Keith Naftaly

Keith discusses what he looks for in a rap hit and how Amber got caught in the cross-hairs.

on Jun 21, 2011

My spirits were high moving into Episode 4. I felt that the previous "adventure" challenge, my first as a judge, was a success. There was a fun, positive vibe on set and, more importantly, a couple of very strong songs emerged. My attitude was like, "we're finding our groove here. . .LET'S GO!"

I found out that Rodney Jerkins would be our guest judge for the this episode and was psyched about that. We'd worked on a string of hits together back in the day (Brandy and Monica's "The Boy Is Mine," Monica's "Angel Of Mine," and Whitney Houston's "It's Not Right But It's Okay") and have remained friends over the years.

When it comes to the rap genre, my bar is very high. During my radio days I was a massive supporter of "conscious," thought-provoking hip-hop music by A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, and Eric B and Rakim. Additionally I was an A&R VP at Arista Records during the label's incredibly potent ventures with both Bad Boy (Notorious B.I.G) and LaFace (Outkast).

As I mentioned last week, I wasn't present for any of the hook challenges, nor did I have knowledge of any behind-the-scenes drama with the cast while they were collaborating. Again, this was to ensure my complete objectivity while checking out the live performances and gauging hit potential. I respected that decision regarding my role because in "real life" I'm generally not in the studio while songs are being written. But I must say I've never reached out to a songwriter or producer to say, "Hey, we're looking for a smash single for Britney and by the way. . .throw in a line about super powers and while you're at it, add just a twist of opera!"