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By Odeisel

It’s hard out there for a producer. You spend your entire life trying to get heard, sometimes you ghost produce and other people get credit for your hits. Other times you can have someone take your sound and know the right people and blow it up before you get to reap the rewards. And then sometimes you have a song and it does blow up, but now all people want to hear from you is that song or sound. Ask Lex Luger how that feels, even with the checks that come with it.  Producer Needlz has successfully hurdled those obstacles and has crafted hits for a wide range of artists including Skyzoo, the Ruff Ryders, Ludacris, 50 Cent and Bruno Mars. We sit down with him to talk the politics of the business, the pitfalls of producing and what inspires him to make music. Enjoy. Audio after the jump.

Needlz Interview Cut

Planet Ill: Bruno Mars is a long way from the Ruff Ryders, man. Describe your journey

Needlz: Man I mean it’s just really been about hard work and preparation when the opportunity presents itself. With the Ruff Ryders stuff, I ended up meeting my manager through and internship through school, and one thing led to another. She’s the one that got me a lot of that early Ruff Ryders stuff and you know years have passed since then and I’m still doing Hip-Hop. It’s my main thing right now and actually the Bruno Mars track was a Hip-Hop track for Lupe and he passed on it or Bruno took it from him, and it went from there. Now all of a sudden I’m a pop producer. It worked out pretty good.

Planet Ill: What would you say your signature is?

Needlz: You know what it’s kinda hard to explain. I think it’s more like a syncopation of just overall music. It may not be just be the drums, it may be everything together. That and just at least a lot of my early stuff was really dark; really gritty but at the same time clean enough for radio.

So yeah man, I think it’s that combination of the clean and gritty with this kind of swing that I can’t really put my finger on but people seem to know it.

Planet Ill: Do you produce with your mood? When you go to that dark place when you make those gritty beats do you have a frown on your face?  Is that something that you feel?

Needlz: You know what man I’m like the happiest most carefree person in the world! Early on, those were the beats I grew up on like Mobb Deep, I was really a fan of Mobb Deep. Who else was real dark back then? M.O.P. I was just a fan of a lot of the early Hip-Hop stuff. Or at least there was an era where it was all kinda dark, you know, Black Moon, you know what I’m saying with the filtered sample, stuff like that.

 Me, I’m not on that as much now, I’m more like major chords and happier sounding organs. I was never in a dark room, my studio is normally clean and it’s not like I got graffiti on the walls.  I don’t know man I just had to get it out of my system I guess early on I was known for the dark stuff. Before that I was real heavy on the uptempo party joints. The hard stuff just took off and I just kept giving people what they wanted.

Planet Ill: Is there a different mindset from when you’re creating a single than when you’re creating a mid-album track?

Needlz: Yeah, there’s just fundamental elements. It’s amazing how much a snare can change things. It’s amazing how a certain kind of kick can change things. Just sort of elements that I already know, I can change an underground beat to a more commercial-sounding beat or vice versa. So a lot of times I like to give it that contrast and make it something that’s kind of bright or happy sounding I try to always make it have some kind of hard drum or something like that so it’s not straight up bubble gum type stuff. I don’t make a lot of beats but when I get them I like to hit Ludacris and Jay-Z at the same time or I’m trying to do stuff that’s not like a coastal thing; it’s more like a thing that anybody can rap over. That’s pretty much the goal.

Planet Ill: Does it ever bother you as an artist or someone who takes time to study a craft when you hear producers who don’t really know anything about music?

Needlz: First of all, I think you should at least have a broad understanding of what industry you’re in. It’s the music business and the business is a really big part of it; more so than the music. So just having that knowledge of what’s going on around you and how things get done and how you get paid more importantly, that’s just like the basics and that’s it. There’s a lot of other things that goes along with it.

Needlz: Too Much Bang For The Haystack by Planet_Ill on Mixcloud

Even outside of just black and white numbers, there’s a lot of politics and maneuvering that you got to be kind of familiar with as well, and that just comes with experience and just being in it for a while and just allying yourself with the right people.

I know really talented people that may be down with the wrong person and they just may not reach their full potential because of that so it’s definitely just the knowledge of knowing your contracts and stuff like that but just learning how to maneuver I just as important.

Planet Ill: Recently Bangladesh went through a lot of stuff to get paid from “A Milli.” Now he’s saying he didn’t get paid for “6’7”.” How would you have handled that situation?

Needlz: I don’t really know the situation, I know that sometimes you have to litigate or do things to get your money. That’s just how it is sometimes. It’s definitely a part of the game. I’ve had to do it where you have to sue to get paid. You have to get what’s entitled to you. I don’t know.

Planet Ill: Would you work with someone again if you had to go through that process?

Needlz: It depends on how bad it is, but to me at the end of the day, it’ all business. They have representatives that want to make them the most money and I have representatives that want to make me the most money. I’ve learned to take my personal feelings out of stuff. Pay me, and if you pay me I’ll continue working with you, I don’t hold no grudges. Because you never know what that next record may be or what it might lead to. I’m not in the position where I’m turning down opportunities.

Planet Ill: What’s the difference between producing a theme song and producing a song for an album?

Needlz: With the commercial stuff I’ve been doing, the majority of it is super corporate and the majority of the time they really don’t know what they want so they just get really picky like, “Aww could you change this?” I guess it’s just and overall longer and more tedious project, doing the commercial stuff. Plus you gotta find ways to make stuff shorter to fit whatever the commercial is. It’s just a more tedious project, I would say.

For me, a lot of times I’m in my basement or studio just  creating and I’m sending stuff off . Sometimes I’m in the studio with cats. It all depends. I’ve done both and one thing that’s good about the commercial stuff is they pay on time and they pay pretty good.

Planet Ill: What’s the most fun you ever had in a studio? Who’s your favorite artist to work with?

Needlz: My artist. I have an artist named Honors English and we just sit and just talk about the game and life and just random stuff in general. I have probably the most fun with him just because, one, it’s a project I’m really hands-on and really a part of from the beginning to the end and we’re in the studio and we’re both real picky on ad libs and all kinds of different things trying to put out some good material or material that’s going to make a difference. I would say definitely it would be my artist.

Planet Ill: We just went through a whole bunch of things where people were expecting the Rapture or the end of the world. If you had to produce a song for the end of the world, the track that we all gotta go out with, how would you go about crafting that sound?

Needlz: Wooow. The end of the world theme song. What would that sound like? Wow. I would do some straight gospel music. It would be straight gospel chords and definitely Jesus-influenced. It would definitely be a spiritual thing. I guess that would all stem from the chords chosen.  The drums, I don’t care if it’s the end of the world, I’m still going to put some hard drums on it. We going out with a bang!

Planet Ill: If there was an emotion that you wanted someone to hear when they heard your music, what would it be?

Needlz: Inspired. I guess that’s an emotion.  I would say inspired to want to go out and make something better than my beat. Not exactly the same or nothing similar just inspired to get up and get to the studio and just want to create. I used to get that. I don’t get it as much anymore that’s why I don’t do as much; I go off mood.

Planet Ill: When was the last time you were inspired by music?

Needlz: I’m a big Timberland fan…I don’t know man I haven’t really been…it’s been awhile to be honest with you. I’m trying to think of anybody that’s come out with at least a beat that I was like either I wish they did it or the beat was so dope that I can’t figure out how they did it. Actually there’s a lot of pop stuff. I’ve been listening to a lot of electronic music Like Justice. They inspire me because they do stuff that I don’t know how they did it.

Planet Ill: J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League?

Needlz: No, Justice the group. They know how to do stuff that I wouldn’t even know how to begin to do what they’re doing. That stuff or whenever I listen to Dilla I think what was he on? It’s been a while though. I definitely don’t hear it on the radio. It’s not a good place to go. It’s really going back to some of the older stuff. I’ve been doing that a little bit more. The shit I grew up on and just going back and listening to that kind of stuff and it definitely makes me inspired. Overall, I just want to keep doing stuff that inspires people.

Planet Ill: Any last words?

Needlz: If ya’ll want to hear some of my best work, go to www.honorsenglishmusic.com. There’s only a couple of joints up there now we’re going to keep releasing stuff throughout the summer and hopefully release something in the fall, it will be like 15 songs total. We’re gonna finish the first chapter.there’s two songs out, the one is called “Flying High” with Lupe Fiasco, the other is called “Crazay.” The Honors English Project – Crazay

Check that project out if you’re familiar with my work. Even if you’re not familiar, check that out. Also I’m going to be dropping The Best of Needlz, Vol 2. That’s going to be coming in about a month and well as Needlz Online where I’m going to be doing a lot of behind the scenes stuff. That’s about it.