Cainon Lamb intended to pursue a career as an NFL player but sheer serendipity led him to become a Grammy-nominated and multi-platinum producer and songwriter. The FAMU alumnus has worked with the likes of Beyoncé, Monica, Missy Elliot, Keyshia Cole and Jazmine Sullivan.
Being a preacher’s son, Lamb was introduced to music at an early age in church. His first passion, however, was football and he received a full scholarship to play for FAMU. The All-American wide receiver honed his musical skills in his spare time during his tenure on the highest of seven hills.
A few years after Lamb graduated in 2001, his music landed in the hands of Grammy-award winning artist, producer and songwriter, Missy Elliot. The rest is history.
Currently, Lamb is enjoying the success of a few of his latest projects like “Countdown” by Beyoncé and “Anything to Find You” by Monica featuring Rick Ross.
The Miami-based producer speaks on his time at FAMU, explains what it’s like to work with Beyoncé, how he gets his inspiration and gives advice to students interested in working in the music industry.
How has FAMU impacted your life? Did you learn any lessons while you were here?
Being a graduate of FAMU taught me that it doesn’t matter where you go, if you have “it” or what it takes, you’re going to get noticed. Somebody’s going to find you because of what you have. It also taught me that nothing is going to be handed to you because at FAMU nothing is handed to you. I feel like I had to fight for everything.
It was a lovely experience. I loved the people in the community and the staff.
I wouldn’t trade my FAMU experience. I miss it at times because it was one of the most fun and happiest times of my life so far.
How did you get involved with Beyoncé?
I did a song one night, right before the BET Awards last year. I was in the studio and I was listening to Boyz II Men. The song, “Uhh Ahh” starts with a countdown of “10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.” So I thought, “Wow, that could be something. Just the countdown itself.” Once the countdown was in the computer I sped it up a little bit. I put the snare drum taps to it and I started a beat. I sent the song to my publisher, E.M.I., and my publisher called me the next day. He said, “I haven’t heard nothing like this in a while. I had a meeting this morning with Beyoncé and I played a couple other songs I had and she wasn’t really feeling them. When I played the beat that you sent me, you should have seen how she went crazy! She started dancing and bouncing up and down and just doing all kind of stuff. She loved that beat! I’m glad you sent the instrumental because she’s going to go in the studio and record it two days from now. You may need to try to make a female version of the countdown part.” So I agreed to do that. I never actually met Beyoncé. Then The Dream, the artist, wrote the verses and that’s how it got created.
That was an experience where I thought, “Wow, it had to be God.”
Beyoncé is our Michael Jackson of today. Hundreds of songs get submitted and she only picked 12 to put on her album. For people to say, “Your song could be one the best songs on the album,” that’s just an incredible opportunity and I’m proud to be on the project.
Where do you get your inspiration?
When it’s time to write lyrics my inspiration comes from the actual music that’s created. If I create the music and it makes me feel a certain way, I let the music talk. The music has a voice of its own, before you even sit down to write words. It’s already saying something and making you feel a certain way. I don’t ignore those feelings. You have to go to the most sensitive and purest place to allow those words to come to you. It’s crazy because from 2001 all the way up until 2004 when I got my first placement with Fantasia, I was doing rap, I wasn’t doing R&B.
It’s crazy because most of the people that I’ve worked with are females. I think I have a soft spot for females and there’s a sensitivity when it comes to women that I think I have because I was raised with my mom and my dad. I saw my mom and my dad together and I saw how they gave each other love and I saw my mom go from nothing to something.
So when I see a woman like her, I hear many songs because there are so many things that can be said from her heart. There are so many things that she’s drawn to that I can attest to. My mom passed away in 2004 and that was also the same year that I got my first music placement.
My mom bought me the equipment that I still use today. She bought it with her credit card. She didn’t know anything about it but she just knew that I loved it. I think that’s where my sensitivity comes from when it comes to being able to write for a female because I know where her heart comes from and I know what she goes through as a woman in this world and I know what she has to go through in dealing with men.
My inspiration has generally come from that place of love. Love is the main operation when it’s time to create. In love, you find all those other things like the hate, the mistakes, the cheating and all the other things that make people feel a certain kind of way. You have to capture that but it kind of comes from capturing love to know that one day you’re not going to feel like you love somebody. That’s why love is not a feeling. Love is a decision. You choose to love because one day you may not feel like loving.
What song are you most proud of?
The song that I’m most proud of hasn’t been written. My joy doesn’t come from hearing my song on a radio. The joy I get comes from actually getting another chance to create another song.
What artists are you listening to now?
I don’t listen to the radio because I always want to sound like me. I don’t want to sound like anybody else. It’s crazy when you listen to the radio so much you feel like you have to make ‘that song’ to get on the radio. That’s what most people have been doing and that’s what is causing the songs on the radio to sound alike. The artists sound the same and the beats sound the same so you don’t know who is who.
What advice do you have for any students or anyone trying to get into the music industry?
Get a product. Establish the right relationships with the right people. You get those relationships by charging little to nothing. You charge little to nothing because people don’t know you yet. Those three components together will take you to the next level.