennox, who mixes jazz, hip-hop, rock, and gospel to give music fans a kaleidoscopic feel.
When he isn’t creating music, Heard spends a lot of his time giving back to his hometown of Greensboro. Through his non-profit with Eli Davis, The Culture Pushers, Heard helps the community while also helping and advocating for underserved artists; he refers to it as his own version of artist development. “Study great artists from the past,” he says. “Second thing I would say is, don’t do anything for the money. Don’t sign that publishing deal with a publisher who is just siding with you because you have a hot record right now [but] hasn’t taken the time to get to know you – always remember why you got into this game and how you felt about making music because this business will take you through so many ups and downs. But if you remember why you got into it, you’ll never lose your passion for the music business.”
Writer: Alain Clerine
Photographer & Videographer: Mason Kim
Photographer Assistant: Joseph Chang
Stylist: Jessica Armstrong
Men’s Grooming: Phoebe Dawson
Editor: Eiko Watanabe
Special thanks to Diablo Restaurant + Cantina (@diablotacola - www.diablotacos.com) & EPK Media (@myepk & @epkmedia - epkmedia.com)