Who in their lifetime can say that Prince mentored you and was able to work with superstars life K. Michelle and Nicki Minaj? Dre Knight, a very talented man can tell you some of his experiences and also talks about his journey getting to where he is now as a well respected Music Producer in the game today. Read full interview here on TheOfficialAO below.
Tell us a little about what you do in the music industry and about your journey to how you got to where you are today?
I’m a music producer, composer, arranger, musician and the owner of Knightlife Entertainment, which is a production company that houses artists, songwriters and producers. Here, we develop artists and look to mold and shape their careers. My journey to get to this point involved a lot of “right place, right time scenarios, luck, a lot of being prepared, a lot of time mastering the craft and clearly outlining my goals and most importantly trusting my instinct and always stay true to the “dope” and never the hype.
What does it feel like to have produced songs for stars like K. Michelle, Nicki Minaj?
Producing K Michelle and Nicki Minaj was a lot of fun… I think I really enjoyed it because they were at an earlier stage in their careers and it made it a little easier to get to know them a little bit. The music that we made was honest, which means that it came from a very real place and I felt like I was able to capture “musical moments” with them.
I always made sure I had jack Daniels in the studio for K. Michelle and I knew how to really embrace her perspective on songs. It was never gonna be anything politically correct but it was going to be real. She is a real champion and overcame a lot of odds to get to where she is now. I’m really honored to have been a part of her journey. What I remember about my time working with Nicki was that she was an incredible writer and lyricist, really humble, but super determined and hungry to manifest her destiny. Nicki was always grounded… Even today as arguably the biggest female rapper in history, she has kept that intact.
What has been your biggest lesson in your career as you have been climbing up the charts to success?
The most important lesson I learned was that “the table that I wanted to sit at, that I didn’t have to TRY to sit at. All I had to do was grab my chair.” Those were the exact words that Prince gave me during our time together. When he said that to me, it hit home… I was so focused on trying to appease the A&R’s or the tastemaker that dictates which songs get released. To have him offer me mentorship, advice and guidance in such a short time meant the world to me and I never looked back. Sometimes, I have to pinch myself because never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that my most important lesson would come from the man that inspired me the most.
Tell us about some of your current projects and music artists you are working with right now?
Currently, my focus is devoted to the artists at Knightlife. Mega Eli, a gifted writer and artist as a whole, has a great future in front of him. I’m excited about his project because it’s out the box. My mother, Robin West, is producing some of the songs on that project and I’m enjoying just watching her work with the artists at the company.
Israela, or “Queen Izzo” (what I call her) is a brilliant vocalist, but all around she’s mesmerizing as an entertainer. Her ability to tell stories through song and dance makes her unique but her dedication to the craft and her work ethic is unparalleled. Other than that, I’m back in the studio with Tish Hyman as she prepares for her second album. Most people that know me, know that Tish is like a sister to me and the music on her new project is really special. Her process is really incredible to watch. She gathers a bunch of us producers together and it’s a collaborative effort. She’s a great producer in her own right… Soon, she will be acknowledged for it.
How has big influences such as Prince, Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder influence your style of production in today’s time?
Prince, Smokey and Stevie Wonder are my musical holy trinity. As a child, i wanted to capture the groove of Prince, play keys like Stevie and write like Smokey. As an adult, I’m still chasing that… Lol. I think u can hear some of those influences in my music especially rhythmically. Creating groove and trying to evoke an emotion musically is where I feel I excel and I learned that from them. I’ve been fortunate to know Smokey a little bit and able to have great conversations about his process and I was able to do the same with Prince. Their influence has been HUGE. They gave me something to aspire to be.
Which music artist would you like to work with next and why?
I think if Frank Ocean and I got together to make another song, it would be special. He has his own approach in song making that can turn an ordinary song into true ART. I think he’s the epitome of what an artist is in that regard. I still get a lot of comments on social media about “Acura Integurl”. I can’t help but imagine what would have been if we actually got a chance to create more.
What are some life mottos do you like to live by and how have they enhanced your career in the music industry?
I take most of my life mottos directly from the sports world. One that sticks out is “All it takes, is all u got”. It’s a constant reminder to keep on pushing and working no matter what, and holding yourself accountable for the results you desire. If u give 100% to your craft, eventually your craft will give 100% back to u. Trust the process and find the beauty within it.
Do you have any advice for the up and coming music producers? What are some of the dos and don’t dos while beginning your production career?
My advice for aspiring music producers would be to really understand the psychology of the song. I encourage other creators to take the time to analyze the song to make sure there’s a storyline to follow and that musically, it does everything to bring that story to life. I believe songs should have a beginning, a middle and an end. This isn’t a singing contest or a dance contest… It’s a connect to people contest…people connect to perspectives they identify with. When the music, story, melody and vocal performance are all dynamic, the opportunity to make impact is real. Master the craft, experiment in different genres of music, expand your palette, and unlock your full musical potential. Stay creative, push the envelope and the boundaries of creativity.
As far as do’s or dont’s, it’s difficult to say what a creative should or shouldn’t do because each person has their own path and sometimes what’s wrong for me is right for someone else. I think if you’re reliable, dependable and consistent, you have a shot at being successful but in the end, talent alone doesn’t entitle any of us to success. Understanding the intangibles and the “game within the game” is paramount.
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