In May, prolific L.A. producer Knxwledge released his debut full length album Hud Dreems on Stones Throw records. He can also boast placement on one of the best albums of the year, with a beat from one of the 60 or more tapes that he’s released in his career making up the silky smooth sound-bed for the song “Momma”, from Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly. Having recently been announced as the replacement act for Jay Electronica at Splendour in the Grass in July and releasing another iteration of his Hexual Sealings series recently, we spoke with Knxwledge about his new LP and his future plans following the success of the past year.
When I was listening to Hud Dreems for the first time, it scored my tram ride home on a cold Melbourne night almost perfectly. A couple of the songs even have a noir-ish feeling to them. Is there an intentional narrative or storyline to this particular album? What kind of thought process went into arranging the track list?
Not so much a narrative story, just a small concept and a bunch of beats behind it. When these projects come out they all kind of come out in the same time period, so there’s these batches that kind of just have years on them. The way I arrange them, I just have to dwindle them down from hundreds to a few–double digits. I release amounts worth to the world, just to release something.
While in the past you’ve primarily focused on crafting beats, there seems to be an increasing use of original vocals on this album. Can you talk about whose vocals we’re hearing on those, and the process for putting together those tracks?
It’s actually one of the rare instances of me singing on my shit–me and my homie Ringgo (Mndsgn). Yeah, that is me singing words on the beat. It kind of just started happening when I bought my mic not too long ago, a newer mic that I can run through a fuckin’ interface. So I get the mic going and it’s kind of like a morning thing, I get up and then think of some fuckin’ cheesy shit to sing. Me and Ringgo did that at Ringgo’s house one day actually, randomly one morning.
Are these a hint that more long-form, fully fleshed-out tracks are headed our way from you in the future?
Oh yeah for sure, there’s gonna be a bunch on this new Nxworries shit once it’s crackin’. Yeah definitely, from me and Ringo, we got a bunch of stuff that we’ve been saving for years.
As you mentioned, you’ve got that Nxworries project coming out soon with Anderson Paak. Could you tell us a little bit about the project, and whether it’s been a different process directly collaborating with someone else?
Slightly different, not so much. I sent them a bunch of a remixes that I had did, flips of his shit. He hit me back like a year later and then I maybe sent them like three songs that are all going to be on this new record, plus a bunch of more joints. It’s gonna be a full album. It sort of came together by me literally just flipping this song he had called ‘Play Your Part’ with this random video of him playing the tambourine and his homie Jose playing the guitar, it’s dope.
There are a lot of subtleties on the album, with near-muted and pitch-shifted vocals, and even tiny video game soundbites all filling up the sound scape. I think I even heard a 50 Cent acapella in there somewhere. What kind of stuff have you hidden away in this album that you think no one’s noticed just yet?
Oh yeah, definitely, there’s some subtle shit like that. I don’t know. All kinds of shit, I don’t like to really call it, you know what I’m saying? That’s a good question, I’d say that. You heard a good one that nobody’s heard yet. I mean obviously the joint on the ‘jstoowee’, so with Erykah in the back, there’s a little bit here and there.
What are your favourite things about this particular record?
Definitely I’d say the B-sides for the most part. I like the art of vinyl, you know, there’s four sides if you have too much music to release on just one single LP. The B-side is just a bunch of hard joints that I found that were around the same era too, the same time period, in those folders. That’s probably my favourite part about this record. There’s a bunch of moments of course before that that are kind of personal. Not personal, but you know, they’ve just been around for a while.
You’ve been described as prolific by most publications out there, with more than 60 projects currently available at last count. What’s the philosophy behind releasing so much music to the masses?
To put it short and sweet, releasing shit has got me to this point. Sharing not that much music, but a majority of it. The first shit to the last thing, it’s all taken me to where I am now, so I don’t feel the need to hold onto it. I have shit that I’m holding on to but there’s also fuckin’ thousands of other shit that somebody else could feel. I don’t really pay attention to the fuckin’ number of shit that I have out there, it doesn’t really matter. I guess it’s a cool thing though.
The songs that you said you’re holding onto, are those for you or for other artists?
Yeah, there’s a few. Actually nowadays I’m on, I guess, the ‘rap radar’ now. There’s rappers that are making dents in the rap world that’ll release next year or so, maybe sooner. You’ll finally hear some shit. Some beats with rapper cats and hopefully some singers too man. Fuck, D’Angelo’s on tour and shit, why not? I’m going straight for D’Angelo, fuck it.
On that note, you’ve spoken about working with some of your favourite artists recently: Roc Marciano, Action Bronson, Prodigy. Are there any dream collaborations with particular artists that you’d like to happen that haven’t come about just yet?
Oh shit. Hell yeah, that’s definitely the one man, damn. That question prior to this helped me remember. I would say definitely D’Angelo for sure. Yeah man, definitely. Not even something fresh, just if I could rework some old shit he did. That would be crazy, that would be something that I’d put on that list if I was fuckin’ out here.
The placement on Kendrick’s To Pimp a Butterfly was obviously a great look for your work, and it seemed to fall in line with that idea that there’s no need to promote your work if you continually make good products. Have things changed a lot for you since then?
Just a tad man, not really too much. It’s really honestly the same, same thing. It’s just been interviews man, honestly. You guys are the only guys that are making me feel important. Nothing’s changed, it hasn’t slowed up, I haven’t stopped releasing shit, I’m not worrying about anything, it’s all good. I never imagined or was never shopping beats to be on that album, to get these dudes like Joey or Kendrick to rap on my stuff. It just all comes from sharing shit from the start, just got to keep at it.
How are you feeling about visiting Australia to perform at Splendour In The Grass?
Australia? I’ve been there before, it’s cool. It’s dope, it should be exciting. It’s been a minute so I don’t know, hopefully you’ll have some exciting things lined up for me to do besides play rap music. I think it was like 2012 I was out there last time.
‘nvrending’ from the new album samples a song by Brian Bennett called ‘New Horizons’. How’d you find that sample?
I think everybody loves library records. I kind of ran across it like that. A bunch of my homies, they’re all library record connoisseurs. I know that certain artists come together on a bunch of those Bruton tapes, or the fuckin’ De Wolfe, I’m talking about KPM or whatever. It was just days of running through those records, I have a bunch of homies that have all these shits. It was just a day of running through that. That’s like the Shaft joint, I call it the Shaft joint.
It’s interesting because that song is actually quite famous in Australia for being the theme song for cricket games airing on television. After your brilliant reworking of the theme, is there any chance you’d be interested in taking over that campaign for Cricket Australia?
Oh wow. What, no way! Yo, that would be fucking incredible. I’d be so down. My dad’s Jamaican, but he randomly had a cricket bat, and he used to play that shit when he was younger and all this, it’s kind of funny. That’s crazy.
You can catch Knxwledge playing the Red Bull Music Academy stage at Splendour in the Grass later this month.