Music News & Reviews

Sacramento will be well-represented at the 2018 Grammy Awards, thanks to the Stereotypes

The Stereotypes, founded by Sacramento natives Jonathan Yip and Jeremy Reeves, are nominated for three Grammy Awards. From left to right: Ray Charles McCullough II, Yip, Ray Romulus and Reeves.
The Stereotypes, founded by Sacramento natives Jonathan Yip and Jeremy Reeves, are nominated for three Grammy Awards. From left to right: Ray Charles McCullough II, Yip, Ray Romulus and Reeves. Mike Selsky

The Oscars are set to have a strong Sacramento presence this year, with Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird” receiving five nominations this week, including best picture and director.

But Sunday’s Grammy Awards also will feature plenty of potential glory for Sacramento, thanks to the Stereotypes.

The music production group – founded in 2003 by Sacramento-natives Jonathan Yip and Jeremy Reeves – has been nominated in three Grammy categories, including best song of the year for their work on “That’s What I Like” from Bruno Mars.

The group – which includes Yip, Reeves as well as Ray Romulus and Ray Charles McCullough II (who goes by the name “Charm”) – first received notoriety for writing and producing the 2008 top 10 hit “Damaged” from Danity Kane. But in the following years, they struggled to replicate that early success.

After finding a lifeline in the form of K-pop music, the Stereotypes have bounced back in a big way. In addition to song of the year, they received Grammy nominations for best R&B song and producer of the year, for their work with Mars, Iggy Azalea and Fifth Harmony, among others.

The Bee recently caught up with Yip and Reeves, who both live in Los Angeles, and asked about their Sacramento ties, their big night at the Grammys and what’s next.

How did they meet?

Yip, 39, and Reeves, 35, met in Sacramento – but only after Yip had moved to Los Angeles.

Yip, a Kennedy High School alumnus who grew up in the Pocket-Greenhaven area, had gone to L.A. to pursue a career in the music industry, eventually landing a job in the A&R department of Interscope Records.

“I would come home for holidays and for dentist appointments and whatever,” Yip said. “My dentist’s office was right down the street from Guitar Center, so I went to get my teeth cleaned and then went to go buy some equipment.”

Yip stopped by the store on Alta Arden and Howe Avenue – where Reeves, an Elk Grove native, recently had taken a job.

When Yip checked with staff “to see if there was an industry discount,” an intrigued Reeves asked if he wanted to hear some of his music.

“I was like, ‘What do you got?’” Yip said. “He played me some stuff right there. He had a little SIM card to put right into the keyboard.”

The two formed a partnership, later adding Romulus and Charm.

What are their musical influences?

Despite growing up in the same city, Yip and Reeves say they come from divergent musical backgrounds. Nevertheless, their tastes are complementary, as is their ambition to explore and combine genres.

Yip said that Sacramento is “a great melting pot for diversity,” and that the city inspired him to “learn about all different cultures” and incorporate them into his music.

“We do K-pop, we do Latin reggaeton, we do dance music, we do R&B, we do pop, we do hip-hop, we’ve done country sessions,” he said. “We’re just trying to infuse it.”

Their musical diversity is, in part, attributable to the diversity embodied by the group, whose members are of Asian, Haitian, African-American and Samoan heritages.

“I don’t know if you necessarily hear all that in one song, but in general, between the four of us, we have all different backgrounds and upbringings, and I do feel that you can probably hear that in the music,” Yip said.

Reeves, meanwhile, discovered his first musical outlet after his father took note of his natural rhythmic abilities and bought him a drum set. “I was always beating on counters and using everything as a drumstick,” he said.

Reeves later teamed up with his older brother, an aspiring rapper, to create beats – an undertaking that led him to taking a job at Guitar Center so he could get a discount on equipment.

How did they get their first break?

After years of creating songs in the spare bedroom of Yip’s L.A. condo, the group thought they had struck gold when they were called upon in 2007 to produce a song for Danity Kane, the girl group that was the focus of MTV’s reality competition “Making The Band.”

“We had this song, we were sitting on it for about six months actually, and shopping it around, trying to see who likes the song or whatever, and we weren’t getting any bites,” Yip said. “And then all of a sudden our manager at the time gives us a call and was like, ‘I got something for you guys.’”

Sean “Diddy” Combs, of Bad Boy Records, had selected “Damaged” as a single for Danity Kane’s second studio album.

“I remember thinking, like, ‘Oh my god, this is our shot,’” Yip said. “And in actuality, it was. It was the shot that got us our first top 10 hit. It got us enough money to get out of our spare bedroom condo and at least get a studio.”

The success was short-lived, however. Despite having scored a hit single and Grammy nominations for their subsequent work with artists such as Justin Bieber and Ne-Yo, the group struggled to find steady gigs. Reeves went back to work at Guitar Center to help pay the bills.

When “Damaged” would come on the store’s sound system, his co-workers would come up and ask him about it. “I’d have to apologize to the customer I’m helping and (then) be like ‘So did you want more cables?’” Reeves said.

Luckily, “along came K-pop music,” Yip said.

K-pop, or Korean pop, gained traction with Western audiences after the release of “Gangnam Style” by Psy. The genre blends pop, rock, hip-hop, R&B and electronic music genres – a perfect fit for the wide-ranging musical tastes of the Stereotypes.

The group stayed afloat producing songs for popular K-pop artists like SHINee, Super Junior and BoA.

“The respect that we were seeking here, we got it there,” Yip said. “So we started going to Korea. We went three times a year, for a couple years straight, and we just started pumping out song after song after song. And that was the money that kept us afloat, until we could get our momentum back all the way over here.”

That momentum included their collaboration with Mars for his third studio album “24K Magic.” They worked with the singer on the title track, as well as the songs “Finesse” and “That’s What I Like.”

The album went on to receive double platinum certification – and scored the Stereotypes three Grammy nominations, including for producer of the year, non-classical.

“Whether we win or not, I feel like we’ve already won,” Reeves said. “Being nominated like this is definitely a win. So win or lose, we’re good.”

What’s next for the group?

In addition to recently spending time in the studio with Meghan Trainor and Backstreet Boys, the group currently is working with Lodi-native Destiny Rogers, who Yip called “one to look out for.”

But for now, Yip said, the group is just trying to enjoy the moment.

“Those low points are a reminder to us of how it felt to be that low and how much we need to appreciate being this high and to not let the feeling go again,” he said. “So that’s all we’re really concentrating on – just keep our head down, work hard, make great music, make the right moves, and hopefully we won’t have to struggle again.”

The Grammy’s have embraced Hip Hop and R&B for its 2018 nominations. Jay-Z has earned eight nominations while Kendrick Lamar picked up seven. Other nominees include; Childish Gambino, Bruno Mars and Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee.