“A new producer’s on the rise? and you don’t want a problem with this guy.” No, really. The only thing slightly problematic nowadays is the overbearing corporate machine in the world of Hip-Hop music. One guy’s story combats this errie tradition.
Needlz has a new sound and an old soul to break his own brand of Funk down. The Michigan native and former Bad Boy intern has supplied heat for gangstas like 50 Cent and Young Buck while also juicing Talib Kweli’s latest banger, “Drugs Basketball & Rap”. Needlz brings a humble demeanor and focused work ethic to the game. The New Musician is here with AllHipHop.com to give a tutorial to young producers and bring Hip-Hop’s sound back to its essence.
AllHipHop.com: A lot of the veteran producers are criticizing your generation as “beat-makers”, not “producers.” To you, what is the difference between a producer and a beat-maker, and where do you fit?
Needlz: Well, a producer is more hands-on in the studio, guiding the artist through the song-making process, while a beat-maker submits beats or instrumentals and waits on a phone call. I’m a combination of both; sometimes I submit beats while other times I work with cats and I’d love to be able to do more of the hands on producer work?
AllHipHop.com: You get a better vibe in the studio when the producer is working with the artist?
Needlz: It would be, but that hasn’t been the case. With the exception of established cats getting a lot of work like Dre and the Neptunes, who can take time to work with the artists, most cats on the come-up, like in my situation, have to balance between both. And nowadays with Protools and things like that, people can just make the track on their own.
AllHipHop.com: In your opinion, do you think there’s a difference in the skill level between producers sampling as opposed to playing instruments?
Needlz: Skill level, nah. I don’t know how to play any instruments, but I know how to put stuff together. I’ve been around musicians who can kill it on a keyboard, but when they try to make a beat, it’s trash. Of course I want to learn how to play the keys, it would help overall, but if you have the gift to make people’s head move, then you’re good. The skills of knowing how to play an instrument are equal to that of making a beat.
AllHipHop.com: 2005 has been a big year for you. For all those new to Needlz, can you give readers a summary of your entrance into the industry?
Needlz: I started out as an intern at Bad Boy. While I was going to grad-school at NYU, some dudes were shopping my tracks on the low and it ended up on the desk of an A&R at Def Jam who worked with DMX, Redman and Method Man. She happened to be an NYU alum, liked my work, we met up, and hit it off. She’s responsible for 95% of my music getting out there, from work with Ruff Ryders to BET. It also led to me working with G-Unit, Young Buck’s ” Let Me In” and 50 Cent’s “Piggy Bank” and “God Gave Me Style.”
AllHipHop.com: Yeah that “God Gave Me Style” joint is one of my favorites, the other side of 50?
Needlz: Yeah, I wish that would have really come out.
AllHipHop.com: Can you go into detail about your experience as an intern at Bad Boy and the value if any you got from it?
Needlz: It was valuable because while I was in school interning, my major was music business. I wanted to be an A&R and work on the business side of the music industry. When I started interning at Bad Boy, I found out that I didn’t want to work for anyone. I’m a cat with a degree getting coffee and french-fries for dudes, and that was wack. But at the same time, I was steady grinding and making beats.
AllHipHop.com: You’ve recently produced a really big controversial track on one of the best selling albums in 2005. What was it like working with 50 cent and G-Unit?
Needlz: I haven’t had any problems at all. It’s a situation where they picked unknown beats off of a CD, which is cool because it shows that my stuff stands out.
AllHipHop.com: With them being the big dogs in the game, it’s a huge compliment to you that they would choose your music as the soundtrack to their story.
Needlz: Definitely. It’s been a good look working with them, I can’t complain. They kind of put me on the map.
AllHipHop.com: How do you feel about beef on wax in rap music?
Needlz: It is what it is. I’m a laid back person, I don’t really get into any of that. It’s just another part of Hip-Hop.
AllHipHop.com: Right, been around since the beginning. What are your feelings on the state of Hip-Hop music today?
Needlz: I find myself not really listening to that much rap anymore. No one’s really doing anything different. It’s pretty much the same song. If I buy a CD, I’m checking for the other producers because I know what the rappers are going to say.
AllHipHop.com: Producers are coming up in a real way.
Needlz: That’s the reason. The majority of rappers are talking about pushing drugs, “I got this much money, I f**k this many girls.” That’s basically what it is and to me there’s more to life than that, more to Hip-Hop than that. It’s cool if folks talk about that, just do it in a different way. I aint trying to sound like the mad producer though?
AllHipHop.com: I’m sure there are good amounts of people that share the same sentiments. What does Needlz bring to the table?
Needlz: On the low, I’m getting ready to introduce artists that aren’t on the same tip, bringing something different to the table. New York’s been rocking with the same cats for so long, we really need something fresh.
AllHipHop.com: How would you describe your sound?
Needlz: It’s like an oxymoron: clean and dirty at the same time. I’m really picky with the sounds I choose, from the high-hat to the snare. As I start to make a beat, I try to stay away from what sounds regular. That’s how I’ve developed.
AllHipHop.com: Interesting. Are you a family man?
Needlz: If I could, I would be at home chillin’ with my fiancé and daughter. I’m not too big on clubs or parties, I rather be at home making beats and chillin’. At the end of the day, I gotta put food on the table and bring money in.
AllHipHop.com: You’ve got your priorities together. Does having a family impact or influence your music?
Needlz: When my daughter was born, my career took off. It was a blessing. My girl isn’t really into it as much, and that provides the balance.
AllHipHop.com: What was the Hip-Hop scene like growing up in Michigan?
Needlz: Hot! We listened to everything, East Coast, West Coast, Booty music and House. We really respected it and I was a big East Coast fan. DJ’ing in high school, and having the new music first was a cool experience. To have the Nas album, [Raekwon’s] Purple Tape?
AllHipHop.com: Do you still get the DJ itch from time to time?
Needlz: Yeah no doubt! I haven’t bought records in a minute. I spin MP3s. I’m really looking for a spot where I can spin early 90’s Hip-Hop records.
AllHipHop.com: Which MC’s and or producers inspired you coming up, and why?
Needlz: The RZA is definitely underrated; he’s one of the illest! He created the whole Wu sound and movement. Back then producers didn’t have as much shine and he never got the recognition he deserved. Man, cats like Just Blaze, Premier, Dilla, Nottz, Havoc. I’m a fan and I listen to all of these cats. When I first started, I used to sit down and study Premier. He brought a lot to the game.
AllHipHop.com: DJ Premier is certainly a pioneer and veteran in Rap music. How did “Drugs Basketball & Rap” come about?
Needlz: 88 keys brought me down to the studio and put me onto Talib Kweli. I gave him a beat CD and got called back. I really like that beat, and a lot of artists passed up on it. A lot of beats people pick aren’t my best beats, but at the end of the day it’s not about me, it’s what they like. It was something that happened real quick and I’m glad he picked that beat cuz the track came out cool.
AllHipHop.com: Anymore Kweli or G-Unit collabos in the future?
Needlz: Yeah I talked to Talib last week, and he picked out some joints. I got a joint with Lloyd Banks featuring Prodigy.
AllHipHop.com: So are you officially in the G-Unit system?
Needlz: I guess you can say that, but I’m not signed to them. I got a lot of love for them cats. Props to Sha Money and D Prosper!
AllHipHop.com: That’s a good look. Who else are you working with at the moment?
Needlz: Corey Gunz, Rich Boyz, and Sharifa. I’m really hoping people embrace Lupe Fiasco; he’s one of the dopest MC’s out there. I’m trying to put together this super-group from New Jersey. Its kind of hard bringing three different solo artists into one group, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. There are not a lot of hot groups out there and I think it’s ill when artists bring different energy and a unique voice to the booth. It’s like having three different songs on one track.
AllHipHop.com:You’re rumored to have a band in the works? Is it Rock?
Needlz: It’s not really a Rock band. It’s an R&B singer and myself and we’re doing some next level, soulful R&B s**t. The Gutta Fam is the name of the [New Jersey] conglomerate. It’s an old school vibe with some Hip-Hop flavor.
AllHipHop.com: Definitely keep us posted. You got a lot of new music that we’re going to be checking for. That’s what’s up. Scanning the history of Hip-Hop, what artist would you most like to work with, dead or alive and why?
Needlz: I don’t really deal with a lot of what if’s. I mean, if Biggie and Pac were alive today, things would be a lot different. A lot of artists might not be as hot. I might not even be here. My favorite rapper has always been Nas. I’m a big Nas fan.
AllHipHop.com: What do you think about the new alliance between Nas and Jay?
Needlz: I think it’s dope. That’s the best s**t to happen this year. I heard that they might do an album and I hope it happens. The South is really bubbling right now and I love it, but there needs to be some balance. We need some more East coast influence in the game. It’s weird listening to the radio in New York nowadays. I don’t know where I am sometimes. I love that s**t, got no problems, I’ve done stuff for Ludacris and a lot of other Southern cats. I just think the game needs some more balance.