Best known for producing hits for Lady Gaga, Enrique Iglesias and more, RedOne is launching his solo career with new single "Don't You Need Somebody"

By Jeff Nelson
July 06, 2016 07:25 PM
Jiro Schneider

RedOne might not be the most recognizable name in music – but he’s responsible for some of the biggest Top 40 hits of the century.

Born Nadir Khayat in Morocco in 1972, RedOne began producing and songwriting music in 1998. By 2006, he scored Billboard hits like Kat DeLuna’s summer jam “Whine Up.” But it wasn’t until he teamed up with Lady Gaga that he became a go-to hitmaker in Hollywood.

RedOne co-wrote and produced most of Gaga’s earliest hits, from breakouts “Just Dance” and “Poker Face” to “LoveGame.”

Now 44 and with three Grammys to his name, RedOne has produced hits for everyone in the industry, from J. Lo and Pitbull to The Band Perry – and now he’s launching his solo career with new single “Don’t You Need Somebody.”

PEOPLE caught up with the musician about his transition to the spotlight, his favorite collaborations and more.

Here are five things to know about RedOne:

1. He Got Friends Like Jennifer Lopez and Ryan Seacrest to Star in His New Music Video.
RedOne’s beachy first single, “Don’t You Need Somebody,” already features top industry talent: Enrique Iglesias, Empire star-turned-Taylor Swift squad-mate Serayah, R. City and Shaggy each lend their voices.

But when it came time to make its accompanying video, RedOne wanted to make a splash, and a bunch of his pals – from soccer star Cristano Ronaldo and Milla Jovovich to Priyanka Chopra and Randy Jackson – made cameos in the clip.

Not that he wanted to ask them.

“I wanted to just start with something organic, with my friends – there’s a lot of great friends I’ve made through the years,” RedOne recalls. “Cristiano Ronaldo was the first one to send a video back. Then Ryan Seacrest was like, ‘I’m in!’ One led to the other – it’s just a blessing to have all these friends do this for me.”

The musician thinks the message of the song is what sealed the deal getting his pals onboard.

“They’re your friends, but some people see it as business or this or that, so you never know how they’re going to react,” he says. “But everybody told me, ‘This is a happy song; it makes you feel good – I wanna be part of it.’ It happened organically.”

2. He’s Worked with Lionel Richie, Mariah Carey and More – but His Favorite Collaboration Was…
Michael Jackson.

RedOne was in the recording studio with the King of Pop several times before his 2009 death and says the experience was like no other.

“The most special one – besides U2, because it’s on a personal level – is Michael Jackson. That was out of this world,” says the producer. “I could not believe it. It was so beautiful to work with him.”

While no songs from their sessions were ever finished, RedOne has said he would consider releasing some of the music for charity. And regardless of what came out of the sessions, the producer says he’ll always remember the late icon for his human side.

“He was an incredible human being. He wanted to go to Morocco and meet my mom. He was like, ‘I wanna meet the mom who raised this kid.’ It’s crazy. Stuff like that. He was very special,” says RedOne.

“Every time I was working with him … You forget that you’re working with him, and then when he starts singing in the microphone, you just get chills, like, ‘Oh my God, it’s Michael Jackson!’ The person that we grew up listening to. That was very, very special.”

3. He Is the Youngest of 9 Kids – and His Family Was a Big Part of How He Got into Music.
Growing up in Morocco, RedOne was the youngest of his parents’ nine children in a very musical family.

“All my brothers and sister played guitar or sang,” he says. “There was a lot of music growing up, from Bob Dylan and Stevie Wonder to Led Zeppelin, Moroccan music, Spanish flamenco – everything was in our house.”

Today, RedOne’s music – whether his own or who he’s producing for – crosses genres, and he says that is directly influenced by his siblings’ taste.

“All my brothers and sisters wanted to convince me that whatever they liked was the best, so I had to please everybody,” he says with a laugh.

4. Like Max Martin and Other Megaproducers, RedOne Has Roots in Sweden.
From producers like Max Martin and Shellback to breakout artists including Tove Lo, some of the biggest names in pop music hail from Sweden – and RedOne got his start there, too.

Having grown up in Morocco, he moved to Sweden to get his start in producing and songwriting.

“They’re not afraid of big pop melodies, choruses and the formula of writing a pop song,” says RedOne of Swedish musicians. “And the people are very professional. They’re not about the hype. It’s almost like Nashville: They work hard and spend hours and years to perfect this craft, but it’s not about just wanting to be famous.”

5. He’s Produced Songs for Britney Spears and Hits for Nicki Minaj – But Hasn’t Met Either Yet!
RedOne produced the song “Money, Love & Happiness,” a track intended Britney Spears’ hit album Blackout, but it never made the cut – and as it turns out, he was never in the studio with her.

“We gave her the track, and she recorded it with a songwriter,” he says. “I would love to get in the studio with her one day – but I never spent time with her.”

The same goes for Nicki Minaj: He produced four tracks on her 2012 LP Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded – hits “Starships” and “Pound the Alarm,” as well as standout tracks “Whip It” and “Automatic.” But he never was physically in the studio with the rapper.

“There are a lot of other people I never got to get in the studio with for some reason.”