Phoenix rapper Knox is the hip-hop equivalent of a throwback jersey.
His new album, From the Ashes, came out last Tuesday, September 14, but with its old-school beats and Knox's retro flow, it sounds like it could have come straight out of hip-hop's "golden era" of the early '90s.
The album is available for download on iTunes and Amazon, and physical copies can be purchased at Zia Records or at Knox's upcoming release show on Saturday, October 2, at the Hidden House.
Check out a Q&A with Knox after the break, as well as a stream of "Story of Him," which Knox describes as "a true story about how a relationship can have all the right intentions and things going for it, but for some reasons, the reality is, it isn't meant to be."
Q&A with Knox
Up on the Sun: Give us the short history of Knox. Where did you grow up? When did you start rapping and writing rhymes?
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Knox: I actually grew up on the west side. I'm a Glendale cat to the fullest. I'll always consider that part of town my home regardless of the fact that I move around a lot. My father was a drug addict and alcoholic who was physically and mentally abusive, so music always seemed to be my escape, from just listening to writing poems about things I wish I could change - anything that would get my mind off what was really going on in my life. I started rapping in the party hip-hop group Brew Crew back in high school, which I'm still a part of. We were always writing rhymes, making beats and recording music on a digital recorder and passing them out to friends at parties. We started doing shows back when the Mason Jar was still around, and we continued playing and gaining a little bit of recognition until we met Jumbo Jim of the Phunk Junkeez. With his help and guidance, we recorded our debut album, The Last Beer, and released that in 2005. After a couple of national tours with the Phunk Junkeez when they were signed to Suburban Noize, the "rock star" life of drugs and alcohol kind of took its toll on me. I was going through problems with drugs, drinking on the daily, I had a daughter, and my mother passed away from cancer. In 2008, I took about a year off to get clean and then started writing and working on my solo album From The Ashes.
UOTS: How did some of the collaborations on the album come about?
K: The majority of the collaborations came because I had either played a show with them, they were a friend of a friend or I knew them already. The Jokerr jumped on board to do the track "Emergency" because he was really close with the group Tilted Lids, and we had played and worked with them on several shows. Atllas was on board as soon as I sent him the beat. Lifted of The New F-O's produced four tracks on the album so he was on board from the beginning. Lifted and I were friends back when he was still in Tha Formula, so that connection was easy to work with. A lot of those contacts I had steamrolled and it grew as I continued to record.
UOTS: The album seems to have a distinctly old-school, '90s rap vibe. Was that intentional? What made you decide to take that direction?
K: I consider myself an old-school cat, even though I'm young. I still listen to a lot of '90s hip-hop for inspiration, and that style was always something that I loved. With Brew Crew, it was an in-your-face onslaught of party anthems and noise. Nothing against what that is, but the substance matter wasn't always there. I wanted to bring back storytelling in music. I listen to a lot of Slick Rick and Rakim, so the storytelling was a big reason that it sounds like a throwback record. A lot of the songs on From The Ashes have meaning to me and are basically autobiographical. The songs are literally instances and stories about my life. I guess with a lot of modern hip-hop, you don't get that personal material anymore, so once again, I wanted to bring that back.
UOTS: What are your thoughts on the local hip-hop scene? What are its strengths and what improvements could be made?
K: I love and hate the local hip-hop scene in Arizona. There are so many talented artists that are making quality movements toward putting AZ on the map when it comes to the national spotlight. At the same time, there's almost a civil war within the small community that is the hip-hop scene. A lot of artists don't support other artists, and if you don't know certain cliques within the community, nobody cares about you or what you bring as artists. That's why I do what I do and continue to grind day by day. Nobody can get you to where you want to go unless you put yourself in the position to take what you want. If anything, Arizona needs to understand that there is great music coming from our own state and people need to look with in their own community and support local music.
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UOTS: Where can people check out your music and get a hold of your new album? Any local gigs coming up?
K: My debut solo album, From The Ashes, can be purchased at any Zia Records store in AZ. They can also download the album on iTunes, Amazon, Facebook and 100 other digital sites, as well as my official website, FreeKnox.com. I'm also on every social site you can think of - facebook.com/knoxofaz, myspace.com/knoxofaz and twitter.com/knoxofaz. I hope everyone picks this up and appreciates the concept of the record. When it comes to gigs, my CD release show/party is October 2 at The Hidden House In Phoenix. Supporting the show is Milkman & Pattiak, Young Spider, Rip-Dee of Tucson and a few others. It's a 21-and-over event, so I hope everyone makes it out.
I just want to end with this: "People too weak to follow their own dreams will always find a way to destroy others by any means." Do you and be happy.
Knox is scheduled to perform on Saturday, October 2, at the Hidden House.