Knxwledge’s Lil Uzi Vert Remix Pushes the Trap Toward Salvation
Known for his beat tapes and remix bootlegs, producer Knxwledge distills others’ artistry into his own brand of soul.
Knxwledge is the consummate crate digger. For seemingly every mainstream record he produces — Kendrick Lamar’s “Momma,” Action Bronson’s “Live from the Moon,” Roc Marciano’s “No Smoke” — he has ten more beat tapes, loosies, or remixes. His Bandcamp page is a running log of projects with near unintelligible titles, sporting shorthand that makes his work difficult to google unless you know what you’re looking for. Knxwledge is cut from the same cloth that made MF Doom, J Dilla, and 9th Wonder. His online persona is standoffish, but it pairs well with his musical virtuosity and unshakable, basement-dwelling work ethic.
In October 2016, just nine months after Anderson .Paak released his critically acclaimed major label debut, Malibu, Knxwledge teamed up with the singer to create NxWorries and drop Yes Lawd! Though .Paak had just finished ingratiating himself to fans with his multifaceted musical talents — he’s a singer, drummer, keyboardist — he willingly handed over the production reigns to Knxwledge, who demorphed .Paak’s highly polished persona into lo-fi funk.
Though Knxwledge would continue to work with and remix a number of characters with distinctly less savory lyrics than .Paak, his work maintained its holy atmosphere. He often cites his church-based upbringing, most recently in an interview with Hypebeast. “I was in church for five days a week for a good solid 18 years of my life,” Knxwledge, born Glen Boothe, told the publication in 2020. “I don’t really practice it that much anymore but I definitely have this wild whim of faith that’s like, ‘times are bad, but that’s only right now.’”
That whim of faith infects his projects, turning rough-around-the-edges artists into people searching for salvation. When he takes a Meek Mill freestyle, as he does on. “Illimination_” and sets it to a flip of Yuji Ohno’s “Astronaute No Toki,” Knxwledge is imbuing Meek’s desperate voice with a hint of salvation, filling the empty freestyle silence with a weary guitar and keyboard loop.
But unlike other producers with a distinctly gospel tint, Knxwledge’s influences often come without the fanfare of chopped up choral arrangements or ostentatious organ strikes. Instead he works with the details of existing tracks, stripping them down or enhancing their subtleties to find harmony.
WT.13.8 might have the best example of this, thanks in part to another Philadelphia artist. On “Whogives” Knxwledge flips Lil Uzi Vert’s “7AM” by parsing the hook and first verse into a soulful, saxophone filled track that relieves the original’s distinctly dark energy. Part of Uzi’s allure is his glazed-over, carefree attitude — in 2016 he aptly dropped the track “Do What I Want” to sum up this mantra. The original “7AM” mirrors that attitude, with Uzi’s heavy, slurred vocals characteristic of a never-ending bender.
Noble as Uzi’s goals on the track are — “Oh Goddamn, that’s the bitch that I want,” he drones numerous times — I never reckoned that the track was anything more than party fodder. Knxwledge’s remix, however, filters the syrupy drip out of Uzi’s vocals, replacing the newfound space with simple cymbal and hi-hat taps, mellow strings, and a rogue sax. Uzi’s vocals linger throughout the minute-long remix and signal a weightier message with Knxwledge’s assistance, turning self-defensive bars like, “I lost a lot of friends, but who gives a fuck?” into vulnerable exposés about the price of fame.
Though the vast majority of tracks in Knxwledge’s discography are sub-two minute flings — and are often composed in similarly short bursts — he’s proven to have a knack for reinterpreting the soul of his samples. His efforts benefit his own discography as well as those of the artists he remixes, infusing a new spirit into even the most steely characters.