|photo by Marita Weil|
Today I have a doozy of an interview for you guys. Kno from Cunninylnguists has been one of my favorite artists of all time ever since I heard the Southernunderground Instrumentals on Last.fm. Later Kno would go on to release a solo album in “Death is Silent”, a brand new group Built To Fade with their unbelievable album “To Dust” and an instrumental album in “Bones”.
However Kno’s work and arms stretch further than just making beats and raps. Today I’m sitting down with the legend to talk about his latest endeavor in the production space and the ins and outs of sampling.
Ok-Tho: For those who somehow still don't know who is Kno?
Kno: 1/3 of CunninLynguists, 1/3 of Built To Fade. Producer, rapper, vocalist, graphic design artist, manager, booking agent & general Indie Music Renaissance Man.
Ok-Tho: How's your 2018 been, CunninLynguists dropped “Rose Azura Njano” last year but you've been still been busy and creating, what have you been up to?
Kno: We spent a solid 2/3 of the year touring the new album & it's hard to get in a creative groove when you're doing that but I'm finishing up the new Built To Fade record, launching my own production & songwriting endeavor under the Knomercy Productions banner and just trying to stay productive in between yelling at dipshits on Twitter & enjoying the Southern California sun.
Ok-Tho: Now I stumbled across this the other day you're working on a huge project with Tracklib and BeatStars, can you dive into that a bit?
Kno: Tracklib, for those not in the loop, is basically a digital crate where you can sample from a catalog of records & the pricing to clear the samples is fair and easy to understand. They reached out to me in the beta stage of the website to ask for feedback & in being cool with some of the guys behind Beatstars I realized there was a huge gap in the burgeoning "beat marketplace" for anything that wasn't synth-based or trap and that a collaborative effort between Beatstars and Tracklib might go a long way towards not only filling that gap from an economic standpoint but also introduce a new generation of producers to sampling.
Ok-Tho: Now I know some of the basics of sampling & a bit on how that works but can you go in depth on how you go from finding a sample to use putting into a song and the obstacles it takes just to get it on your album let alone make a profit from it?
Kno: Everybody has a different process but if something perks my ear & I'm not familiar with the source or haven't readily heard anyone else use it I'll take a stab at flipping it. It's really just certain chord progressions or sounds that lend themselves to hip-hop production and I think if you're talented in that aspect of production you just know it when you hear it.
Making indie records isn't really that complicated because most of the stuff I sample is super obscure shit that nobody will care if we make a few thousand dollars off some Spotify streams with. It's really when you start shopping beats & trying to get publishing deals or placements in commercials that you run into issues because large corporations want a "traditional" hip-hop sound but they won't touch samples, generally, with a ten foot pole. If you can make sample-free or cleared instrumentals that SOUND like grimy, sampled shit you're sitting on a goldmine if you get it in the right hands.
OkTho: We talked before this about how you’re trying to help usher in a more sample-producer friendly environment & marketplace, can you talk about some of the conflicts you’ve had to deal with in regards to using samples in your music?
Kno: Again, it's mostly on the negotiating side with people who really do want to cut you checks, not so much getting sued or receiving cease & desist letters.
If you don't clear your samples nobody is probably going to care unless you're Drake or J. Cole but if you're a bedroom producer trying to land Sprite commercials it's never going to work if you're looping Bob James, which is why a ton of "sample based producers" from the mid-2000's went all the way synth and subsequently disappeared or fell the fuck off precipitously. You can't stop doing what you're good at chasing dollar signs or it's going to show. I just let the game come to me while finding ways to bend it to my will.
Ok-Tho: I actually think this collaboration is a genius idea that can really change the face of the industry, what brought this about and what change are you hoping this collaboration between Beatstars & Tracklib brings about?
Kno: I've spent some time on conference calls with the guys at Tracklib and Beatstars trying to facilitate a few things but ultimately I launched my page to show them -- and the world -- what it would look like to meld the two. Even if I never sell a beat from the page -- because, to be frank, most of the successful producers on a site like Beatstars lease beats for 29.99 or similar & frankly I don't necessarily see myself doing that. I've spent 18 years building an artistic reputation & brand, I still need to get my asking price. It's not that deep [laughs]
Ultimately I just want to see young producers flipping samples and carrying on an artistic tradition. There are so many tools at our disposal now that "not being able to make money from this particular brand of art" shouldn't be the only hindrance.
Ok-Tho: So what does the process look like? I know on Twitter I specifically mentioned rappers, but obviously, this extends further out, to producers & artists in general. How does one go about getting the opportunity to use a sample in their art?
Kno: The thing about this is quite literally anyone can do it. You go to Tracklib, make a beat from one of their samples. When you're happy with it you clear it via a 5 minute process on the site for usually $50 -- although there are 2 tiers of higher priced samples most fall in the $50 range. Then you sell it or lease it on Beatstars with the included info. When someone leases or buys the beat they'll then need to take out an additional license (since it is now a "new song") but again, it's simple and cheap.
Working out a system to bypass the need to clear the sample BEFORE you offer it up on Beatstars has been one of my main points of interest in seeing Beatstars & Tracklib work together so hopefully they'll have something in mind soon.
You can follow Kno on Beatstars and Twitter.