Award-winning music producer Needlz has worked with some of today’s top artists such as Bruno Mars, Cardi B, Drake and much more. His talent is unparalleled as he continues to create musical hits that are known the world over. Aside from being a highly innovative creator, he is also a supportive and dedicated father to his special needs daughter Makayla. His short film As Long As I Got You chronicles the struggles of work-life balance and the day-to-day challenges of raising a child with Phelan Mcdermid Syndrome. This beautiful and inspiring testament to fatherhood celebrates an unconditional love between a parent and his child. In a conversation with QG, Needlz shares his experiences as a groundbreaking industry professional and how he hopes to create awareness for Phelan Mcdermid Syndrome as he strives to encourage other parents.
How did you develop the name Needlz?
When I was in my senior year of college, I had cancer and at that time I didn’t have a name. I had just started producing and I didn’t have a cool moniker. At one point while undergoing chemotherapy I was just looking down at my arms, and I had needles, and, so that’s how.
How did you get started in the music industry?
I started as a DJ in high school and college. In my third year of school, I didn’t really see a long-term future in DJing. However, I wanted to be involved with music so I decided to go to New York University for their grad school music business program.
I interned at Bad Boy Records. I was in the part of the company that managed the producers and the Hitman. Once they discovered I made beats, they started sneaking my beats in with all the other Hitman.
What inspired music singles like Just the Way You Are?
Actually, Just the Way You Are was a hip hop record for Lupe Fiasco. I had Adam Levine in mind when my friend Cacius wrote the hook, but the label kind of decided they had a new guy that they wanted to get out there, and his name was Bruno Mars. One thing led to another and it ended up going from Lupe Fiasco featuring Bruno Mars to Bruno Mars’ first single.
What was it like winning the ASCAP Urban Award?
It’s always good to get awards just to feel respected among your peers and to get some feedback from the stuff that you’ve done over the years. So awards are always awesome, and ASCAP is pretty much the best PR award.
Can you share a bit about your experiences working with megastars like Cardi B, Drake, and Bruno Mars?
I have met them all on individual cases, but the songs that I did for them, they were made for them per se, except for Bruno Mars. Basically, these were ideas that we were pitching for these particular artists, and they took them. I think that’s a testament to how strong their records were for them to beat out all the insiders and people in the inner circle.
What motivated you to create the short film As Long as I Got You?
I just looked around my family and saw that there was a pretty interesting dynamic, with me being a music producer and having this crazy schedule. My wife is an entrepreneur, I have a fifteen-year-old, also my eleven year old is autistic. Her name is Makayla. I thought that there’s something I wanted to capture because there are other people out there dealing with it and just to get a feel for how we deal with my work, family, and life.
Then there’s Makayla’s life and all the struggles and lessons we’ve learned over the years with her. It’s definitely been a marathon raising a child with autism, and it’s a lifelong thing. We are trying to prepare for after we’re gone. We just wanted to bring awareness, and this was the best way I saw fit at the time.
My work-life balance is the biggest challenge to my career. It’s always been wanting to be successful in the industry which requires a lot of work, time and effort. I also want to play basketball with my son, teach him how to dribble, and do homework and other things like that. It’s been a struggle. I thank my wife for being the rock of the family and holding us down and being the glue for our family.
How do you hope to build awareness for Phelan-McDermid Syndrome?
To build awareness for the syndrome it requires kids to get genetic testing, which is something I want to push. A big plan for us is to raise money for a bus; it’s called Makayla Moving Autism bus and it will travel to low-income neighborhoods to help diagnose and treat kids with autism. It’s for kids that [who] may not have the resources to do so, so that’s been the big initiative for me and my family. Along with that, we hope in the future to include genetic testing, which once again brings awareness to Phelan-McDermid Syndrome.
What advice can you give to other parents who are raising children with special needs?
It’s not something you can cure overnight. Early intervention is probably one of the bigger things you can do; the earlier you can get diagnosed the earlier you can get started with treatment the better.
Just realize that a lot of these things are not your fault, you didn’t do anything, these kids were brought to our lives for a reason. I really believe God wouldn’t put these children in our lives if we weren’t supposed to have them or couldn’t handle it. Just realize you need to make time for yourself, make time for your spouse, and that it’s a long journey and that God has your back at the end of the day.
What can fans expect from you in the near future?
I executive-produced the latest Nicole Bus album, which I’m proud of. I hope to executive produce more and bring more talent by doing different things in the industry. Between that and our new [show] BRL, called The A Room and that’s going to come out every Friday. We have started with partial episodes and ramping up to full episodes so you can catch the first episode of this Friday and follow along on Instagram.
Photo Credit: Vintage King