The B-Sides: The Knux Interview

Q: What were your lives like growing up in New Orleans?

Rah Al Milio: We grew up in the real New Orleans. Every day was hell, that bitch is a jungle, it’s a third world country inside of America. It’s hard. We were just trying to survive. I’m totally from the hood and I never thought we’d make it to LA. Cats in New Orleans think about LA as though it were fake and don’t exist. We were so stuck in our own shit out there, we didn’t experience anything. We had to find other diversions to keep us out of trouble, mostly music and sports. Our moms made us join a band when we were 11 or 12 to stay out of trouble. Then Katrina happened and we figured we might as well just do it and move to LA. So we did.

Q: How did you guys go about getting a deal?

Krispy Kream: Mike Caren at Atlantic was the first one who tried to sign us in 2005. We’d already been around for a long time at that point. The fact that people come around and call us “hipster rap” still pisses me off, because we’d already been down for a minute. We did a deal with Atlantic, we had a publishing deal for a while, but we were shopping a record deal because we didn’t want to do business with Atlantic.

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Q: Why not?

KK: We didn’t like the way they were handling things over there. We were briefly managed by Matthew Knowles. Beyonce’s dad. He tried to get us our own little imprint so we could put out our stuff on Interscope. He was still up at Sanctuary at the time, but that shit didn’t work out.

Q: Why?

KK: They did some shit that I can’t really talk about. But in the process, Shady Records was calling us the whole time. They were like come to New York, yo we wanna’ sign you to Shady. But we didn’t want to sign to Shady, we said we wanted a manager. Paul Rosenberg and Dart Parker came on to manage us. At first, they wanted to shop us to Jive, but then they concluded that they could get us a better deal at Interscope because Jimmy [Iovine] wanted us. They were like, ‘you ought to be on Interscope.’ We’re like, ‘alright, we’ll take a meeting with him.’ So we did and he asked us what we wanted and we said, ‘we only want creative control.’ He said, ‘that’s it?’ We said, ‘yeah, we don’t want anyone to fuck with us.’

Q: What'd your A&R think of that?

KK: 3H was the A&R. He was like, ‘I don’t want to be involved, if you want creative control, I just want you to turn in that crack.’ So we got the deal. Jimmy said ‘y’all gonna be where hip hop is at for the next five years.’ That’s what it was. Boom, we record the album, get a crib in the hills, parties, drugs, all kind of drugs, drugs with an explanation mark. Girls, hookers, strippers, all of em, all of it, it went down. I can talk about some entertainers that got their dick sucked on my coach. It’s the real deal over here, we was livin’ like Slash and Axl Rose up in '87. We were the first ones, for all the people that call this hipster rap…we were the first ones…the first ones…the first with a major label deal… we are the reason that these labels started looking at people like this. Ask Steve Aoki, ask anyone who was there before they had 17 year old kids in skinny jeans showing up the club. We were dressing like this when everybody was rocking backpacks, and college ra shit. We were the first ones to experiment with electronic shit…the first ones.

Rah: It got to a point because motherfuckers was getting it misunderstood, like we came in out of the blue or hopped into a scene. The scene was formed around us. We were the first of that stuff that people call hipster shit, not U-N-I. Fuck, we opened Cinespace for hip-hop, there was no hip hop in there, just electronic shit, dance music in there, maybe Spank Rock, no real hip-hop.

Q: How did you get involved with the Tuesday night Cinespace scene?

Rah: We had a relationship with Steve Aoki and plus, we listen to dance music. We go to dance clubs. These motherfuckers don’t understand any of that shit. They’re latching onto a scene. You hear “Bang Bang,” that’s a small token of what’s on the album. Every song is different than the next; this isn’t no hipster rap bullshit. It’s not just about flat out rapping on shit. The album’s about everything, the song writing, the production, everything. If we couldn’t play instruments and shit, maybe we’d do some rinky-dink beats, chop up some samples and shit, but at the end of the day to put us in a category with certain dudes is absurd.

Q: That’s just what music writers do. They have to invent genres. They do it at parties. It's weird.

Rah: Who wants to be in a genre? Genres are for pussies. They’re for people who don’t have enough balls to do their own shit and so they latch onto these mini-genres and think that’s it’s going to be a movement…a moving train. We stay away from that shit, I don’t want to sound like anyone else, I don’t want to be in a category with anybody else. That’s not me being cocky, that’s me being real. I just don’t want to be in anyone’s category. That’s not knocking anybody, just that genre shit, yo, fuck that. Cats are wearing backpacks and American Apparel. I’m like fuck that shit. I was doing that shit way before you were supposed to do that. Motherfuckers was tripping, the execs were tripping, they kept on trying to put us into categories, they were like, “oh, they’re like Pharrell, they’re skaters.” I was like I don’t wear skate shit, I don’t skate. They didn’t know what to name it. But we was already in this scene, then to call someone a hipster, we were like what is that?

Krispy: I’ve been doing that for a long time. When Steve was still trying to get put on, Dim Mak wanted us to do an EP with them.

Q: How’d you get hooked up with Steve Aoki in the first place?

KK: We met him through AM, who was managed by Paul and Dart. Steve is cool as fuck and he always had banging chicks with him. We was supposed to be on Dim Mak at first. People don’t know that shit, Things didn’t work out because Interscope wouldn’t allow it. This was back in ‘04.

Q: What do you think about your label situation at Interscope? Has it been a positive experience or the typical major label bullshit?

KK: The labels aren’t expecting triple platinum anymore. We plan on just touring constantly and getting money that way. That’s where the money is…on tour. In the late 90’s no one toured, now people love to see live hip hop.

Rah: We think of ourselves as being in a similar situation to The Strokes. They were in at the beginning of their trend and at first, people were calling them ‘retro bands’ and being like ‘they sound like they came from the 70s.’ Then they came in with the “garage rock” labeling. Shit, we’ve been bumping TV on the Radio since their first EP. We’re not some posers trying to latch on. We know these people, we’ve been doing this shit.

Q: You guys don’t have any guest appearances on your album, which seems almost strange in contemporary hip-hop? Are you guys instinctively opposed to collaborations?

KK: Well, Jay Electronica’s going to be on the next album. He comes from a good hood in New Orleans but he understands where we come from. Real hip-hop dudes respect us. We’re some of the few dudes those guys respect.

Q: I know you guys have talked about playing your own instruments. Which ones do you specifically play?

KK: A lot of our songs have guitar and bass which we play, but we can play everything. We tweak the synthesizers… so much crazy shit. On the album, a lot of the time it sounds like there are two people playing at once…that’s because there is.

Rah: We’re real musicians, our model is the Dust Brothers. You could never pick out what they were doing, whether they were sampling or doing it live, you couldn’t tell.

KK: And of course, we’re heavily inspired by the Rza.

Q: Did you go to specialized music school?

Rah: We know how to read and write music. Our mom put us in band to keep us out of trouble and in those marching bands they make you learn how to write and read music. You can’t make that shit up, We got into jazz band that did that. We always had side bands though and have gigs on the side. New Orleans is a city like that.

Q: What about mixtapes. Is there a reason why you guys never released one?

Rah: We don’t do mixtapes. All the great albums had like 13 tracks. We don’t whore ourselves out like that. We just show cleavage. It’s a wonder that people buy their albums. I love the anticipation of the album. People just stand not being out there at all times. We love being mystery.

[Some random muffled inaudible talk…..tape recorder clears in time for …]

KK: And fuck Mark Ronson.

Q: He’s one of those dudes who it’s just painful to praise. But I do begrudgingly admit that he’s a good producer.

KK: Whatever, he’s just one of those dudes that never got in a scuffle. We’ll knock that dude out.

Rah: The problem with hip-hop is is that no one is inspiring anyone. No one’s switching it up and inspiring somebody. Everybody treats it like a job. We got into so it wouldn’t seem like a job. No one’s doing anything refreshing…they’re not talking about nothing. There’s trash out right now. I listen to mostly old stuff. I didn’t realize until maybe 2006 how dope some of that shit really was. Like ‘93 till Infinity.’ I always liked that, but that shit was so ill. Some of those Domino beats were crazy.

Q: It seems if you actively dislike things today, people just label you a "hater."

Rah: We appreciate when writers call out shit that sucks. I love being a hater. We need more haters. People need to speak their mind. Tell the truth.

KK: Hip hop is so PC. Or worse, there’s just fake beef. Fake fools with guns but no one’s saying anything and everyone’s leaning on each other. I’m looking at Game and I like Game and I know he don’t like Jay, so he’s going to talk about it. We need more dudes like that. If I don’t like a dude, I’m going to talk about it. That shit is missing in hip-hop. Look, I listen to all the Biggie records. I don’t think he’s the greatest though and I’ll say it. He was great but he wasn’t the best in my mind. I used to think Biggie was better than Pac, but I switched a few years ago. Big would say fly shit just to say ill shit.

Q: Yeah, but then he’d throw in a “Sky’s the Limit” or “I’ve Got a Story to Tell.”

KK: I dunno, but I could barely separate that shit lyrically from the Lox at the time. At the end of the day, Wu Tang is our favorite group ever. But as I get older I see a lot of them wasn’t talking about shit.

Q: Yeah, but a lot of them were. Have you read the Wu-Tang Manual?

Both: Of course, we love it.

KK: We’ll punch people in the face for talking shit about Wu-Tang.

Rah: At the end of the day, when you’re young you just want to hear the flyest, illest shit, that’s how it is. You know what I mean. I love MF Doom actually, even though he kind of bit GZA a little bit. Those concept albums are cool though.

KK: If we featured somebody, it’d be different. If we were going to feature a Jay, we’d bring him back to the street level, not him talking about G4’s. That’s just what the Knux do, That’s the problem, the hip hop game is so pop when they feature people, it’s so corporate, no one’s even in the same studio, no one talks about concepts because it doesn’t matter, it’s like product placements in movies.

Rah: We want to make hip-hop more gritty, like that early Wu shit.

Q: I remember reading somewhere that you guys were big Gravediggaz fans.

Rah: That’s a great album. Of course, their earlier shit was ill but that’s where our mind was at the time. We swayed from what we were into, used to be heavy into Killah Priest and on some traveling to the stars type shit.

Q: The Wu JV was probably the best JV of all time. I just had a post last week about how dope Killarmy were?

Rah: They were dope. I didn’t care much for Sunz of Man though.

KK: No one puts on dope cats anymore.

Q: When was the last time you saw anything like the Juice Crew or the Hit Squad or the Def Squad. And Diplomats don’t really count. Meanwhile, Def Jam won’t stop sending me albums from Blood Raw, Jeezy’s weed carrier.

Rah: It’s the south man. I can explain this to you. It’s just the South. Not all those dudes are this but a lot of them are and they don’t respect the music. They really don’t care where it goes. It’s about money.

Q: But they have swagger. What else do you need?

Rah: Someone needs to retire that shit. It’s like ‘jiggy.’ That shit’s played out.

KK: We’re trying to do us to the furthest extent. We don’t care about our haters. Our haters aren’t going to buy our album. Middle America is disconnected from everything and we’ll probably find some real listeners out there. They don’t follow new trends as much, or new fashion, they’ll just buy the records because they think it sounds good.

Rah: All these rappers would do better stuff if everyone came from their heart. If they did, you’d hear all kinds of shit, not just a few motherfuckers doing interesting things, I hope that we inspire people.

Q: So what are your favorite spots in LA?

A: 101 Café, Swingers on 3rd, Bossa Nova…we love that place, they even made a racist comment once but we still go. We used to go out to Cinespace a lot but know we hang out more downtown, warehouse parties. One Sunset used to be hot and we’d go there a lot. In general, we don’t fuck with places if we have to wait in line.

Q: What about the future? What are you guys working on now?

Rah: We’re already working on the second album. It’s different and it reflects where our minds are at now. We’re already plotting the next approach.

Video:

The Knux-"Bang Bang"

The Knux "Cappucino"

Download:

MP3: The Knux-"Hard Day's Night"

MP3: The Knux-”Bang! Bang!”

MP3: The Knux-”Cappucino”

MP3: The Knux-”Cappucino Remix”


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