Education, Trump and punk rock // Kirk Knight Interview

Kirk Knight by Marlene Rosenthal

Der 20-jährige Rapper und Produzent aus Brooklyn ist ausschlaggebend für den 90ies-Sound der Pro-Era-Crew. Ob für Joey Bada$$, Nyck Caution oder für die gesamte Crew, Kirk war als DER Produzent des Kollektivs bekannt. Doch im Oktober 2015 releaste er straight outta Brookyln sein erstes Rap-Projekt unter dem Namen “Late Knight Special” und zeigte, dass seine Bars mit denen der anderen Stars der Crew mithalten können. Nun sitzen wir ihm im engen Backstage-Bereich des B72 gegenüber und sprechen mit dem freundlichen, jungen Multitalent aus Brookyln über wichtige Lebensabschnitte, Erziehung und warum Donald Trump so erfolgreich ist.

Zu den Fotos und der Review zum Konzert von Kirk Knight geht es hier.

Fotos: Marlene Rosenthal
Interview: Nina Nagele, Wanja Bierbaum

The Message: You released your first project „Late Knight Special“ last fall. Why don’t you want to call it a proper album?
Kirk Knight: Because you see, originally a mixtape is raps over unoriginal beats. I made all the beats by myself so it’s like original raps and original beats. I don’t want to call it a mixtape, so it’s a project. People technically call it an album because I sold it on iTunes. But I knew it’s just a project, because it’s a fact that if I was about to drop a debut album I’d want everybody to know. I feel like it would be like a concentrated stream of consciousness and mental thoughts. “Late Knight Special” was that, but it wasn’t how I envisaged it.

In some other interviews you’ve said that you had to live your life before the „Late Knight Special“. Which steps did you have to take before you released the project?
Well, it’s just like in general, music is about experiences that are relatable on a universal scale, right? So anybody could relate to it because of the fact that they went through the same experiences. So it’s like, that’s the only way I’d be able to connect to people, if I experienced it. And I’m young, so it’s just like: There’s a lot of things that people who’re 30 years old know where I wouldn’t know what to do in that situation. So that’s why I said I have to live life so I can at least try to be as relatable as I can be at this age.

You said that you’ve had a punk rock phase?
Oh yeah, my brother also listened to hip hop in his time. But basically he was into Yellow Card, Hawthorn Hights and …shit, I can’t think of the rest. He was listening to that type of music at the time, so of course when you’re the little brother you follow everything that your big brother does. That’s what I first initially heard. So that’s why I like a lot of things like that. Hawthorne Heights was a favorite for me.

So that kind of music really influences your producing?
Generally, in terms of producing – but also in terms of producing music like „Alright, this is where this part of the song goes, this is where this part of the song goes“. Also it shows me to show emotion because there was this video called „Saying Sorry“ of Hawthorne Heights and it was just like the expression. Just so much emphasis in one video. I was like damn, I guess that’s how you’re supposed to explain yourself in music.

Kirk Knight by Marlene Rosenthal

At first you were more of a producer than a rapper. When and how did you decide to grab the mic?
It was this time that Joey invited me to his crib. I was 15 or 16 and then I met Steez. So when I saw them, Steez and Joey, rap together it was just of that experience. I don’t know, it just planted some seed in my mind and be like, yo I’m gonna rap. Also, rap is actually a lot easier when you’re in school. Just because of the fact that there’s so much knowledge being thrown at you, your mind is constantly being used and challenged. The challenge with being a musician is after that. How you gonna still keep those thoughts and interests and ideas in your head. How you gonna explain yourself and how you gonna make music relatable to everybody.

Talking about school, it seems like you attach a lot of importance to education. How important was it for you to finish school – despite the fact that you had the chance to get into music?
Well, at the time my mom forced me to finish school so it wasn’t really a decision. But myy mom knew that my attention span for school wasn’t as thorough as for music, so she wasn’t going to stop me. She seen it like „Okay, obviously my child wants to make music“ and she wanted to put me in music lessons and all those things, but due to the time and the cost of things it didn’t happen.

Education is so important for me, because it keeps your mind stimulated. It gives you things to talk about. There’s a study that shows college graduates only take like 40 percent of what they learn in college and the other 60 percent they forget, or some shit. It’s like you gonna take what you wanna take and apply that to your own life – and then live a better life. That’s the point. Even how I look at religion for example. I look at a whole bunch of religions, I have a whole bunch of friends in different religions but by the end of the day I take a piece from their religions and add it to my own little book of success. Because you can’t follow one specific rule because you’re only living one specific life.

In Brooklyn you have a lot of school dropouts. What do you think would make school more interesting for young people.
Probably teaching them things they need to know to survive in life. I graduate high school and after that I go to college. Things that I learned in high school did not relate to the real world in so many aspects.

Kirk Knight by Marlene Rosenthal

But I think a lot of things do.
No, no, no, that’s what i’m saying. There are pros and cons but a lot of people in Brooklyn they just want pros in general. They don’t want the cons, they just want pros. In Brooklyn it’s just like a general information bar like „Oh you can learn this amount of things“. People wanna be more specific, so I guess that’s probably the problem. It’s also just the area around us, poverty and certain things are distracting you from being in school.

You shared the stage with Talib Kweli at The Soul Rebels concert – we interviewed him two times and we talked about the Baltimore and Ferguson incidents. He has a pretty clear opinion on that. How did you experience the movement in Brooklyn?
Well, fact is I feel it, but it’s just like this has been ongoing for a very long time. That situation is now aggravated, so we have two sides that is like „All right, you are white and you look at me a certain type a way, like I don’t got it, like I can’t do this or I can’t do that“. And on the flip side of things it’s just like „I have the power to make you do“ – you get what I’m saying? That’s what I feel like. The difference is the miscommunication and the lack of knowing what the authority really is. And in terms of internally knowing right from wrong.

I’m looking at the news, I just woke up, I had a beautiful morning. I look at the news and I see like 3000 people died or some shit. Nobody want to see that in the morning. Even though I tried to keep up with current events, I try not to look at them as much because it’s a lot of depressiv thoughts.

But it’s reality.
Yeah, it is reality. I was scared when they bombed the airport in Belgium. How was I supposed to fly to come to these shows, show love and preach a message? It’s crazy. I could talk about that stuff so much, all day.

Do you think something has changed in the US since the Ferguson and Baltimore incidents?
There has been change. But if Donald Trump becomes president there’s no change at all. It’s just a piece of purpose. Look at the candidates – there’s nobody who interests me in the campaign at all. There is nobody.

Maybe Bernie Sanders?
Oh yeah, Bernie Sanders. Oh my god, he is cool and I respect the fact he went on Hot 97 with Killer Mike. He was really talking about politics. I like the way he crosses over and eliminates  stereotypes against people of color.

But you think he doesn’t stand a chance?
That’s what I’m saying. Like everything that Donald Trump has done has been successful to his campaign. And he is the farthest of all the candidates to me. Honestly, the person with the most mixed opinions about them always wins. Just of the fact that no matter if you like him or not he’s being talked about, because he is a figure that is loved and hated. Same thing with Kanye – how he was talked about, how he was loved and hated. Donald Trump gonna be the most influential person, because everybody has an opinion on him.

Do you think that if Donald Trump becomes president it would affect your life as a black artist?
Yeah! Most definitely. First of all, it’s gonna give music a joke. That’s what I feel like. I feel like the negative of that gives music a positive joke to push artists to actually produce great music. But at the end of the day, it’s just like who would wanna live under the mental fact that Donald Trump is president of the United States? That doesn’t make any sense. I don’t know if you would like to live in a world like that. A lot of my friends and a lot of the old heads on my block, they’d move back to the Caribbean. I feel like there’s gonna be a lack of color, too. People gonna really start leaving. People gonna start going down south. Because down south, like Atlanta or something, they love colored people. This is an open space, open arms, opportunities like in terms of cheap housing. The more Donald Trump wins, the more gentrification there is. So gentrification is gonna increase to a massive level to where I can’t even afford to live there no more.

Kirk Knight by Marlene Rosenthal

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