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Strong words when you’ve only released three songs, but judging from the troika of leaked tracks from the Knux’s upcoming Interscope debut, Remind Me In 3 Days, the taunts seem less arrogance and more proof of the old Dizzy Dean adage: “It ain’t bragging if you can back it up.”
The pair’s aggravation stems from the lazy “hipster rap” label writers stamped them with the moment the infectious “Cappuccino” caught fire on the blogs earlier this spring, before garnering airplay on Entourage and Harold and Kumar 2: Escape From Guantanamo Bay.
“We were the first ones to do all this shit that people call hipster rap,” Krispy boasts, pulling the microphone closer for full effect. “We were the first ones with a major-label deal, the first ones to experiment with electronic music. Hell, we’re the reason that these labels started looking at people like this in the first place. Ask Steve Aoki, ask anyone who was there before they had 17-year-old kids in leggings showing up to the club. We were dressing like this when people were still wearing backpacks.”
Of course, were you to judge the Knux at a glance, you might draw similar conclusions from their penchant for skinny jeans, oversized plastic Run DMC glasses and porkpie hats. However, anyone intimate with the enervated and unwashed American Apparel–clad hordes that clot east of Western knows that the only punches hipsters throw are Hawaiian, and then it’s usually into a recycling bin — unlike Krispy, who breathlessly relates a tale of nearly smacking an audience member in the face for talking shit last week. Besides, “hipsters” certainly aren’t raised in the ghettos of New Orleans, with gangs and drugs haunting their everyday realities.
“Every day was hell in New Orleans,” says Almillio, with only traces of nostalgia in his voice for the hometown they left after Hurricane Katrina. “That bitch is a jungle, it’s a Third World country inside of America. We were just trying to survive.”
Packing their belongings into a 2001 Saturn Ion and heading west with the goal of tapping existing contacts in L.A. in order to land a label deal, the pair flirted with Atlantic and Asylum and even endured a stint managed by Matthew “Beyoncé’s Dad” Knowles. Finally, the brothers inked a pact at Interscope, when company chairman Jimmy Iovine told them he believed they were going to be where hip-hop’s at for the next five years.
With their only demand total creative control, the Knux wrote, produced and played every instrument on their forthcoming October release. In the hands of lesser talents or someone with a hazier vision, such creative license — coupled with the temptations of an advance and a sprawling Hollywood Hills manse — could’ve gone haywire. Instead, the early singles turned out reminiscent of a young Outkast or a southern Souls of Mischief.
“They’re songwriters, that’s what originally impressed me and continues to impress me,” says Dart Parker, who manages the Knux (with Eminem’s manager Paul Rosenberg). Earlier this year, when Joe “3H” Weinberger, the executive who signed the group, left Interscope for Capitol, Parker stepped in to play the role of unofficial A&R. “Most people who have their level of musicality can’t rap, but the Knux can go in a cipher and spit with anyone.”
Bishop Lamont: Label Gymnastics and an Iconoclast’s Vision
During the past decade, the major labels have treated the digital age with the brutish, clumsy idiocy of Lennie pawing a puppy in Of Mice and Men. But few examples are more brazenly buffoonish than Interscope’s recent decision to kill the Dr. Dre–produced “Grow Up,” the debut single from Aftermath-signed Bishop Lamont, from Carson, California, just as the track began to enter heavy rotation at local urban-radio powerhouse Power 106.
“They said it would be a distraction from [Dre’s long-awaited] Detox, so they sent out cease-and-desist letters to stop the record from being played, a record that tested in market research as a No. 1 hit,” says the hulking Lamont calmly, hints of fury buried in the back of his baritone. “Have you ever heard of a label threatening to sue a radio station for playing a hit record?”
Wishful thinking, perhaps, considering that the comically delayed Detox,on which Lamont is slated to feature heavily, might never make it out of the recesses of Dre’s studio. If anything, Interscope should thank its lucky stars that terrestrial radio, still the premier driver of album sales, was even willing to play a song as complex, thoughtful and pop-averse as “Grow Up.” A scathing but sly indictment of immaturity, whether personal or artistic, Lamont’s would-be smash practically exists in an alternate universe, away from from the money-muddled mandarinism of Aftermath’s biggest star, 50 Cent.