…Because Kirk Knight is keeping authentic New York Hip-Hop alive
NYC hip-hop is at a unique crossroads right now. The Golden Era of New York rap has come and gone. Those fat years of prolific talent which yielded rap giants like Nas, Big Pun, Wu-Tang and Biggie have quietly settled into the dusty annals of history. The new generation of rhyme spitters are holding court now, names like Tekashi69, Casanova, Dave East, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie and Don Q are the heavy-hitters making all the noise. But truth be told, a huge chasm has developed between the ’90s school rappers still rocking and the rambunctious youth. The expansive and intricate lyricism of the former has been fully usurped by the radio-friendly, easy-flowing, drug-addled melodies of the current school. Not to worry though, hope is on the way.
Kirk Knight is a producer, rapper and all-around good vibe provider carrying the torch for authentic New York rap and charting a path to the future. He’s a resident member of the Pro Era Crew (Joey Bada$$, Chuck Strangers, Nyck Caution, CJ Fly, etc.), a key affiliate of Beast Coast (The Underachievers, Flatbush Zombies), and he has also produced monster tracks for names like A$AP Ferg and Mick Jenkins. Kirk stopped by the O.N.S studio for a shoot and conversation. Here’s what he had to say…
First off, how did you get the name Kirk Knight?
I got the name “Knight” because I used to get ready to Curren$y’s “Michael Knight” every single day I went to middle school. People on my block already called me Kirk, so I just put them together.
You met Joey Bada$$ in middle school. How and when did that happen, and also, was the Pro Era crew already formed at that point?
Yes, I did meet Joey in middle school. That was just normal s***. Joey was the super popular kid and I was the kid that didn’t really care for anybody to really know who I was. For some reason, we just had a strange connection. I would make beats on the lunch tables and he would rap over them. That’s how our friendship began. And no, Pro Era was formed about 2 years after that point.
When it comes to your music production, who would you say are some of your major inspirations, and what producers are you feeling right now?
I would mention names like Monte Booker, Wheezy, X5, Pi’erre Bourne, Chuck Strangers, Lee Bannon, Que Beats, Frank Dukes, Wondagurl and Southside. Those are just some names off the top.
What’s your equipment of choice for your music production. Do you sample at all?
My DAW, Ableton! That is the main instrument that I use for everything. I do sample, but sampling is obsolete in 2018 because producers are actually trying to make that money. But if I had to use a piece of hardware, it would be an MPC. Any one, it doesn’t really matter.
Let’s talk about your rapping skills? How did you sharpen your rhyming ability over the years and who are the rap icons and legends that you’ve always looked up to?
I was just watching Steez do it. Also, a person that helped me was my brother Mick Jenkins (shout out Mick Jenkins). I remember he used to come to my hole-in-the-wall crib telling me the structure of verses and stuff like that. Also, watching Joey and Steez was just a way to help me get my stuff better. Some other people that I observed that helped me get my pen better are Frank Ocean, SchoolBoy Q. Some rap icons I look up to are Kanye, Hov and Pharrell.
We obviously have to talk about the “Plain Jane” record for Ferg. That was a monster hit! How did that come about and how has your career changed after its success?
The Ferg record came about by me f**king around with Ferg. I just don’t make music for anyone, we have to vibe together and I have to smoke with you or something. I first connected with him in LA, I was at Red Bull Studios with him and made a beat. He rapped on it, and that was the “FLEM” song. Some time later, Ferg and his manager took me over on tour in Germany, and after that I made the track “Nando” for him. After that, we were in the studio again, and he played a voice memo of a hook he’d been working on. I took the voice memo and made a beat and around it. The song was “Plain Jane” and it took off and changed my career. I never looked back after that, because now I have a hit to my name. It’s been the highest streaming song for a Ferg solo track too. I’m just grateful and blessed to be the one who produced it.
In the current state of rap, there seems to be a widening generation gap and disconnect between the Golden Era generation ’90s rappers and the young rappers blowing up right now. What are your thoughts on this issue?
I don’t think there’s an issue at all. There is a new way that rappers are articulating themselves now that ’90s artists wouldn’t relate to and vice versa. At the end of the day, it’s not about what you’re saying, it’s where you from. If you’re from a certain town or city, you’ll sound like where you’re from. Also people don’t really care so much about lyricism now, people care about if the song feels right and the vibe is right. My thing with music is if it makes you want to move your body, then the artist had done his job.
Back to your own music, when can we expect your next project, and can you give us some hints on what it’s sounding like and what the fans can expect?
No hints yet, when the album comes out, I just want all the people to check for it and buy it. It is what it is [he chuckles].
Lastly, you’re still young but you’ve seen a lot in this game: success of Joey and your crew, life on tour, the passing of your friend Capital Steez—what have all these experiences taught you about living your life and chasing your dreams?
Those experiences taught me that show love and love will show itself.
To keep up with Kirk Knight, be sure to follow him on IG here.