How Bryan-Michael Cox Created a Record-Breaking R&B Classic

In part one of our interview with legendary producer, Bryan-Michael Cox we talked about one of his biggest songs–“Be Without You.” The Mary J. Blige classic from her seventh studio album, The Breakthrough, spent a recordbreaking 15 weeks at #1 and 75 weeks on the R&B charts.

“Be Without You” is considered one of MJB’s staple hits. The song was written by Blige, Johnta Austin (who is the pen behind many of the songs on the Fox show–Star), Cox, and Jason Perry. The song was certified double-platinum and was nominated for two Grammy-awards.

B. Cox talked to RNB Magazine exclusively about how this R&B classic track came to be.

RNBMagazine: Tell me about “Be Without You,” it’s such a big record. That has to mind-blowing. How did it come to be?

BMC: It’s mind blowing and crazy because of how fast that record came together. Johnta is brilliant & the concept we came up with, how we came up with it is so crazy. I get the call from Jimmy Iovine like “Yo, I need a record for Mary” and he’s telling me how he wants it to put it together, so I’m like cool. So my manager Chris, he manages both me and Johnta, so Chris and Damon orchestrated the whole thing. I called Johnny like “yo can you come to the studio right now, I came up with a little thing”. Literally, the base of the track, I made it in like 5 minutes. I wanted to make the simplest but most soulful sounding thing I could make. Triad chords, no elaborate piano stuff, just melody type stuff, kick, snare, high hat. It wasn’t elaborate at all initially.

Johnta came, he had an idea and laid it. He literally wrote the song in 10 minutes. Sent it to Mary and she cut it. So we went to work after that. We built the record out, did the strings, did all the arrangements & made sure Mary’s vocals were all the way  tight and it was a real process because it was a little idea that ended up becoming this big ordeal thanks to Rob Fairre. When it was finished, I’ll never forget. I remember I’d got the last pass back and Akon was in the studio, he was working on something in the studio next to me. So him and Devyne came in and we played the song back, and everybody in the room was like “yo…that song is outta here.”

It was like a moment where…you make so many records and some feel like a hit and some don’t, so you don’t know. You just hope for the best and give It your all. When we got back that final mix, it was like heavy on me. I had to sit down and really contemplate what was getting ready to happen in my life. Because I knew that song was gonna be a life changing song for me. I knew it. It was crazy, when we first wrote the song we liked it. But we like so many songs that it’s like “yeah cool, we’ll do another one.” But that particular song, when I heard it back, it was like “wow.”

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