OUR DECADE’S JAY DEE

KNX

Uncut version; originally published in Beat Magazine and The Brag

When I told Knxwledge that he was our decade’s J Dilla, he didn’t quite know what to say. It got a little awkward while I waited for a response. “That is a crazy statement,” he choked out finally. But is it really that unfathomable a comparison? Like Dilla, Knx lives and breathes hip-hop — making countless beats a week (According to Flylo, Knx “makes a million tracks a day, it’s insane, keep up if you can”) and producing for the illest cats in the game. Both are also key members of the Stones Throw family. Even after Dilla’s passing in 2006, posthumous releases were still brought out though the label. Both are incredibly prolific — Knx’s bandcamp discography is evidence alone. Since 2009 he’s released 70+ mixtapes, albums and EPs. Dilla and Knx a “crazy” comparison? I don’t think so…

The LA beat scene is a rabbit hole. As a listener, just when you think you know the game, you fall headfirst into a brighter and richer soundscape. Unlike Alice though, you don’t reach the bottom. There’s no end — you keep falling and falling. It’s brilliant.

Glen Boothe (aka Knx) is an invaluable player in that bottomless Wonderland. Fusing hip-hop, soul and jazz Knx provides the perfect soundtrack for those late night feeds and early morning car rides. Put simply — his music is very cool and very west coast. It puts you in a good mood.

Like Knx’s music, the “LA” sound is equally epitomised through the iconic label Stones Throw, founded in 1996 by Peanut Butter Wolf. The label has played host to a bunch of key hip-hop records, including Dilla’s Donuts, Madvillian’s (Madlib and MF Doom) Madvilliany and Quasimoto’s The Unseen. After Knx made the move from Philly to LA in 2009, it didn’t take long for Wolf to snatch him up.

“I was playing a Boiler Room session. Wolf came up to me while I was playing a Charizma remix and we had a meeting a few days after that. I’d met him back in Philly when I lived there a few times. We’re family now. Wolf is an incredible human being,” Knx says.

“With Stones Throw — I can do whatever I want. I can release whatever I want. It’s also an incredible thing to be a part of a label that is all about vinyl. If you make something that’s sufficient enough it’s going straight to wax,” he adds.

I tend to agree. There’s something really special about vinyl and it only makes sense that a strong hip-hop, soul and jazz label like Stones Throw would be adamant about offering their releases on a vintage medium.

Raised in New Jersey, Knx’s relationship with music was very accessible. Not only was his house full of instruments, but the church he belonged to was a goldmine as well, stocked with an array of instruments that he would eventually inherit.

“My parents used to clean the church that I was a part of, so every Saturday I’d go and clean the church with them and play the instruments — I could pretty much be alone with all of the instruments.  They got a lot (instruments) over time and that’s how I built my foundation for musical appreciation.”

After establishing skills on a bunch of instruments Knx turned to production and sampling — he even used to record snippets of church sermons to tape and then loop them. “I was always trying to record. I was playing everything from scratch. In the beginning everything was primarily keys and drum-based. I bought a Roland SP-303 — that was my first piece of hardware I could get my hands on. I wasn’t able to have a computer yet,” Knx explains. The portable 303 was also a favourite of Dilla’s…

Before moving to LA Knx lived briefly in Philly, where he attended university and continued working on his music. It was in Philly where he met his good friend and current label mate Ringgo Ancheta (Mndsgn). Still collaborating today, the two quickly began working together.

It was at a show at San Diego University where Knx got his first taste of the LA music scene. “Halfway through college I was booked for a show (in LA). It was me, DJ House Shoes, The Gaslamp Killer, Samiyam and Danny Brown.” After that, Knx couldn’t stay away — “I had to move for the music.”

2009-2015 has been fruitful to say the least. An impressive discography and numerous production credits has awarded Knx ubiquity on the west coast. A recent collaboration with crooner Anderson Paak is scheduled for manifestation any day now. The two made contact online after Knx did a remix of one of Paak’s accapella tracks a few years ago. They have already released “Suede,” a very sexy single that fuses Knx’s smooth mellow production with Paak’s suave vocals. The duo are called NxWorries and are in the middle of tying up some loose ends on their forthcoming full-length. “It’s gonna be a good one. I’m just getting the artwork done and we’ve just done a video for ‘Suede’. It’s coming out soon,” Knx promises.

Speaking of collaborations, isn’t it about time I mentioned the Knx/Kendrick relationship? So, last year Kenny was chilling in a car with the renowned photographer and filmmaker Eric Coleman, doing a cover shoot for Complex Magazine. Knx’s Anthology tape was in the cassette player. The instrumental track “so[rt]” came on and Kenny thought it was dope. “He (Kendrick) texted me immediately and it was on,” Knx explains. Kenny put some vocals over the top of it and called it “Momma.” It’s the ninth track on To Pimp A Butterfly.

While Knx explains that the rest of 2015 will undoubtedly see even more collaborations and mixtapes, the producer is also gearing up for an Australian tour. Apart from playing the Red Bull Music Academy Stage at this year’s Splendour in the Grass, he’ll also be doing a run of national shows.

So how does such a prolific producer with such a huge back catalogue decide what to play in a single set? “That’s a good question. I actually don’t ever plan anything when I play. It’s kind of weird, but less stressful that way. I just like mixing it up and playing whatever. I’ll either drag something in or I’ll just stop everything and ask somebody in the crowd what they want me to play. My computer is full of songs — I’ll just play whatever.”

By Dina Amin

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