MVRemix: Let's start with some background information and history so fans can get to know you a little better. So where were you born and raised?
Needlz: I was born in Lansing, Michigan.
MVRemix: What was it like growing up there over the years?
Needlz: It was cool man. Music wise, we listen to everything. From house to Hip Hop to west coast, so we listen to a little bit of everything. But overall, its just a regular place. I'm from a middle class family, I wasn't no knucklehead who always got into trouble or was selling drugs.
MVRemix: What is your first memory of Hip Hop?
Needlz: Man...back in the day I used to break a little bit. But I specifically remember dancing to "Jam On It" by Nucleolus. So I met a lot of friends by breaking. Plus, when I was young I used to do so many different things. I used to race bikes, cars, things like that, so I was real active and music was just an extension of that.
MVRemix: How did you first get into DJing?
Needlz: Honestly, I saw that movie Juice, and I thought that dude was the illest. He was the main character, he had the badest chick, he won all the competitions and all of that. So after I left the theater I was like, "I wanna DJ". So my pops was like I'll get you some turntables if you bust a 4.0 grade point average this semester. So I got my 4.0 and it was on from there.
MVRemix: Going from DJing to producing is a natural progression for most artists, so how did it happen for you?
Needlz: I got tired of spinning in the clubs. I was DJing for a few hundred dollars and it really wasn't paying off. I wanted to have my weekends back and be able to chill. At the time I started producing, I was also trying to graduate. So all the DJing four times a week was messing with that as well. So I sold my 1200's and bought an MPC 2000, and just started from there. But it was still just a hobby, just like DJing, because I never thought I was going to be Funk Flex or any radio personality. I wasn't even the nicest, because when people started crabbing I was like, "Damn, that shit is crazy, I can't do that". (laughter) So eventually I got into producing, just for the fun of it as well. It didn't really get serious until I got to graduate school. I did my undergrad at Florida A&M and graduated from Florida State, but I went to graduate school at NYU. But when I was at NYU I did an internship for my major, which was music business. So I interned at Bad Boy, people started hearing some of my beats, I then started shopping them around and they eventually got in the hands of the A&R at Def Jam, Folayan Knight. She was really feeling my work, so she took me under her wing and eventually became my manager.
MVRemix: So interning at Bad Boy is what really got you started in the industry?
Needlz: Yeah, definitely. I went to school to be an A&R because producing was still a hobby. So once I interned at Bad Boy I decided that I didn't want to be an A&R because there are a lot of politics and ass kissing involved. And I'm a grown man with a degree, and I didn't feel like I needed to be faxing things over and getting food for people just to come up. So I didn't have the time for all the bullshit, and eventually I got real serious with the producing. Then the next thing you know people started to take notice. And after Solayan sold my first couple of beats I was like, "Damn, this is cool. If I can keep this up I'll be straight".
MVRemix: What was it like when you first started going out and shopping your beats to artists?
Needlz: It was cool, because people seemed to like my material from the start. People weren't completely dissing it or anything like that. Some of my beats weren't as polished as they needed to be, so some people shied away from them. But they also realized that I had my own sound, so they would take another meeting or take another listen to my CD's. But at the same time, I got my manager fairly early on in my career, so I wasn't doing a whole lot of shopping. I was only producing for a year and a half and I had a manager already. So she stressed to me that she just wanted me to work on my beats and she will take care of the rest.
MVRemix: With the industry being so shady it is hard to trust people. So how did you know you could trust your manager?
Needlz: Well, she looked out for me before there was any money involved. We vibed straight from the started because she went to NYU as well. But even before I signed a contract and before she even stepped to me on the management tip, she already placed two of my beats on the Ruff Ryders Vol. 3 compilation. So it was really out of love. She was this big time A&R and I'm this nobody producer, so she really looked out for me. I had a couple other offers as far as managers go, but she seemed really down to earth and she had my best interests in mind.
MVRemix: So the Ruff Ryders Vol. 3 compilation, that was the first project or artist's you sold beats to?
Needlz: Well, I had a couple of other things before that, which my boy hooked up. I did the BET Top 25 Countdown theme music. Then after that, I did this track for Afu-Ra, but that was on the independent tip. So my beats on the Ruff Ryders album were my first major label beats.
MVRemix: The thing that really struck me about your production is its diversity. There is really no one distinct or repetitive sound. Is that something you specifically pay attention to? Because as you know, most producers have that one sound and they rarely sway away from it.
Needlz: It's good and bad, because it is hard for me to make the same beat or the same sound twice. I get bored with it, so its really like I'm competing with myself to make something different. Every time I sit down at the MP, I try and put a little bit of twist to it. I am really picky about the sounds I use though. So yeah, I do make a conscious effort to not make things that sound like stuff I have already done. I really don't want to sound like anybody else. Even if I have a hot beat, but it sounds like something The Neptune's would do, I'll stop right there and leave it alone.
MVRemix: What is your favorite type of sound or production style then? Because you have the track you did for Fabolous, which was more of a keyboard sound. Then you have the tracks you did for Young Buck, which are completely different.
Needlz: I like old analog synth sounding stuff. I stopped sampling, so I am trying to get equipment and make stuff that sounds real and not the synthetic type. I love dirty, static filled type of shit. But I also have a way of cleaning that up to give it that commercial appeal.
MVRemix: So you stopped sampling completely?
Needlz: Yeah, but I sample in a different way. I just sample stuff that I don't have to get cleared, even though I have been doing that from the beginning. "Let Me In" is a collection of samples, but you would never know that. And I did that beat way back in 2002. But I started to do that with my Carswell Keyboard, as I just take little snippets of notes and played around with them. That way I'll still have that dirty sound but I won't have to clear the sample. But sampling, I just can't do it anymore, it takes up too much of your money, so what's the point?
MVRemix: Speaking of "Let Me In", how did you hook up with Young Buck?
Needlz: My manager has a relationship with Sha Money, so that is how it happened. I never met Young Buck a day in my life, which is the case with a lot of cats. Nowadays they do the song before you even met the people. I just go there to mix the record. But in the future I am looking forward to working with artists more.
MVRemix: So did that track change a lot of things for you?
Needlz: Umm, yeah, but at the same time I already had some stuff going on. I got a lot of stuff popping off at that time but those songs haven't come out yet. But yeah, that song definitely changed some things. It was a big single, it was one BET and everywhere else, so it was good for me. People around me were like, "Oh, ok, you are doing some bigger things".
Lâ€™Orange and Stik Figa â€“ The City Under The City album review
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MVRemix Urban | Online Hip Hop Magazine | US and Canadian Underground Hip Hop - exclusive interviews, reviews, articles