There’s always been a beat rattling around in Jared Cornelius' head. Arkansas' junior wide receiver might be trying to make a name for himself on the gridiron, but he’s already got one in the music world.
That name is DJ JRed, and he’s been producing, mixing, matching, mastering and spinning for the better part of the last decade. A local DJ at Teatro Scarpino in Fayetteville, Cornelius has an ever-growing rhythmic life away from football.
“That dude is talented,” said Northwest Arkansas hip-hop artist Bobby “BK” Kitchen. “Really, he’s probably one of the most talented people I’ve ever met. If he plays football anything like he makes music, he’ll be unbelievable.
“If he doesn’t make it in football, there’s no way he won’t make it in music.”
Cornelius' grandmother used to filled her Shreveport, Louisiana, home every Saturday morning with the smooth, soulful sounds of R&B and funk. Frankie Beverly, Al Green and Earth, Wind & Fire blared as the family cleaned.
His thirst for rhythm amplified in church, where he’d jam to the beat of the choir’s drum on his hymn book with sticks made from the paper fans. At 2 years old, a waddling Cornelius was asked to try his hand at the full set, in front of everyone. To the congregation’s surprise and delight, he kept up with each song, his mother, Sylvia, recalls, and eventually got a permanent gig playing alongside the regular drummer with his miniature set.
“I couldn’t stop in the middle of the service and get him off the drums,” Sylvia said with a laugh. “No one would get him.”
Cornelius now plays seven musical instruments. He learned drums, piano and organ all by ear, and learned the saxophone, trumpet and baritone while in middle school and high school concert band. Cornelius picked up bass guitar by watching YouTube videos and getting one-on-one instruction from Grammy-nominated Forever Jones bassist DeWitt Jones IV.
He tried taking private drum lessons, but the sessions were too easy.
“The instructor was learning stuff from me instead of the other way around,” Cornelius said.
He mastered his middle school’s drum cadence book in three days and went through three sling snare drums while perfecting all of the cadences from the movie “Drumline.”
Around the same time, his mother bought him his first track recorder and a CD burner, which he used to start producing his own songs. He and his friends made music videos. As Cornelius’ collection of production equipment grew, he slowly built a real studio in his family’s guesthouse. He dropped his first album “Rising" -- inspired by Kanye West -- in seventh grade. Now hidden away on his computer, “Rising” created impressive presale numbers, generating a small cash flow until he got in trouble for selling his five-track CD at school.
No longer tweaking the high school fight song or producing songs for school plays, Cornelius is producing, mixing, matching and creating out of his in-home studio in Fayetteville. Cornelius works with various artists, including his older brother, JC Jones, who is a singer and actor in Los Angeles, and Kitchen.
Cornelius, who still has that Kanye flavor, is piling up tracks on iTunes and SoundCloud and recently produced the beats for a track with Jones and female rapper Trina called “Go.”
Kitchen met Cornelius in September. Cornelius has produced over 30 beats for him; 20 are recorded and 11 could be used on his upcoming album, “All Things Ugly." Their single "If Money Could Talk" is currently on iTunes under the artist Bobby Ka$h.
Cornelius, who has worked with artists ranging from hip-hop to country, estimates that he’s hit the thousands in created beats and tries to make a beat a day during the offseason. Since January 2015, Cornelius has produced 295 beats.
“I could release a whole album in my room right now,” he said.
And he’s profiting. After working with Arkansas’ compliance team to clear everything by the NCAA, Cornelius was told that he could only charge the industry standard for exclusive rights and nonexclusive rights beats. Cornelius said he makes $50 per hour for recording, and he sells nonexclusive rights beats for $50 (he can sell the beat over and over) while exclusive rights beats range from $400 to $500.
“He’s an unbelievable artist, I mean, unbelievable,” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said. “He’s big time.”
Cornelius found it hard to balance football and music when he was younger, but it’s easier now. His two passions don’t overlap too much during the season, but he does occasionally dive in to clear his mind and release.
“I have a love for both; it’s not just music, it’s not just football,” he said.
Football is Cornelius' priority right now, but he'd like it to help his musical career flourish. After a solid sophomore season (24 catches, 393 yards, three touchdowns) and spring, he's primed to grab more attention from NFL scouts in 2016.
An NFL career would mean even more producing in the future. It’s something that excites him and his mother, who is still amazed that he’s taken both paths this far.
“God put so much talent into one kid and sometimes it’s just overwhelming,” Sylvia said.