New York City Department of Education public school students were treated to a special virtual Songwriters Hall of Fame Master Session with GRAMMY-winning producer and songwriter Khari “Needlz” Cain, on Tuesday, October 20, deftly hosted by Stuyvesant's Vocal Music & Music Technology professor / SHOF NY Education Committee vice chair, Harold Stephan.
Needlz has been making music for some of Hip Hop’s and R&B’s most notable names, including Tamar Braxton, The Lonely Island, Lil Wayne, K. Michelle, Nicole Bus, Young Buck, Trina, Lloyd Banks, Joe Budden, Busta Rhymes, Jadakiss, Rakim, and Jeezy. He’d had his start after catching the ear of veteran record producer, Swizz Beatz, who invited Needlz to collaborate on his “One Man Band Man” album, and the rest was history.
Needlz talked about his beginnings, “I started out as a DJ through High School and college, and grew up when hip-hop was reaching its stride. I sold my DJ equipment and started producing after going to NYU to learn more about the music business, but I realized I didn't want to be in the business, I wanted to be creative, and I started producing at 22.”
Stephan called upon five pre-selected students and played an original song by each, inviting Needlz to provide some direction for them.
His comments and advice encompassed a wide range; “Keep at it and keep writing pieces of work that will resonate,” and, “If you can find ways to keep this simple, it will be more impactful to the masses,” and, “I think of music in colors, and this gave me a light blue and yellow, fun vibe.”
To one 11-year-old student originally from Jamaica who had submitted a poem about her experience with racism after coming to this country, Needlz said, “I love the fact that your generation is soaking up what is going on in the world, and you guys will be the generation that will make some big changes. There has been an awakening, and you will be able to make a difference through songs and poems.”
When asked by Stephan, “How do you get your ideas?” Needlz responded, “Inspiration comes from all of types of music.” He went on to say, “Love songs always win. At the end of the day, it's such a relatable topic. Everyone wants to be in love.”
Winding up the session, Needlz had this parting advice for students, “You're competing with the people that you hear on the radio, so listen to how they do it and get ideas of how to put songs together. Try to recreate a feeling like, ‘I remember where I was when I heard that song.’ The only way to survive is to stand out, and there is longevity in being a songwriter."
Stephan agreed, “What songwriters give to the world can never be repaid.”
This Master Session was streamed live on the SHOF YouTube channel and is available for viewing here.
The Songwriters Hall of Fame is grateful to David Gray, EVP/Head Of A&R, Universal Music Publishing Group and Simone Dixon, A&R / Creative, Universal Music Publishing Group for facilitating Needlz as our guest, and Elizabeth M. Guglielmo, Director of Music, New York City Department of Education for providing this special opportunity for public school students to participate in!