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What’s in a hud dreem? Is it the lifelong stride toward superstar status? Is it survival ’til a backyard and two-car garage? Can one ball out ’til the phone’s ringing off the hook? Ask Knxwledge, and he’s already in it: Three years after the Stones Throw release of his most coveted LP, Hud Dreems, he never deviates far from the routine. He doesn’t have time to think, and he’s not focused on the world… it’s these chops and this guap that’s kept him afloat through the noise.
To call him mysterious is both an understatement and a misnomer; he continues to release volumes of tapes, he’s worked with some of the most coveted MCs in the game, and he rarely does press at all. It’s a choice on how to manifest his presence via the work, rather than the dialogue around it. The Knxwledge ethos embodies an attitude of answering only to himself; no interference from anyone who’d compromise the vision that’s given him life and allowed him to thrive from a beat machine. Let him tell it, most of his good fortune has come from that unrelenting self-assurance, matched by a timing neither he, nor we, can control. Otherwise, if it ain’t good health, God, or music… no time for the extra shit. Much like his sounds, he wears minimalism like a crown.
As stated above, Knxwledge doesn’t do interviews, for real. He made the exception for me, a longtime believer in his wizardry. The following transmission happened via e-mail, straight from Knx’s keyboard to us. Enjoy.
VMP: At the time of Hud Dreems’ release, you’d achieved huge visibility as a mainstay in the L.A. beat scene, and received your biggest placement via “Momma” on Kendrick Lamar’s seminal work To Pimp a Butterfly that same year. Take me back to your album’s release: Did you anticipate all this attention? Did you feel accomplished, fulfilled, conflicted?
Knxwledge: A bit of all of that actually. I didn't even know it made the album till you guys did tbh, so yeah def all of that. But it was only one song tho, I like to keep it moving so we (Me & Myself) kept it moving.
Many feel the ending of Low End Theory signifies the end of the L.A. beat scene as the world once knew it. What do you anticipate can rise from the ether in the L.A. context? What spaces would you visit now to catch a similar feeling?
Tbh I haven't gone out in years. I couldn't even tell you guys where good beats are being played now. No one is really contributing to music anymore. Too many professional fan DJ’s now. So I just fall back stay healthy and cook.
On a base level, what do Hud Dreems signify to you and why did the concept fit what you were trying to communicate?
Honestly was just another “installment.” Every now and then you have to purge get rid of the old. New to you. As for the title we all have dreams. We also have all acted like we were from the hood at some point too.
You’re renowned for your incredible ear and innovative sampling techniques, and Hud Dreems represents the pinnacle of that pushing. It makes me wonder: How do you gauge when a creation doesn’t need to be pushed anymore? What limits do you have for knowing whether the sample needs more attention, or whether to leave it minimal and add as little as possible?
First of all thank you really. I just do what I do. Good question. Its def a feeling that u have to see before its even halfway done. In my opinion I work faster than most; I tend to have more ideas the more and longer I work but I don’t work on a single project for more than 10-15 mins at a time. Just how i am. There's no limit. The future and past is happening rn. I don't waste time or have limits on anything what I do is simply just make a mood that wasn't there the day before. Whether it was minimal didn't have drums, loop or whatever its my take for my whip.
Take me into the process of how you and Anderson .Paak expanded the NxWorries idea into the Yes Lawd! full-length. How did y’all capture and maintain that magic when y’all finally decided to bring it to the album form?
We started with “Suede.” I randomly sent him a batch after remixing a few videos of his I found online. I had it in the batch for Hud Dreems actually, was just going to mix it in there, but saved it and we made a few more. We pretty much turned half an album into a whole album in a few weeks time. We just had a bunch of ideas I had to make a movie out of what I had.
You’re a veteran of the Bandcamp DIY ethos, and Bandcamp remains a haven for independent creators who want to sell their work rather than leave it in the ether of streaming services. How do you navigate an industry that’s become so streaming-dependent? Furthermore, how do you maintain such a frantic release output without stretching yourself thin or becoming lost in the noise?
I’ll never get lost. I'm gonna always do what I do and share because that's what got me to this point to begin with. Not waiting for anyone to approve or give feedback. For what? So what my mixes don't sound like Drake’s. I'm always learning. I'll always stay with the times.
You’ve also become a mainstay for some of the most classic underground rap shit in the past two decades of this millennium. Mach-Hommy’s become one of my favorite MCs, and you’ve worked extensively with him, most notably The Spook EP from May 2017. What insights do you have from working with the Dump Gawd who’s very selective about whom he collaborates with?
Like most things it’s just being at the right place at the right time. I didn't even know he was coming to town and when he did I happened to be at the Alchemist’s studio and he was heading out for some shows so I gave him a batch and there you go. Usually how it goes. A lot of people aren't going to reach out. So if you’re not there or close to it, it’s going to be selective as it seems. World is big and small at the same time.
In a world where producers are rising to prominence as their own self-sufficient public entities in the music industry, how selective are you in the artists you work with? How do you protect your own creativity when producers remain systemically undervalued?
Have to be selective when 99% want “the look” and everything overnight & the unhealthy amount of “followers & likes” on ig. Silly. Its like anything in life, if you work at it the #’s will come. Stay focused without expectations. I just stay to myself tbh can't control the system or opinions.
Sampling’s returning to the news as a point of contention: some folks want to preserve the art, some are terrified of lawsuits or losing royalties. Chances are, many modern producers — despite a wealth of tools at their disposal — don’t have the resources or the money to even consider clearance. What advice would you offer to producers who share these concerns? Do you even care about the “assumed risk” that comes with sampling?
We are blessed enough to be existing at this very moment and time. I appreciated every record I’ve ever touched and you have to by the amount of Google alerts I get from whosampled.com. So easy for you guys. My advice is the same as always. Make sure you brush your teeth and not to worry. Be strong and grateful for life work hard for yourself and build your sound.
What’s your current gear setup and your daily creative routine?
Ableton live and iPad. Bunch of analog keyboards and records. Beats all day everyday. Best and worst habit ive ever had in my life.
As the man called Knxwledge, what are three pivotal things you’ve yet to learn about / life has yet to teach you?
Yet to learn Nihongo, Mandarin, and Spanish fluently. How Dilla & Madlib mixes sit so perfect. No stress/true happiness.
Michael Penn II (aka CRASHprez) is a rapper and a former VMP staff writer. He's known for his Twitter fingers.
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