Take an exclusive first listen to Knucks's new single Jubilee
The north London rapper breaks down the Stormzy-featuring track released to celebrate his 25th birthday.
Photography Beni Fundr
In the age of self-isolation and reflection (read here: overthinking), music has become an even more crucial escape from our fantastically ordinary lives before -- and hopefully after -- coronavirus.
Marking the start of his 25th year on the planet, Knucks’s new single "Jubilee" is a triumphant retrospective of the journey so far. Taking on a newfound optimism in the current climate, it's bound to have you reminiscing on your own summers past with hopeful energy. Jam-packed with nostalgic orchestral samples, cheeky nods to the immigrant experience and even a snippet of Stormzy’s Glastonbury speech, it’s definitely one to be blasted from the speakers and/or headphones in moments of need.
We catch up with the Kilburn by-way-of-Nigeria rapper to chat about hitting his quarter-century milestone, the UK rap scene and bucket baths.
We'll get the coronavirus question out the way first: how are you finding quarantine?
I think I’m taking it like everyone else to be honest. Obviously, it’s slowed down some of the plans that we had, but it’s also giving me a lot of time to be indoors and just take in a lot of extra information.
You turned 25 at the end of 2019, do you feel like this stage in your life is a turning point?
Yeah, I think this year means me being exposed on a bigger scale and being introduced to more people as an artist. Especially of the back of the "Home" video [directed by Ray Fiasco] which opened me up to a wider audience.
And what’s one thing that you know now that you didn’t five years ago?
To just stick to what you know. When it comes to the music you make, it’s so easy to be wavered by the different trends that are coming in and out, but you should stick to making the music that you love and that you know you want to be making.
Who are your biggest influences?
From US hip-hop, Curren$y for style and vibe and then Nas in terms of the lyricism and the concepts behind his songs. From the UK, Youngs Teflon as well as Sade and Anita Baker.
Wow, Anita Baker. Talk me through the Stormzy snippet in the middle of "Jubilee"... why did you choose to include that in the track?
So with the songs that I do on my birthday, I highlight the things in the past year that were significant to me. And getting that recognition of him calling out my name in front of so many people and on national TV meant a lot to me, so I thought it was only right to include it. Also, in Stormzy’s speech he’s talking about [Glastonbury] being one of the most important things to happen to him in his 25 years of being alive too so it ties into the theme as well.
That’s meta. How important do you think it is in the UK rap community to shout each other out and support in that way on visible platforms?
I love it when it’s a genuine love, rather than strategic -- whether that person’s being acknowledged yet or not. I think it’s important to show how you feel about the art that’s out there. It’s not by force, but it helps build a scene that’s about quality instead of just the biggest song.
I really love the line in this track about bucket baths, and you have a lot of lyrics like that in your music that feel so culturally specific. How much do you think about repping the Black British experience when writing?
Initially, I didn’t at all. I just started rapping about my personal experiences growing up in smart ways that were digestible for people and obviously that’s a big part of it. But over time, I started to realise that people were really relating to those parts and I think it’s good to put them in there to show people that they’re not the only ones going through some of these things. Sometimes they’re funny but also it’s good to be vulnerable -- a lot of the time I still don’t know if people are going to relate but you hope it will touch someone.