Alums Folayan Knight and Khari Cain (aka Needlz) Talk about Effort, Drive, and Success

Guest post by Peter Schwinge, G ’12, President of the MUBG Student Ambassador Board

On Friday, Feb 24th students from the Music Business Graduate program attended their first Professional Development Sequence of the spring semester and were treated to a wonderful experience from guest speakers and fellow NYU Alumni, Folayan Knight (UG’ 96) and Khari Cain (G ’03), aka Needlz.

From the onset, this was to be a different event. Typically guest speakers prepare a specific topic or presentation, yet after Ms. Knight briefly discussed her background (NYU Music Business graduate, Director of A&R at Island Def Jam, Senior Creative A&R at Hitco Music Publishing, Owner of Go Flip Yourself! to most recently Senior Manager of Creative at Kobalt Music Publishing) she turned to the 60+ students and asked, “What is it you want to know?”

With the floor left open, the students quickly jumped in with the pressing question, “How was it working with Redman, and Method Man?” A tantalizing story followed. With many of the audience follow-up questions regarding various sectors of the industry, Ms. Knight provided insightful responses on how to navigate each of the specific sectors. She dove into her experience-book with the common emphasis on your desire to put in the effort and drive to achieve your goals. From handling eccentric artists phone calls at random hours of the morning, negotiating a hot deal, to standing your ground…the basic takeaway is focus and follow-through.

About hour into her talk, the back door opened, to the surprise of the students, and through the crowd walked Khari Cain, aka Needlz – a fellow NYU graduate and Grammy-award winning producer. A delightful murmur radiated from the audience and a pleasant smile upon  Ms Knight’s face…as they had worked together for years.

She invited Mr. Cain up front with her and began an enjoyable conversation-like talk to the audience on the artist/manager relationship. A wonderful segment that openly displayed the balance of this kind of relationship. Stories from years past on how some things worked, and other times they didn’t, and what works out in the end with a relationship based on trust. Needlz, a truly humble gentleman that carries a big smile, is not the type of person you expect had just won a Grammy for his co-production on the Bruno Mars single, “Just The Way You Are”, as well as worked with such acts as Lupe Fiasco, Swizz Beats, Busta Rhymes, and 50 Cent. In an open conversation with the students, Mr. Cain’s message was clear…Don’t follow the pack, be true to yourself and your music, and have passion about what you do.

A truly entertaining and inspiring evening filled with a wealth of industry insights and stories that the students could digest and build upon for years to come. We thank both Ms. Knight and Mr. Cain for
taking the time out to share their knowledge and experiences with us.

Editor’s note: Bruno Mars single, “Just The Way You Are”, was the top-selling single in the world in 2011, with sales of over 12.5 million.

Follow Needlz on Twitter