Hud dreeming with Knxwledge
Knxwledge is an artist that you’re likely to either get into with cult-like loyalty, or leave completely alone. Not stingy or particularly careful with what he releases, a scan through the New Jersey native’s Bandcamp page gives his listeners the choice of 66 projects to listen to, and yet when he placed one of his instrumentals on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly many media outlets reported him to be a newcomer. Three official albums deep, plus the aforementioned catalogue of beat-tapes and remixes, we find the producer at his Los Angeles home getting his morning juices flowing.
As blunted in speech as his music suggests, he takes long pauses in between his words, often to inhale that cali weed before coming back with a ‘dude’ filled sentence. “It’s good to finally have another piece of vinyl work out there, I guess it’s kind of what I strive towards — having stuff on vinyl,” he considers. “That’ll last the longest and means the most to me, definitely moreso over the digital stuff. Definitely glad to have, especially a label like Stones Throw behind me — I can’t even describe how crazy that is to me.”
Born Glen Boothe, Knxwledge spent his youth being swept off to church on a daily basis, where he’d spend most of his time. The time that was left over would be assigned to school or sports, so it was up to his older cousins to introduce him to music outside of what he’d pick up from his tape recordings of the radio, which he’d leave rolling through the day whilst stuck in sermons. Through them he’d end up with the likes of Kareem Riggins and Jaylib in his headphones, or as he puts it “all of that f*cking amazing shit that I couldn’t obtain without having a computer.” Stones Throw has been a dream signing and his new instrumental album Hud Dreems fits perfectly amongst the labels lofty legacy.
The title of his latest collage of soul, jazz and hip-hop samples cut from his extensive record collection, comes from the surreal experiences that he’s been having lately: Dr. Dre has been asking for beats, Kendrick Lamar just pulled a track from his Bandcamp, and he’s had the chance to work with his top three rappers out right now. And while he undoubtably appreciates the opportunities that are arriving on his plate, he remains unfazed by any of it.
He won’t change his style to better suit the calls of Dr. Dre: “I have a bunch of homies that would kill to chill with Dre and literally tailored their shit so that it’s for his liking,” he says. “But I have no filter for that type shit for anyone. It’s a dream that this shit’s got me here, my super bootleg style of making music.”
He still hasn’t met Kendrick Lamar, nor is he particularly interested: “I wouldn’t mind if I didn’t meet him at all. We kind of met each other through that song. It kind of symbolises two artists making something wild cohesive and not even meeting each other.”
His top three aren’t dictated by hype: “I’ve been honoured to be in the studio with Roc Marciano. I’m trying to get a whole album out of that dude, I’ll settle for a few rap songs here and then. Of course Action Bronson, we got some stuff. When he comes out to the West he treats me well; cooks me meals for various loops. And the homie Prodigy just text me yesterday. I have a few joints on his album and the Infamous Mobb album as well, that’s coming out maybe next year. It’s humbling.”
For years Knxwledge been deliberately avoiding having rappers spitting all over his beats by making them “rapper proof”: “You’ll sound like a f*cking idiot. There’s like wild drops, over this shit already and you’re like rapping over them… incredible.” Yet a couple of MCs have managed to impress him, taking to beats that he’d made specific measures measures to protect. “The two most rapping rappers that are rapping in rap history right now picked beats that are from rapper proof tapes,” he admits. “Joey Bada$$ picked a joint [for ‘Killuminati’] that was from my first long beat tape that I put on Bandcamp, and then Kendrick picked an Anthology joint [for ‘Momma’]. I didn’t expect anyone to rap on that shit, there’s barely a break for raps and this fool made a whole song and put it on his major label album. That shit’s incredible to me. It’s still settling to me, to be honest, it’s weird.”
While the demand for his beats increases, Knxwledge plans to remain as active as ever with his Bandcamp page, unable to see why his peers continue to fill hard drives with beats that will never reach the ears of the public. “That’s literally what got me here, so why would I stop?” he asks. “It’s a good feeling, share this stuff. I don’t why fools just hoard music anyway to begin with. Of course, I’m sharing the gold, but in the meantime this is literally what I do when I wake up. I don’t do it for cheese.”
The extensive catalogue started life when he flunked college in his freshman year and spent all of his time on Fruity Loops and Reason — software he has since graduated from — crafting the beats that would make up his early tapes. “I just f*cking had the weakest year of f*cking college existence that I could ever have, just completely wasted that shit. You can’t go home after that shit. You gotta have a plan,” he admits.
The goal was to sustain himself through music, he’d already been flown out to San Diego university to play his first show, sharing the stage with Samiyam, House Shoes, Gaslamp Killer and a corn-row sporting Danny Brown. He’d caught the bug of being a full time musician and been given the confidence to believe he could do it. “I fucking started the Bandcamp situation, and all that shit was lined up; the remixes, WrapTaypes, and I had a few little beat tape series joints. Every now and then I would drop some shit when CVS midnight shift wasn’t paying me too well. I had to pay utilities as well, that shit was just paying rent!”
After a while of working out on the East Coast, living in Philadelphia where he and co-conspirator Mndsgn would work the day making beats and the night working at a drug store, the pair would move out West. “I guess we did have to migrate to the West Coast for things to spark,” he reflects. “It’s definitely one of those places where if you’re a face or a voice that means something, you definitely go through here. You’re going to bump shoulders ever single day here. It’s wild the amount of people that I’ve met from being out here.”
One particularly like-minded artist that he’s collided with during his time in the Los Angeles melting pot is vocalist and drummer Anderson Paak. with whom he’s formed the duo NxWorries. Following the underground success of their cookie soul track ‘Suede’ the pair have a debut full-length on the way later this year also via Stones Throw. “He literally writes songs all day like really quickly and they’re quality,” says Knx of the way Paak. mirrors his approach to music-making. They regularly meet to make music, either starting with some beats that Knxwledge has already crafted or building something from scratch. Given the versatility and similar practice of both artists, it’s rare that their sonic experiments don’t work. In fact, the main obstacle in crafting the album is an abundance of ideas: “We literally just kept making new songs. Every time we did get up to mix shit or arrange shit, it’s just like new shit. It’s inspiring so hopefully if we can stop making new shit and hone down.”
Knxwledge takes a long pause to consider where all of this is going. His head isn’t clogged with the usual career goals of social media generation musicians; collabing with the latest tastemaker favourites or aspiring for flashy materialism to be shown off on Instagram. His aims are straight-forward but ambitious: “[To] have some more great albums with some more great people. And definitely reach the world. We’re on the way to literally reaching every kid with a boom box on the planet. Fool’s dropping albums and f*cking ten million people listening to that shit the first day. Like, what the f*ck? I’m definitely be a part of that and do that for myself and everybody else, music that I feel that the world should feel. Just definitely have a wild vinyl catalogue of more beat albums, more rap albums.”
To many it might seem unachievable, and yet a beat that sat on his Bandcamp since 2013 was part of a record-breaking album that did just that. Since Knxwledge isn’t about to change for anyone, it looks like he’s well on the road to making more of those dreems a reality.
Words by Grant Brydon Images by Theo Jemison
Originally published at RWDmag.com.