Words by Alex Goodwin
I’m not sure about you, but each time I heard a voice say “Another B.Cox joint” on a track, I knew my ears were about to be blessed with a banger written and produced by none other than Bryan-Michael Cox. In his two decades in the music business, he’s written and produced for a who’s who of R&B royalty such as Boyz II Men, Usher, Beyoncé, Destiny’s Child, Chris Brown, Trey Songz, Mariah Carey, Jagged Edge, Mary J. Blige, and Ronald Isley to name a few.
With nine Grammy wins, 35 million singles sold and a Guinness World Record for having a song on the Hot 100 chart for five years straight, it is necessary to place Cox in the conversation of greatest R&B producers of all time with the likes of Smokey Robinson, Babyface, Gamble & Huff, and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. These are the top 10 songs he’s written and/or produced. Feel free to disagree with me.
These are songs that just missed the cut:
Jagged Edge, “Walked Outta Heaven”
Toni Braxton, “Just Be a Man About It”
Usher, “U Got It Bad”
Nivea, “Don’t Mess With My Man”
Mariah Carey, “Shake It Off”
10. Day26, “Since You Been Gone”
Released as the second single from Day26’s criminally underrated self-titled debut album, Cox along with Adonis Shropshire provided a piano-laden backdrop for the quintet content to plead for one last chance to make things right with that special someone. Though the song found little chart success, the combination of strong lyrics and highly emotive vocal performances from the Making the Band 4 products make this song one of Cox’s strongest compositions.
9. Jagged Edge, “He Can’t Love U”
This was one of Cox’s first collaborations with the Atlanta quartet in 1999 on Jagged’s sophomore album J.E. Heartbreak. “He Can’t Love U” helped propel Cox from a Noontime Records intern to one of Jermaine Dupri’s go-to guys. Lyrically, this song is a player-haters anthem to the umpteenth degree and is in some ways a predecessor to Drake’s “Marvins Room.” However, Jagged Edge, with Cox’s help, made hating on your ex’s new man and telling her how he doesn’t compare to you feel acceptable.
8. Ideal, “Get Gone”
Get Gone was Cox’s first hit released in 1999, produced alongside Johnta Austin and Noontime’s Kevin Hicks for the Houston based quartets lone solo album. “Get Gone” peaked at number 13 the Hot 100 and finds the group fed up with their significant other and letting their significant other know in no uncertain terms they are done with the relationship with lines such as ” I think you better leave, me alone, get your bags, and get the hell on.”
7. Trey Songz, “Last Time”
“I wanna thank Bryan-Michael Cox for helping me illustrate my feelings.” These words were spoken by Trey Songz on the third single from his sophomore album Trey Day. Co-written alongside Dru Hill’s Nokio, Songz lives a double life with two different women and decides to let his side chick go because the heat has become too much. But before he lets her go for good, he wants one last round. I personally can’t relate to this situation, but I’m sure there are those that can.
6. Chris Brown, “Say Goodbye”
Before he became the bad boy of R&B, in the mid to late 2000’s Chris Brown was THE MAN. Capturing screaming teenage girls hearts, the baby-faced kid from rural Virginia pumped out hit after hit from his self-titled debut. Cox gifted Brown with the final single from his debut disc. Thematically similar to Usher’s “Burn” released two years prior, it too found success on the charts peaking at number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and cementing Brown’s place as a bona fide star.
5. Jagged Edge, “Let’s Get Married”
Written alongside the Casey brothers and Jermaine Dupri, this was Cox’s biggest hit when it was released in 2000. Though the song’s lyrics aren’t nearly as romantic as you’d like to remember, the midtempo banger is laced with pretty chord progressions on the piano which gave Jagged Edge a quality backdrop to motivate an entire generation to quit playing games and jump the broom.
4. Mariah Carey, “Don’t Forget About Us”
Found on a re-release of Carey’s “Emancipation of Mimi” Cox alongside Dupri and Johnta Austin helped reignite Mimi’s career and re-establish herself as a force in the R&B scene. Sonically similar to “We Belong Together,” “Don’t Forget About Us” peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and won two Grammys.
3. Usher, “Confessions Part II”
After years of making hits quietly, Cox finally hit the jackpot with his work on Usher’s classic album Confessions. Producing this smash alongside Jermaine Dupri, “Confessions Part II” shot to pole position on the Hot 100. Thematically the song details Usher admitting infidelities and impregnating his woman on the side, which caused the dissolution of his relationship. Part of the song’s allure was his recent breakup TLC’s Chili and fans and critics alike assumed this was simply art imitating life. All of the gossip and innuendo aside, this was the third of three number one hits on Confessions and was an instrumental reason the album went diamond and is the R&B album of the 2000s.
2. Mary J. Blige, “Be Without You”
By 2005 after the success of Confessions, Cox was entering a Michael Jordan-esque mid 90’s level of dominance over the music industry which continued with this slow burner found on Blige’s The Breakthrough. Co-written and produced alongside Johnta Austin, and Ron Fair, this became the biggest hit the Queen of Hip Hop Soul’s career peaking at number three on the Hot 100, winning two Grammy’s and according to Billboard becoming the most successful hip hop/r&b song of all time.
1. Usher, “Burn”
If “Let’s Get Married” and “Confessions Part II” were Cox’s coming out party to the general public, “Burn” allowed the Houston native to plant his flag atop the R&B hill as a force to be reckoned with. Put simply, “Burn” was everywhere. It felt as if every time you turned around or blinked your eyes, your local radio station was spinning this track no matter if you lived in Dallas or Detroit. Burn is the second biggest hit of Usher Raymond ’s storied career, spending eight weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100, garnering two Grammy nominations and helped make him one of R&B’s biggest stars of the past two decades.
Alex is a 23-year-old from Houston, Texas pursuing a doctoral degree in political science at the University of North Texas. In his spare time, he hosts a sports radio show and blasts T.I. at insane levels at stoplights. Whenever he has to make a tough decision he asks himself “What Would Pimp C Do?” Check him out on twitter @alexgoodwintsm.