Real talk…I didn’t know how my interview with Krispy Kream and Rah Almillio, the siblings collectively known as The Knux, was going to go. Usually, an artist’s music is indicative of their personality (or lack thereof). But musically, the duo from New Orleans is refreshingly unpredictable. For many Hip-Hop interviews, I chug a shot of espresso and brace myself for yet another drug kingpin-turned-rapper background story.
Not so with The Knux. Their self-produced debut album, Remind Me In 3 Days, is in stores now (courtesy of Interscope Records) and it’s just as colorful as my Q & A session with them turned out to be. Growing up in the gritty hood of N’awlins, The Knux listened to a diverse mix of rappers like Nas, Mobb Deep, Wu Tang, A Tribe Called Quest, Geto Boys and 8-Ball & MJG. To lure them away from the ever-influential streets, Krispy and Al’s mom enrolled them in their middle school’s marching band where they learned how to play instruments. The young brothers may not have stayed out of trouble, but they did hone musical abilities that would prove invaluable later on. Live guitars, bass, keys and drums play a heavy role in The Knux’s funky and futuristic beats; a perfect backdrop for their inventive lyrics.
So here’s the chat that I, Khalid Strickland of the Almighty TSS Crew, recently conducted with The Knux, who have earned a spot in my coveted, tough-to-crack MP3 rotation.
TSS: What would you like to accomplish with Remind Me In 3 Days?
Rah Almillio: Hopefully some more artists behind us will have the courage to do what they want to do with their music and not have no outside influences changing their shit; whether it’s the label or cats you hang with or whatever it may be. Basically, open the lane for more creative artists who want to do what they want to do. If we got to bear the burden for that…if we got to sacrifice album sales, you know what I mean? That’s basically what we want this album to be. Just that bridge for Hip-Hop cats and other genres. We have such a large buffet of different sounds on this album.
TSS: What can the uninitiated expect to hear on this album?
Rah Almillio: Really, you can’t expect nothin’ but what you could know is it’s gonna be some original shit. It’s some shit that’s going to bend your mind a little bit. It’s going to be some hard, hard, hard; our rhymes are something serious on there. We like…jump in the stars on our rhymes, you know what I mean? And you can find some very heavy production; not the beats, but like, production on a whole…some good songwriting. This album in particular is going to be the soundtrack of two hood motherfuckers from New Orleans being in Hollywood and adapting to the Hollywood atmosphere, so that’s what the album is about.
TSS: When did you guys start playing live instruments and what inspired you to do so?
Rah Almillio: Real, real young…as fuckin’ kids in middle school. And our mom started us playing these instruments because…In New Orleans, let me explain this to you, if your kids don’t really have nothing to do, they’re going to probably wind up selling drugs or fuckin’ shooting somebody. That’s just real and that ain’t even me over-exaggerating that. So my mom, she comes straight from the projects.
My mom is a good, good hood motherfucker so she knows she never wanted her children to be like the motherfuckers she knew when she was coming up, you know? So she put us in that shit early; in a marching band in middle school to keep us out of trouble and shit. It ain’t really work, but she tried the best she could to keep us out of trouble. So it was our mother who basically got us into playing instruments and shit like that. Playing in a jazz band and stuff like that, it’s not really a big deal in New Orleans because it’s a known thing. You got cats in the hood all day that’s like crazy on trumpet and all types of instruments. It’s like the norm in New Orleans to play an instrument.
TSS: Since Black folks pretty much invented and pioneered Rock & Roll, why don’t we acknowledge it the way we should? Why do niggas act like they’re scared of guitars? They see somebody pull a guitar out and they start buggin’.
Krispy Kream: I’m glad you said that, dog, because nobody…
(Almillio tries to cut in with a response)
Krispy Kream: Nah, lemme get this (laughs). I let you talk for a minute, lemme get this one. This is why, dog…Khalid, this is why, dog. Niggas let this White media, this multimedia, make them think they’re supposed to be a certain way. Before there was even Hip-Hop…we just started listening to Hip-Hop; it became mainstream in the mid-90’s. Even when I was growing up gangsters didn’t even used to listen to Hip-Hop. Them niggas used to listen to old Funk and shit; Gap Band and shit, you know what I’m sayin’? Niggas didn’t even wear like, big jeans and shit; them niggas wore like Bally’s and shit like that.
That shit kills me when they like, “Man, that ain’t no thug shit.” So you’re a thug ‘cause you got a big T-shirt on? Niggas will knock your fuckin’ head off in New Orleans if you think that’s the only thing that classifies you to be a thug; ‘cause of the way you dress. Niggas don’t want to do nothing that they think another nigga’s gonna look at them and think they’re funny for doing it. They wait ‘til somebody else do it and they think it’s cool then. Look at some of the shit that niggas do now, think about it. Niggas used to talk about me and Al (saying), “Aw, why ya’all got them small T-shirts on?” Now everybody got Ed Hardy T-shirts on. Everybody got chains around their waist.
Rah Almillio: You said it right. It stems from the media and shit. They fell into the trap of them personifying us as something else. You look at the transition Michael Jackson made from the Jackson 5. They were just making soul music, like soul fuckin’ funk. Finally he broke out of that; he saw something even bigger than that. But back then, didn’t nobody knock them for it because it just is what it is. But now if something like that was to happen, niggas would be like, “Man, what the fuck? You doin’ some White shit?” The reason is it’s just a reverse psychology sort of thing. Anything forward moving or outside of a box is considered not Black or urban, and that’s kind of like self-hatred in a sense.
There was an interview where me and my bro was speaking. My brother got a heavier New Orleans accent than I do, na’mean? But I speak a little clearer sometimes. And I can remember the interviewer (said), “Yeah, I like the way the other one talks, ‘cause he doesn’t sound like he’s (White).” Basically, I’m talking White because… you kind of get what I’m sayin’? The whole thing is promote negativity and anything positive is White. Think about that concept; it’s a reverse psychology. Anything that’s positive is White. Anything that’s forward moving is White. Any remote intelligence to it is White.
Krispy Kream: I heard a muthafucka say hood niggas don’t be fuckin’ with Common. Mostly White people fuck with Common. What? I’m like what kind of dumb shit is that? Nigga, I’m straight from the block and I fuck with Common 24-7. That’s my dude and Common is hood; good and fuckin’ hood, dog. I fuck with this dude. But he’s a grown man… he ain’t ‘bout to portray that shit. He got kids and shit, that man ain’t about to portray that shit out in the public. The difference from when we were growing up ‘til now, dog… niggas was hood cats but they grew up and became grown men. Nowadays, niggas is hood and they stay in the hood; they be like 35 still personifying dumb shit they was doing when they was like thirteen. You know what I mean, dog?
TSS: I understand exactly what you mean.
Krispy Kream: They be in their second childhood for real, we’re like, “Dog, you’re 35. You ain’t gutter, you ain’t hood, you ain’t no thug. You’re a fuckin’ executive. “I hustle.” Nigga, you hustle? Nigga, you a fuckin’ executive.
Rah Almillio: (Laughs) At the end of the day it’s a reverse psychology sort of thing. They do that to all of our shit, though. You can’t blame White people; it us, dog. Yeah, I’m glad that you brought that up, dog. Little Richard was one of the first heavy, heavy real influencing muthafuckas, you know? He ushered that shit in; raw energy and not having structured, polished songs where everything had to be intact. He was just freestyling it, whylin’. That’s just in our nature as Black people… we free-spirited people. But like somewhere it got reversed. I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere it got reversed. It became a White thing to do if you do Rock.