At Reading Festival 2022, there’s an array of the UK’s – and beyond – rap talent, and on Friday (August 26) one of the highlights was Kilburn native, Knucks. The 28-year-old uses his in-depth observational skills and omniscient self-awareness to create lyrical gems that live on beyond their prime. Knucks proved this on his Top 3 debut album, ‘Alpha Place’, where friends like Stormzy and M1llionz help him show his side of London.
Speaking to NME backstage, we discuss his debut album, his pal Stormzy and why opening up for Kid Cudi in November is “a mad privilege” for him. Watch the full interview above.
NME: You had a headline show where Stormzy and more came out to support you, how’s your relationship with him?
“Obviously it’s Stormzy, innit? So I knew it was shaky [getting him to perform at my show], but that’s my guy. He’s a very stand-up guy. When he said he could do it, I knew he could keep to his word.
“It was a sick thing for me [to get him on ‘Alpha Place’] but, to me, it was overdue. Me and Stormzy have had a relationship for a while. He’s been bigging me up for a long time, so we’ve been talking about getting it in together and working and stuff. So, with this project, it was just the right time to make that connection and make a song.”
It’s crazy that your debut album went Top 3 in the country…
“I was lost for words. I always go into these things without any expectations. I feel like I’m a musician in its purest form: I just care about the music, and how I come across and make people feel with my words. All that really done for me was validate a lot of what I was doing. I feel like I’m doing the right thing. The world is telling me I’m doing the right thing…My price definitely went up.”
You gave away Bitcoin at your show – why?
“I’ve been interested in that stuff for some time… I thought it’d be a sick touch to the show. I can see where society is kinda going. We’re going into like Bitcoin and NFTs so I thought it’d be a very important thing to showcase.
“I was having a conversation with my friend the other day about the things they should have taught us in school, and that’s something they should have taught us in school; just how to be smart with our money… If people can look at what I did at my show and learn from it, I’m all for it. The job is done.”
How does it feel to open up for Kid Cudi at The O2?
“That’s somebody who’s not only inspired me but has inspired a whole generation of sub-section of hip-hop and rap. So, to be acknowledged by someone like him… I class my music within that door he opened up, so without people like him and Kanye [West], rappers wouldn’t feel fully comfortable to talk about themselves and be authentic; to not be street. They gave birth to that era of rap, so to be acknowledged by him is a mad privilege for me. Also, that’s the first time I’m performing at The O2 and that’s a wild stage for me. It looks like a mad co-sign, still.”
Are you an alternative rap star?
“Personally, I don’t see myself as alternative because you have to think, ‘Alternative to what?’. I talk about a lot of the same things my peers talk about, it’s just the vibes are a bit different. The beats are a bit different. They’re not different in an alternative way. It’s not out of the sky like, ‘This is so different!’. It’s just different for the UK.
“Maybe calling certain music ‘alternative’ is a bit of a disservice, almost saying, ‘You’re different! This is normal, and you’re alternative’. And I don’t think that I’m that different. I don’t call myself alternative, but I do see why people say that because it’s different from the sense of UK music.”
How does it feel to be dubbed as a leader of the next rap generation?
“I mean, rightfully so! I’ve been trying and have been putting in a lot of work…I know how it is to be a kid and see all of my role models doing a negative type of music and I felt myself going in that direction because of everyone I saw as cool was doing it. So I felt it was important to show the other side and show how my life genuinely is. Not so other people can follow me, but just to show people because it’s the right thing. The fact people are seeing it and are like, ‘He’s right, you know. I can be myself!’, I’m humbled by that. That’s all I really wanted.”
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