WANJA: It’s been 7 years since you released “Will rap for food”. How much has your lifestyle changed since the “starving artists” days?
KNO: Besides being filthy fucking rich, not much (laughs).
WANJA: So could you still come out with an album with that title?
KNO: It would probably be “Rap for caviar”. We’ll rap for really expensive sandwiches (laughs). Nah, I guess we could. It’s all the same. Money is money. We’re not rich or nothing.
WANJA: How much more money do u make with “Dirty Acres” than with “Will rap for food”?
DEACON: Each of our albums outsold the previous one.
KNO: Yeah, every album we put out sells more than the last, which not many rap groups can say that now, even independent, major, whoever. And we own pretty much all of our masters which allows us to make money off of digital sales, like iTunes, iTunes Europe, anywhere where you can buy digital, a lot of people buy digital music. So we get a check every month from those sales.
DEACON: When we had done “Will rap for food” we toured the whole nation and came home with about 200 $ to split. Now we split a whole lot more than 200 $..
WANJA: So what do you expect from “Dirty Acres” now? Not just money wise..
DEACON: I think it will please our old fans, especially the fans who stuck with us past “A piece of strange”. From “Southernunderground” to “A piece of strange” it was a dramatic change as far as what we were presenting. But from “A piece of strange” to “Dirty Acres” we feel that the chemistry is still kind of the same, it’s like we found our groove.
KNO: A lot of people who got past “A piece of strange” will like “Dirty Acres”, but it will also gain a lot of new fans. Like I said, every album has outsold the previous one. We’ve also been here in Europe a lot because I find that, for whatever reason, people just seem to be more open minded about what we are doing, they are just like “If it’s good, it’s good. If it’s bad, it’s bad” and all they hear is good music. Like in the US we’ll get a lot more people saying “Will rap for food, man! You should do the old shit!” It’s not that people don’t like it that album out here, but people here appreciate “A piece of strange” just as much. The US is real divisive; it’s either commercial, or underground. So if you’re trying to do just good music and it sounds a certain way to them, then they’re not going to like it because they don’t listen to it for musical purposes, they listen for status purposes. If it doesn’t fit their criteria of what underground rap is to them, even if it’s good, they’re not as open, as I found, as people in Europe.
WANJA: How do you feel about that comparison? Not just the comparison with other groups, but also of your old records to your new records?
KNO: I mean, I always say that rap fans are the biggest critics out there. As soon as something new drops they’ll say “This isn’t better than the old shit!” They didn’t even listen to it, they just skipped through it and say “You should make the old shit!”. Go listen to the old shit then! That’s why we made those records. Music is forever! If that’s what you want to hear, go and listen it. It’s that simple. Music is a moment in time, so take it for what it is. That moment is what we’re feeling, that’s what we’re going through. You can never recreate that; you shouldn’t expect an artist to recreate that. People got into us because we were honest. People listened to “Will rap for food” because it was honest music. If “A piece of strange” and “Dirty Acres” is honest music, then keep listening. Or don’t, if you don’t actually like it. That’s the problem with a lot of these people. It’s not that it’s bad music, it just isn’t what they want to hear. They want us to do battle rap, they want us to do Jedi Mind Tricks.. And we don’t do that too much anymore, because we’re getting old. I don’t want to be 38, talking about “I’m better than you..i’m the sickest..” You’re 35, talking about ripping peoples spines out. People change, so if you make honest music, and not just making music for the sake of it, or making a type of music, then as you change, your music will change.
DEACON: And not to say, that we don’t respect what they want us to do. We might come out any given time with exactly what they want to hear, if that’s what we feel like making.
KNO: We don’t make music for fans, and some fans don’t like to hear that. People got into us because we were honest to ourselves. We made music we wanted to hear and other people happened to like it. And the best artists, that’s what they do. If you pander, you might as well be selling out. If I’m going to pander to people, if I’m going to make what you want to hear I might as well (starting to do the “Soulja Boy” dance). I might as well do that and get paid. I’m not going to pander to a bunch of underground heads that aren’t going to buy the record anyway. It just so happens that they like the earlier stuff. We’re going to make whatever we feel like making, and if they like it, they like it. If they don’t, they don’t. But we happen to make good music and I don’t think we’ll ever make a bad record because we have that talent, so I’m not really concerned with that.
WANJA: Let’s talk about the new record. Who did most of the production on there, was that all you, Kno?
KNO: I did all of it.
WANJA: For some reason, your beats reminded me a lot of Quentin Tarantino movies.
DEACON: That’s because Samuel Jackson was doing all of our adlibs in the back (laughs).
WANJA: (laughs) So what influences you, when you pick samples and put your beats together?
KNO: Quentin Tarantino films (laughs). Nah, I mean, honestly, it just totally depends on where we decide to go with the record to begin with. “A piece of strange” was definitely different from this record. We wanted to encapsulate the southern portion of the United States onto an album, at least from their view (pointing at Deacon and Natti), because they rap the most. I mean, I’m from the south, technically but I don’t really rap like that, I mostly do beats. I don’t really think I draw inspiration from anywhere, I draw inspiration from them (Deacon & Natti). I just listen to them talk, I listen to what their stories are. Until 2004, I didn’t live around them. I met Deacon when I lived around him, but he moved away soon after, like in 2001/2002. I was around him for like 6 – 8 months, we didn’t even finish “Will rap for food” when he moved back to Kentucky, so we had to commute back and forth to finish that record. And when you’re working like that, when you’re not around a person, you don’t know them.
DEACON: Basically, we had just met back then.
KNO: Yeah. So the first two records it’s not Natti, it’s not Deacon, it was just rap. I didn’t know how they lived, what their family life was like or anything like that. And you can’t cater a sound to somebody unless you know them. So I think with “Dirty Acres”, musically, I’m just inspired by them because I’m able to see how they live and make a sound for them. That’s not to say that the next record is going to sound the same, because it’s not, the next record is going to be on some totally other shit.
DEACON: I feel like it’ll be more us than any other record before.
WANJA: You’ll know each other even better than now..
KNO: And the new record that we’re doing is a concept record. Everything we’ve always said about what Kentucky Hip Hop is what we’re going to do. But it’s not going to be a southern record. It’s going to be like our influences on the record.
WANJA: Back to your current album. The first track on “Dirty Acres”, you’re speaking about how Hip Hop is immortal. Did you feel like you had to respond to the whole “Hip Hop is dead” phrase?
DEACON: No, it was more addressing to how people specifically try to act sometimes like the south is what’s killing Hip Hop. We’re like, “No!”. Hip Hop is the most alive in the south, even if it’s just through us.
KNO: There’s wack music coming out of everywhere. Don’t act like Kid-N-Play wouldn’t have done the Soulja Boy. So why is it not ok now when a 17 year old kid is dancing? I don’t like Souljah Boy like that though..
WANJA: I think the problem is more that it’s so over saturated right now..
KNO: Oh, too much of it, yeah. Actually, that’s my problem, there’s no balance.
DEACON: But at the same time, there was a time in the early 90s when everything in the charts was shit like “The tootsie roll”, people were doing the Bart Simpson, MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice. Rappers Delight, Sugar Hill Gang, they started at a party. I mean, that’s how Hip Hop started.
KNO: People like to have fun and people will always like to dance. So that has nothing to do with killing Hip Hop. So for GZA to go on stage and be complaining about Soulja Boy, that’s stupid. I like GZA, I respect GZA..
WANJA: He did that?
KNO: Yeah, it was all over YouTube. I just feel like you should make your music, and not be concerned with other shit. If you make quality music, you will shine, the cream will rise to the top. It’s a cliché, but it’s true. If you make good music, people will listen to it. So don’t be mad because Soulja Boy is dancing all around. Let the motherfucker dance all around. It doesn’t affect me.
DEACON: He probably wont be dancing next year..
KNO: Yeah, exactly. And that’s his problem, not ours. But he’ll probably still be richer than us (laughs)..
WANJA: Since we’re talking about the music that’s coming out of the south, with people like him being very popular now, I’m wondering what does your fan base in the south look like, what kind of fans do you have there?
KNO: It’s different (laughs).. I mean, honestly, it’s even tough for us to get a show in the south, not just for us. But basically, if you’re not famous or you’re not doing something on that level and you’re not making snap records and stuff..
DEACON: Besides that, the south is like the poorest area of the nation. So when we can go to Colorado and get like 2000 – 3000 $ a show, there’s no way for somebody in the south to be able to afford to pay that.
KNO: Don’t get it twisted. We can do a show in the south, but we’re not going to get paid for it, so we’re not going to do it.
DEACON: They would have to charge 7 $ at the door versus 25 $.
KNO: We do free shows in our area. Like we’ll do area stuff for real low, but I’m not going to go down to Miami for a door split. When we can go to Colorado and get 3000 guaranteed. I mean, we have fans over there and I like and respect them. Thank you Miami for listening to our music (laughs)! But if the promoters are bullshitting we’re not going to come there. You can’t expect us to come out of pocket to go there. People always ask us “Why don’t you come to Canada more often?” Tell the promoters to get on their job, know what I mean?
WANJA: There’s still a high racial tension in the south, I think more than in the rest of the US, right?
KNO: Yes, there is. But I put it like this; latent racism in the US is a much bigger problem now than blatant racism. Which means, because there’s such an emphasis of being politically correct, that people are latently racists. So we have a situation where we might miss out on the first black president because of Ohio, not because of Georgia, you see what I’m saying? It’s the steal belt not the bible belt that’s fucking it up. It’s racist white people in Pennsylvania and Ohio and stuff like that, the latent racism that they don’t really talk about. Things have changed. There aren’t motherfuckers running around with white sheets anymore in the south but there’s still plenty of racism, it’s just different now than it used to be.
WANJA: Kno, how was it for you to grow up in the south as a white kid that’s loving Hip Hop?
KNO: You know what? I would never complain, because whatever I had to go through was something I had to go through. I didn’t feel like “Poor me, I listen to Hip Hop and every once in a while white guys beat me up because of it”.
DEACON: It’s probably no worse than for Eminem in Detroit.
KNO: One of the most annoying things to me is white rappers talking about reversed racism. I feel like, shut the fuck up and go make some rock music! I’m not going to say no names, he knows exactly who I’m talking about too (laughs). “I’m a white rapper, people don’t like me because I’m white..” Shut the fuck up and go make some punk rock.
WANJA: Maybe you can tell me after the interview who you are talking about (laughs)..
KNO: Yeah, off the record. And no offence to the person. But I feel like, it’s Hip Hop! And this person is old, older than me, he’s in his 30s..
WANJA: You have a lot of political or thought provoking tracks on your album, like the title song “Dirty Acres”. If you could put a bunch of people in a room and make them listen to those tracks, who would it be?
DEACON: The thought provoking ones? Everybody, Oprah, Imus…
KNO: I don’t think that the people who need to hear it can follow rap music. A lot of people would really need to…George Bush. But he would probably be like “What the hell you talking about? It’s too fast, I cant understand. Condoleezza, can you tell me what they’re saying?” (laughs). They cant follow rap music, so fuck it.
WANJA: Do you feel like the lack of thought provoking music in the charts is a reflection of the lack of intellect of the youth?
WANJA: And do you think that will ever change?
KNO: Hell no. We’re getting dumber and dumber.
KNO: Have you seen that movie, Idiocracy? Basically, everybody’s getting more and more stupid because only stupid people are having kids. Because the smart people are working really hard (laughs).
WANJA: So who do you think can relate to your music? Only the smart people and grown folks?
DEACON: We’re just getting to a point where people who really like our music are just true music lovers. People who aren’t necessarily Hip Hop or rap fans. They might go hear us play one week and then the next week go and hear BB King, Norah Jones or somebody. They are just music lovers in general. They’ll go from Gnarls Barkley straight to Depeche Mode.
KNO: We got a “one out of five” for “A piece of strange” in a Swedish rap magazine because it wasn’t “boom bapy” enough. We weren’t getting our Boot Camp Clik on anymore. That shit was “Boombap.com” or some shit. They were just like “They need to go back to the old stuff, this is horrible!”.. I feel like, eat a dick! I’m not concerned with it..
DEACON: We’re quick to get a “one out of five” in a rap magazine and then a “five out of five” in a music magazine like Rolling Stone.
KNO: We got As in Spin Magazine and stuff like that. But rap magazines don’t really cover us too much. We’ve been in the Source once or twice, but that’s just from favours, hook ups. We might know a writer up there. Its like, we don’t really get respect from our peers, we have a huge fan base world wide, but when it comes to “rap-rappers”, they don’t really fuck with us like that. Because we just make music, we don’t make rap or hip hop, we make music!
WANJA: I’ve seen you perform live a couple times last year and I was impressed with your show because I think you put a lot of thought into it, you have concept shows, where a lot of rap artists just go on stage and rap. How important is that to you?
DEACON: We don’t love performing. We love making music. But we take performance serious. We know that people want to see that presentation, they want to connect with us as people in front of their faces. Nobody wants to come to a show and just hear the CD live. It’d be different if we had a whole live band but if you’re just three guys on stage with a CD Player, how exciting is that?
KNO: We at least just try to connect. Because at the end of the day people won’t really buy music anymore, people come to shows but they don’t come to shows to see you standing there. You got to do something outstanding. Believe me, there’s a million things we’d like to do but we just can’t afford it. If we were on Kanyes level then we’d be doing some crazy shit with our shows, because we have great ideas. We have excellent ideas, just not the doe.
WANJA: Kno, do you plan on making a producers album?
KNO: Hell no!
WANJA: Why not?
KNO: Because I hate rappers (laughs). Again, we don’t get respect from our peers like that. There are very few people who reach out to us.
DEACON: You reach out to somebody and tell them “Hey, I’d like to give you a free beat” and they r like “2000 $ and I’ll send you a 16”.
KNO: 2000 $ for a 16 bar verse! I’m like, who the fuck are you? I sold more records than you, I toured the whole world and you’re over here in Michigan, chilling, making mix tapes and take care of your 4 kids (laughs)..
WANJA: But you’ve produced for quite a lot of people, right?
KNO: Well, how many rappers are there? The people we worked with is the small amount of people who were cool when we met them. We always approach who we respect, we always try to be cool with them.
DEACON: Some of those people we produced for, they might pop up on some of our own stuff. Like Devin, we got a beat to him and then he jumped on our project. Same with Witchdoctor. We’ve done a lot of shows with Little Brother, they got on our project. We produced for Lil Scrappy, KRS-One, artists like that are on a whole different level, it’s not easy to reach them..
KNO: Here’s the thing. Underground rappers are assholes. Mainstream rappers are pretty cool. I don’t know if they are broke and mad. I don’t know what it is. So we only have access to rappers to a certain extend. I can’t just go to someone like Ludacris and ask him to jump on one of our tracks.
DEACON: Even if Kno was to do a producers album. Let’s say he produced a track for Lil Scrappy, Ludacris, Lil Wayne, KRS-One. We’d rather have those songs on their albums; they would have more impact on their projects with their budget. Look at Timbaland. He had to push the hell out of his singles for “Shock volume” to sell. And that’s Timbaland! That’s his third producers’ album. Most people can’t even name the ones before. We can’t even name them.
WANJA: Kno and Deacon, you two also have a production group together. How often do you produce songs together?
DEACON: We work every day.
WANJA: But why didn’t you make beats for “Dirty Acres” together?
DEACON: The CunninLynguists sound to me is in that man (pointing at Kno). When I met Kno he was like “I got beats, you got rhymes. Lets put them together.” And that’s what started the CunninLynguists sound. Here and there I’ll play some keys on something but he’s going to be the one to chop it up and choose where to place them. He’s going to produce it. I’m just another studio musician in his studio when it comes to CunninLynguists.
WANJA: What are you working on now? You mentioned the new album, a concept album. What can we expect from that?
KNO: Can’t expect anything. It’s a concept record but we’re not ready to announce anything. We got probably like 5 beats and a couple songs. It’ll probably come out by the end of the year or the beginning of the next year.
WANJA: Are yall working on anything else besides that? Any solo stuff?
KNO: Yeah, Natti is working on some solo stuff that we’re producing. And we have a manager that works for Warner Bros music who shops our beats. To be honest with you, the only time we’re really working on CunninLynguists stuff is when we’re on tour or when we’re working on an album specifically. Other than that, CunninLynguists isn’t our job really. We don’t have day jobs but when we work on music we’re trying to get songs on video games or commercials and we’re trying to make money. This is the creative side to us. When that’s more the job side. You got to have a backup plan. You cant be a rapper until you’re 40. I’m not trying to be a 40-year-old touring rapper (laughs).
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