Class, Today’s Guest Lecturers Will Be … De La Soul?

Students in New York University's music-business program meet face-to-face with artists, producers, executives.

With the fall semester in full swing, most college kids are already up to their ears in lectures about economics and English. But how about taking a class on becoming a music mogul with De La Soul and Russell Simmons as your professors?

That’s the concept behind “Conversations with Today’s Hitmakers” lecture series. Held at New York University’s Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, the year-old weekly seminar enlists artists and music executives to give students practical advice on making it in the music industry. Last year’s series included Simmons, Grammy-winning producer Phil Ramone, dance-music icon “Little” Louie Vega and veteran music impresario Clive Davis, who founded the department last year.

“This is an important part of the curriculum because it allows students to meet face to face in an intimate setting with some of the leading executives, producers and performers in the music industry,” said assistant professor Jason King, who moderates the seminar. “There’s no better way to learn about how the industry works than from the people who run it.”

De La Soul recently took center stage to speak the class about their experiences in the industry. When asked for advice, the group’s Maseo said, “The industry is always going to exist as what it is: the music business. You have to protect yourself and do your best to know your business. When it comes to down to the music, it’s about staying true to the art form. Whether you sell one or a million records, [the music] should matter. You should do it from your heart.”

The group’s David “Trugoy” Jolicoeur even revealed one of the secrets to his success. “Trugoy is ‘yogurt’ spelled backwards,” he said with a laugh. “I’m a big yogurt fan — fruit on the bottom, strawberry.”

The series will also host a hip-hop journalism panel and a special lecture celebrating the 10th anniversary of Roc-A-Fella Records with Damon Dash, Beanie Sigel and Memphis Bleek. In addition to De La Soul, this semester’s seminar will feature appearances from music executive Andre Harrell and Virgin Records director of marketing Leota Blacknor, among others. The classes are reserved for NYU students.