#GUAP28 with Knucks: The Origin Story Edition

"I feel I have a duty to represent where I’m from. And that’s something that I step into wholeheartedly because me speaking for them is also me speaking for myself and the person I once was..."
by SOPHIA HILL Jun 10, 2022

Knucks may be reserved as a person, but any shyness is certainly not patent to his music. Through each release, he confidently sketches the scenes of his childhood and teenage years via memories of his life experiences. And despite our culture of fast distraction which seems hell-bent on crushing authenticity beneath its endless scrolling, Knucks’ work remains a monolith of art, something to strive towards. 

Photogrpahy: Sami Zubri
Hat: Lincoln Gong / Sunglasses: Gee Shades / Jewellery: Artist’s own

His latest EP, ‘Alpha Place’, feels like a chronicling of such events in his life, illuminating the chaos of the environment he was raised in – said environment being Alpha House and the greater northwest London region. “I feel I have a duty to represent where I’m from. And that’s something that I step into wholeheartedly because me speaking for them is also me speaking for myself and the person I once was – because I was once in their position. I was them and I still am, just in a slightly more privileged situation. It’s very important for me that I am still relatable to the people that I become a voice for.” ‘Alpha Place’ is Knucks reintroduction to the world “..showing people the integral parts that make me, me.” he explains.

“I feel I have a duty to represent where I’m from. And that’s something that I step into wholeheartedly because me speaking for them is also me speaking for myself and the person I once was – because I was once in their position.”

Photography: Sami Zubri
Jacket: ALIVEANDMORE / Trousers: Levi’s / Shoes: Licong Gong

Storytelling is a seamless part of Knucks’ musicality: From his appreciation of Nas’ Illmatic via his rendition ‘Killmatic’; Quentin Tarantino references; a small detail taken from a South Korean drama series in the album ‘London Class’; even down to the way in which he structures his flows. “I’ve always been that way inclined. At school, in year two, I was doing creative writing, for example. I was the kid that would tell a story and then twist the ending with ‘and then, it was all a dream’.” Even as he got older, he went on to study creative writing throughout his school years and even A-Levels, he adds. “So I learnt from a young age how to evoke certain emotions from people through storytelling.” This love for creating a puzzle for listeners to piece together is at the core of his lyricism. 

“At school, in year two, I was doing creative writing… I was the kid that would tell a story and then twist the ending with ‘and then, it was all a dream’.”

Photography: Sami Zubri
Hat: Acne Studios / T-shirt: Shift Zero Offical

“Naturally I’m an introvert” Knucks admits. At 27-years-old he finds his peace at home,  somewhere he can fuel his imagination and deep dive into the details of anything which might have caught his eye. And despite the influx of new buildings and the shifting communities of northwest London, he will never stop calling it home. “When I grew up. That’s all I knew.” This is an environment which once shaped him and informs his walks of life today. “… And that’s not just South Kilburn; that’s Cricklewood, Harlesden, Neasden, Wembley, Stonebridge… I feel like that’s partly because of where I went to school. I went to school in Harrow, which is very central to northwest London so everyone from that area gravitated towards it.” Not only was his surroundings particularly influential on his lyricism, but his family and background were too. Talking about the sounds that he was raised on, he feels that listening to genres like Igbo music imprinted a relentless rhythm on him, instilling a sense of subconscious learning.

“[Alpha Place EP] It’s like my origin story. I’m talking about things on here that I’ve never rapped about before. Even as I was writing some of the tunes, or listening back to them, I got emotional… This is the stuff that made me who I am today and the person I am going to be.”

Photography: Sami Zubri
Hat: Acne Studios / T-shirt: Shift Zero Offical

Now, Knucks has the pleasure of taking home some of the rewards he has worked so hard towards. Salient moments which bookmark his career are present throughout this latest EP, one of which has been the opportunity to work with the very same artists that, at one time, would have inspired his affinity with music. For example, working with Youngs Teflon on ‘Bible’, someone he was devoutly listening to in the years leading up to the release of his very first EP ‘NRG 105’. Three years on from the release of this project, the northwest Londoner has curated for himself a place amongst the stars. 

Photography: Sami Zubri
Hat: Acne Studios / T-shirt: Shift Zero Offical


Such stardom was asserted recently when Kenny Beats, no less, name-dropped Knucks as a UK artist to watch during his interview with the iconic Pharrel and Famlay on their Othertone podcast. Something he finds surreal in itself. “I was thinking about this thing recently … Some of the things I’ve been doing of late – the people I’ve met and some of the names I have in my phone – I couldn’t have imagined it. It’s too much to even fathom, I don’t want it to make me big-headed [laughs].” This self-awareness is expressed through a host of idiosyncrasies that Knucks displays through his sage demeanour. “I can’t allow something to change who I am as a person. I always said that if I have to compromise anything that affects my character or music, whatever it is, it’s just not worth it. I don’t want it. So, the fact that I get to maintain my true self and character within my music, it’s honestly just a privilege for me.”

“I can’t allow something to change who I am as a person. I always said that if I have to compromise anything that affects my character or music, whatever it is, it’s just not worth it. I don’t want it.”

Photography: Sami Zubri
Hat: Licong Gong 

CREW:
Producer/ Journalist – Sophia Hill
Creative director/ Stylist – Gloria Iyare 
Photographer – Sami Zubri
MUA – Alice Dodds
Videographer – Sam Adjaye
Videographer – Ola Aileru
Social Media – Krystal D'Anjou
VHS – Tadi Wamakuto