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Near the end of 2012 the Knux quietly released the KTWN EP, played one last show, and then disappeared. The New Orleans-born, Los Angeles-based alternative hip-hop duo, comprised of brothers Kentrell "Krispy" Lindsey and Alvin "Joey" Lindsey, had already left Interscope on good terms after releasing their first two albums. KTWN was a return to their rap-, funk-, and rock-infused debut, Remind Me in 3 Weeks, and sounded less like their guitar-laced sophomore effort, Eraser. It was a promising sign, but the five-track project was just a collection of unreleased music. Behind the scenes, the Lindsey brothers had begun to drift apart. Joey had a son, and Krispy had a daughter on the way. They simply stopped working together.
Now the Knux are back with their third album, Eleven, which was released early last week. Joey and Krispy recorded the entire project in less than two weeks last February. And within a few months they found themselves a new home at INgrooves, where the duo signed a distribution deal to form the Rebel House Collective. Like KTWN, Eleven recalls the eclectic, daring approach that ostracized them from the greater rap conversation. The laser synths and boom-bap drums are back, and the guitar play subdued.
We spoke with Joey and Krispy about their new album, hip-hop’s shift during their hiatus, their plans to become the alternative version of Master P, and more.
Ian Servantes is a writer living in Colorado. Follow him @ian_servantes.
What led to your hiatus after dropping KTWN?
Krispy: We just stopped. Partially because we were going in different directions, growing up. We were so frustrated with each other, we were like, "You go over there and do this, and I’ll go over here and do that."
He would send me shit, and I would listen to his records. I wouldn’t care about him being in other studios, but other people would be like, "Joey just came through here." He started working on a dance record, co-producing it with our friend DJ Cobra. We weren’t trying not to work with each other or do music with each other, we just wasn’t. I can’t even really explain it to you. After that Joey was working at a studio on La Brea and told me to come through. I go through just to see the actual studio. We start talking, then we start jamming. I start playing records for him. He starts playing records for me. Then all of the sudden we’re back working together. One night of us smoking like a motherfucker. We recorded Eleven that quick, like bam!
We wasn’t like, "let’s do another album." We was like, "Let’s just record songs, and see how fast we can record a mini album. How many quality songs can we do within a week." The week turned into 11 days, and we were like, "Fuck it. Let’s call it Eleven." Ironically, it had 11 songs. It just made sense.
Joey: It’s just getting our feet back wet. It’ll bleed into everything that comes after this. It wasn’t fully thought out as a deep thing. It was like, "Let’s get back in the groove. Let’s give people what they like, what people are used to hearing from us, and let’s not overthink it." This is just a reintroduction into us being back. We’re back with some consistency. That’s been the things our fans have hated about us most. We probably could have released more content in general.
It’s interesting that you call this your reintroduction because Eleven sounds a lot like your debut, Remind Me in 3 Days.
J: We did agree on that. I think it’s mostly because there was a certain carefree nature in it. And obviously there were more breakbeats and boom bap going on. We reeled it back in.
When we first started off, we were somewhat skilled with our instrumentation. Then we got better and Eraser came. We were like, "Fuck that, we’re gonna show motherfuckers we ill on these instruments." That became the focal point. Fast forward to this album, we’re in a place where we’re settled. We feel like we don’t have to prove anything, not even to ourselves. We know that we can do all these things.
The guitars are there, they’re present. But they’re modest. They’re not so profiled as like the third member of the Knux. It’s sitting back and playing a part in the production. It might be a part that you can’t tell if it’s live instrumentation or not. You might just be like, "Oh, it just sounds like some beats." We actually put that shit together. Even if it sounds like a sample, 99 percent of the time it’s not. It’s a trip-hop angle we took. You’ll hear this stuff and not realize the time it took them to put the pieces together.
You guys also shout out Nine Inch Nails on "Spaceship." I think you can hear their influence on that song, "Lucky Ones," and "Angels & Demons."
J: I love that you noticed that. Somebody said "Lucky Ones" sounded like "Laffy Taffy" on the intro. I’m like, “I can’t with you motherfuckers.” We’ve always been a fan of [industrial music] because it’s some cool synth shit, and it was always professionally done, too. It’s got pop quality to it, like the mixes and the sounds. Everything sounds big and grand without sounding cheesy. We’re both big Nine Inch Nails fans. And Trent Reznor as a producer in general. I don’t know what type of headspace we were in when we made ["Spaceships"]. Somebody said it was a David Bowie type of record. There’s so much that we’re influenced by. I think we found a good way to channel it on this album.
Who else would you say influenced the album?
J: Always A Tribe Called Quest. Always, on every album. Of course, everything from the Doors to the Experience. If you listen to "Echoes" a lot of people say it has a Doors feel to it. Trip-hop: Portishead, Massive Attack, Tricky, all that shit. I was always a fan of how they make live instruments sound like samples. That’s something we do a lot. We create our own samples. I’ll play a riff on the guitar, do some crazy shit to distort it. We’ve always been a fan of creating our own samples out of live instrumentation.
How does it feel to feel to have Eleven out now?
K: It actually feels great, bruh. We have so much more material coming. Not just from the Knux. I have some shit coming. Joey has some shit coming. Plus we have artists that we’re coming out with. We can’t wait to get back on the road. We have dates booked. We can’t wait to get back out there. We’ve just been turning up, man. That’s what we’ve been doing over the past nine months to a year with this new deal with INgrooves. Everything just worked out perfectly. Timing wise, everything is fluid now. I’m feeling good. Joey’s feeling good.
What led to you signing with INgrooves?
K: They offered us the freedom of having an independent deal with that major push. It made more sense to us. They gave us our own distribution deal. I was like, "Shit, where the fuck do I sign?" That’s what we’ve been working toward since we first got in the music industry. They told us they want us to be the alternative version of Master P and put out different dope, urban, alternative music every month. That’s what we plan. We’ve got some shit coming out in a few weeks after this. Be on the lookout for that.
What’s that project?
K: I can’t tell you exactly what it is because of legal reasons. But it’s going to be pretty sick. We got a few things coming out over the next few weeks. You’re probably going to see something from us every week for the whole year. It’s not like we’re gonna do this shit and disappear. Plus we’re about to go on tour. Shit’s revving up. It’s getting hot, and it’s warming up.
Who’s in the Rebel House Collective?
K: There’s some artists that you know. Some artists that have a buzz. Two of the artists are already decently known on the blogs and magazines and shit. And one is just newer.
We feel like we don’t have to prove anything, not even to ourselves. We know that we can do all these things. —Joey
Now that you guys are back, a lot of the things you were doing are more common. People said you were ahead of your time with your genre-bending and the way you dressed. You guys were even talking about psychedelics, which are having a huge moment now.
J: When we were talking about that shit, everybody thought it was some crazy, out-there shit. Now the average person is talking about doing shrooms. I love it. I’m not one of those people who are like, "Motherfuckers is biting." I like that shit because it’s the shit I like in my personal life. So if there’s more of it, I ain’t tripping.
The industry in general has softened up to things that aren’t traditional, to things people aren’t used to seeing. People are not only open to that, they’re looking for that type of shit. Listen to the trap. Look at the visuals people are putting in their videos, the concepts. Look at Future’s album. It’s not really about the content, but you can tell they’re doing them to the fullest. You can tell he’s pushing himself further because other artists are doing the same. That competitive spirit is not just about money. It’s about pushing creative boundaries in a competitive nature. I’m always about that. I love that shit. It’s almost like every artist is like, "What can I do to expand what I do?"
And it’s kind of dope when you see people start to get uncomfortable because progress always comes from something that seems weird at first.
J: Fuck yeah. It always does. That's when you know it’s right. If you make a motherfucker say, "What? What the fuck?" And their nose is turning up. Provoking some kind of strong emotion from them, even if they don’t like it, even if they absolutely hate it, it’s always a good sign.
Young Thug is the embodiment of that now.
J: Hell to the fucking yeah. He’s the perfect example. Young dudes in the hood now, they on some different shit. It’s next level. I think it’s dope. He’s not trying to cure cancer with his music. His music is coming from the most raw, organic point. It’s like there’s no preconceived shit in his head before. He’s just going for it. You gotta respect it. I know a lot of people are freaked out by him. But you have to respect him because there’s zero fucks given with that dude and other similar artists. I love it. They’re not apologetic about it at all.
Motherfuckers ain’t fighting for the radio. They don’t need it. Now you’re just getting straight expression in its fullest form. You’re getting the shit straight from someone’s head, put on a canvas, and selling it to you. There’s nothing filtering it before it gets to the canvas. It’s fucking raw. I love that shit.
You two have solo projects, Rebel House projects, and the tour coming. Is there anything else we can expect?
J: We’re open for collaborations, too. In the past a lot of people thought we didn’t fuck with other people. We just don’t dickride motherfuckers, and we don’t invade people’s space. I want it to be clear that we’re always open for collaborations. If it’s organic and people want to come up with music and not have this preconceived notion of how it’s gonna sound, we’re down to work with pretty much anybody.
Is there anyone specific you want to work with?
J: I’m trying to do something with Lolawolf. That’s Zoe Kravitz and her band. She’s a friend, actually, and we always talk about it. But we never really do anything. I love everything that whole A$AP crew is doing. I would love to work with those guys, even if it’s just producing something. Chance the Rapper’s pretty cool. Childish Gambino is pretty cool. Shit, Cudi again. I’d get in with Cudi again to do some shit. I’m feeling a lot of shit right now. Oh, SZA. She’s ill. She’s really dope. We’re open for all type of collaborations as long as it’s organic. Miss me with the manager-to-manager bullshit. Let’s just work and do some creative shit.