Immersive and intricate in his artistry, North-West Londoner Knucks has been traversing the realms of hip-hop for over a decade now, aptly rendering himself as one of the most consistent new-age lyricists in the British rap canon. Since his 2014-released debut mixtape, Killmatic—his well-done hat-tip to Nas’ epic Illmatic—Knucks has infused his rap sensibilities with the sounds of jazz and influence of grime, giving each and every one of his releases an instantaneous rustic and nostalgic edge.
Managing to avoid markers of redundancy as he’s grown, Knucks arrives eight years later ready to merge his early talents with a contemporary flair across his latest project, Alpha Place. Making clear to us that the release serves more as an extended EP than a full-length LP, Knucks reveals that Alpha Place was executive produced by both himself and the Brit-jazz extraordinaire, Venna. “I knew that I wanted to make a project that sounded like my song ‘Home’,” he shares over Zoom from LA. “We wanted to structure the sound so that it was a mix of rap, drill and jazz. I wanted to show that I had more to me, but at the same time reinforce the ‘Home’ sound. I wanted it to be natural.”
Gliding across the 13-tracker feels like an amalgamation of one, complete narrative, which Knucks explains is intentional. Alpha Place acts as an embodiment of memories, paying homage to the rapper’s South Kilburn roots, but also his confidants and best friends who made it out of their surroundings with him. Track 12, “Three Musketeers”, is an anthemic composition that summarises all of Knucks’ findings to date, the rapid succession of drums leading the way.
The respect that Knucks has garnered from the industry is realised on the much-loved Stormzy team-up, “Die Hard”, which arrived in a matter-of-fact, nonchalant way, almost emphasising that the pair’s meeting was inevitable. M1llionz, Sainté, SL and more also make the cut, ushering in an array of shades across the rap universe—one reflective of the diversity and potential that’s in the space at present. Alpha Place is a striking showcase of the rhymesmith’s intentionality towards sonics and lyrical prowess, as well as his dedication to the craft and the long game, positioning himself as a project artist who is firmly leading the future of UK emcees.