Updated: Jun 10, 2020
As a black man HBCUs truly prepare you for the realities we face in life. If you can make it a HBCU you can make it anywhere...you also find who you are as a black person by meeting other intelligent black people from across the country.
There are 2 languages that are universal - - Math & Music, and in this Trending Leader feature we recognize Grammy nominated producer, Corey ‘Mr. Hanky’ Dennard for not only for his DOPE music but also for carrying on the rich tradition of HBCU excellence. I first met Corey through a common friend on the campus of Southern University and even back then, he was using his musical talent to change people’s lives. I’m extremely proud of everything he has accomplished since those days on “the yard” and we are so blessed as he has so much more in store as he encourages us to keep living our best life.
The streets are familiar with Music producer Mr. Hanky who got his start as a trained classical musician, band member at Southern University and DJ. With his musical flair for heavy hip-hop anthems and radio buzz records, Mr. Hanky is soon to be a household name. His production credits include Young Dolph, Colonel Loud, DJ Luke Nastyy, Young Greatness, Soulja Boy, Mystikal, Lil Chuckee, Waka Flocka, Young Jeezy, V.I.C., Travis Porter, Ying Yang Twins and various local Atlanta talent. Mr. Hanky has earned a name for himself and a reputation that is hard to match. Various artists can attest to his work ethic and his ability to create classic hip-hop records as well as dance, techno, R&B and pop tracks. With a busy schedule in the studio, Mr. Hanky is always in high-demand. “Everyday I continue to look for ways to be more creative and to come up with records that the people want,” he says. “I make music for the people.” It’s not easy to get a session with Mr. Hanky, but the wait is well worth it. He proclaims his ambition to be one of the best producers in the South and eventually the world.
Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in music?
Mr. Hanky: Literally born into music from day 1, my mother has been playing piano since she was 3. Then went on to perfect her skills at Talladega College and Masters at Georgia State University. So I literally was born and going to choir rehearsals, symphonies, and concerts since I was in diapers. I’ve always played by ear, but my formal training started a lot earlier. I began taking trumpet lessons at 7. Played in the band from 6-12th grade. Went to Southern University and joined the world renowned “Human Jukebox” where I was studying to become a band director. While at Southern I began to realize I had other talents in the music realm that spanned outside of education. I began to dj while “on the yard” and noticed how people would react to certain vibes, sounds, and voices. So I began to play around with various music production software and began making beats in the dorm. Also was around 2002 and a lot of my local homies had begun to make a name for themselves locally. People like Gucci Mane and Baby D who were from the same high school. It was inspiring seeing someone you know out there winning! I figured I can do it too and I did.
Q: From Oprah to Kevin Hart to Lil Boosie so many people have been inspired by your production of Smile (I’m living my best life) and it seemed to be an exciting collaboration with Lil Duval, Snoop Dogg, Ball Greezy and Midnight Star. I think the record came at a time where we all needed to “Smile” and focus on the more positive aspects of life. What makes you smile?
Mr. Hanky: Wings make me smile, LOL. And people enjoying my music always makes me smile. It’s a trip you start an idea in your head and it manifests into the world. What also makes me smile is seeing people actually doing what makes them happy. Whether it’s considered good or bad is all subjective. We’re all on our own individual journeys. As long as people aren’t hurting, misleading or using people. Live Your Best Life!
Q: I have a tremendous respect for the creative process. How do you channel your creativity and innovative thought process to produce such iconic music?
Mr. Hanky: Honestly it’s truly a blessing! To know how people will react to something before they even heard it is amazing! I like to do what I call “Creative Research” basically hanging out and feeling the pulse of the culture. It may seem as if I’m just partying and turning up but I’m taking note of everything going on mentally. So I literally know the type of song I need to come out with, the artist, how the beat needs to sound and how the artist needs to deliver on the hit.
Q: What advice would you give to other young professionals or entrepreneurs looking to take their career or business to the next level?
Mr. Hanky: Take your time and truly learn everything there is to know about your craft. Instead of watching a couple of YouTube videos and thinking you’re an expert in a month. Also don’t let social media rush you! Again! DON'T LET SOCIAL MEDIA RUSH YOU or FOOL YOU!
Social media is great, you can literally touch the whole world from your phone. There are entities on social media that have a following of 10 Million that can’t sell $10,000 worth of products. Make sure you’re as profitable and as you are popular.
Q: As a trained Electrical Engineer, I know that there are a lot of parallels to technology and music such as harmonics and digital signal processing. How did you learn to translate your classical music training into producing music?
Mr. Hanky: It was actually very easy once I got the technology side of things and learned how to read wave files. It’s very similar to playing in the band, there’s different layers of sound just as there’s layers in programming. I think that’s why they’re is such a big boom with artist and producers now. When I first started you had to go to a state of the art studio and spend Thousands on studio time just to learn how to operate the equipment. Now you can do a whole album from your kitchen table with just a laptop or tablet it’s amazing!
Q: You rep for Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and are also an alumnus of the famous Human Jukebox, but what did you gain the most from your experience by attending a HBCU?
Mr. Hanky: As a black man HBCUs truly prepare you for the realities we face in life. If you can make it a HBCU you can make it anywhere. Financial Aid lines are always crazy so learn to have the “patience of job”.
You also find who you are as a black person by meeting other intelligent black people from across the country. I was blessed to grow up in Atlanta where we have black mayors, judges, politicians you name it. The modern day Wakanda. But I see a lot of black who didn’t attend HBCU’s and they tend struggle with identity issues. One day they’re woke, the next day they want to thot around the city, they often struggle in life socially because of that lack of identity. At HBCU’s you have professors who look like you and can understand where you are and where you’re going. At PWIs you’re just a number. Which is good to an extent because that’s how the real world is. But had it not been for Dr. William Ryder and the late Carnell Knighten at Southern University, I don’t know where I would’ve been. They both sat me down and was like “You’re really good at this music production. You should really take your focus off of band and focus on this”. And there it begins.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
Mr. Hanky: The excitement of the opportunity to change the world one song at a time. It’s exciting to know every time you go in the studio you can create something that can changes someone’s life, career, or mood in a positive way. That’s powerful!!
If you read his VoyageATL bio, I am quite sure that several of Corey's hits take you back to a time when you first heard the song(s). That is what music is, it's the soundtrack of our lives and Corey's signature sound is in our hearts whether we knew it or not. Yes, his productions are DOPE, but they are also rhythmic poetry that comes from a place of TRADITION, CULTURE, EXCELLENCE, and best of all INSPIRATION that touches your soul. What began as a piano lesson a generation ago, has transcended into a musical legacy that will be carried on throughout the history of music. Mr. Hanky you are a certified re.engineer!