Written by: Lauren Demir
Photos: David Franco
Collages: Annie Mcgill
Knucks is on numerous ‘2017 Ones to watch’ lists, if you haven’t already heard of him you will this year. He has already opened for Bonkaz and TE Dness, as well as featured on Bonkaz F*ck Fame tape. The rapper from North West London raps over sampled beats he produced himself which combine his rap, jazz and old school musical influences. Knucks' pleasure is clear to see during his live performances, as he dances on stage to Breakfast At Tiffany’s. He tells us, ‘Before every show I have a little period where I’m nervous, but every single show the nerves go down a bit.’ He released his tape Killmatic in 2014. Although he admits it didn’t receive much attention at the time, people are now going back to listen to it, proving the new listeners are invested in his sound. Currently in his final year in University studying animation, he is working on his one year project, ‘It’s an animation about two chickens having a conversation that they wouldn’t really have. It’s very different. It sounds dumb but people will like it when they see it.’ He admits that juggling both university and music is hard, particularly commuting back and forth. But he’s putting in the late library shifts eager to see it through. Being so busy with University could be a blessing in disguise for Knucks as it hasn’t allowed him to fully grasp the expectations people have for him, ‘I’m either at University or at home so I’m not really seeing the impact that I’m having. I do see the comments on twitter and stuff but I don’t really feel the pressure.’ This enables Knucks to keep his love for the music unadulterated and free of any ulterior motives. We met with Knucks where he records, to find out more about him and what he has planned for the rest of the year.
I grew up in South Kilburn, North West London. I went to St Gregory's in Kenton for a year, I was a bad student. The teachers didn’t want to kick me out, they asked my parents if they would withdraw me. My mum had threatened me with taking me back [to Nigeria] before so I didn’t really take it seriously, but that was the last straw for her, so she made it a reality from 12-13. It helped me a lot, it single handedly made me who I am today. I feel like before I went I was on complete different path and just going there completely changed the trajectory of where I was going to go.
I don’t make music with the intent to get somewhere with it, I make it because its just something I genuinely love. It’s a plus to be getting recognition for it and to get money from it now. I started writing my first project before any one knew that I wanted to take music seriously. My cousin whose my manager, introduced me to my engineer whose also my manager. I told my cousin exactly what I wanted, a jazzy feel but with 808s. He introduced me to N and I showed him the intro to Killmatic. He believed in what I was doing and we’ve been working together ever since.
I’ll start with grime. I really like Dot Rotten and Ice Kid, mostly because how they handle lyricism, I like the way the words flow together. When I started to listen to rap I took a liking to the old school like Nas, Biggie, MF Doom. When it came to more current rap I started to listen to Curren$y, I like his whole style. UK rap, I literally just listen to Youngs Teflon. I listen to all of his Grown Man Thing, Belvedere Music. On the other side I was listening to old soul classics, Anita Baker, Sade, Michelle Rachelle. There is a Jazz artists called George Duke, I listened to a lot of his stuff. I used a few of his samples on Killmatic as well.
I opened up for Bonkaz last November that was an experience. It showed me the scale of the appreciators of the music. Even though theres a lot going on with my music more time I’m either at university or home so I’m not really seeing the impact that I’m having. But when I was there, people were coming up to me saying ‘Oh I really love your music’ and I could see the effect that I’m having. In my music I don’t have to put up a front or anything, thats genuinely how I am. For music videos I don’t go out to buy expensive clothes, I just wear what I would on a normal day. The only thing I would say that I don’t do on the regular are the grillz and the gold ring. I feel like that why it resonates with people because I talk about things that happen in other people lives as well. I don’t talk about driving lamboginis or whatever because thats not what I live. I live like everyone else. I’m just a normal person so people can relate to it.
I wouldn’t say I’m competing with anyone. I could tell you whose successful, other people may see me competing with because they are successful. They’re at a position that I want to try and get up to, I see where they’re at and I think I want that too. People like Stormzy, A2 I want to get to that level. I’m just trying to release singles and build my buzz, and once the buzz gets to a high enough level then I’ll release another project. I started writing Killmatic when I was 15 and released it in 2014. It didn’t get much feedback because I wasn't really known. People only started to listen to it when 21 Candles came out. I’m trying to build a demand for a project because the last thing I want to do is release another project that no one cares about. I've already stared on working on one now so I think mid year hopefully.