There’s something truly special about Knucks. The North West London rapper and producer has garnered a heap of support over the last few years as he has graced the UK rap scene with dexterity and flair. Releases from the rapper verge on few and far between but he has managed to stamp his place as part of the UK scene’s Next Gen.
His ability to make quality music have been proven time and time again but ultimately then next challenge would be to put out a succinct body of work that will really get people listening. Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present to you…NRG 105.
Alluded to by the name, the ten track EP – rather much for an EP but it makes more sense once you give it a proper listen – is framed around a segment of a radio broadcast hosted by the smooth and soulful enigma that is Reggie Black while our protagonist embarks on a car ride. Bears loose inspiration from Grand Theft Auto, it is conceptually a throwback and that runs through the EP as a whole.
On surface level, NRG 105 carries on with certain musical trademarks that Knucks is known for. Sample-reliant production with a great emphasis on musicality while keeping his Hip-Hop essence which has inspired his music thus far. But with notable featured artists and a few hidden gems, the effort for a cohesive project that stretches our expectations is there.
Kicking off officially with the garage-inspired “Blessings”, Knucks calls on the first of his special guests Oscar Worldpeace for a welcomed appearance. The pair go back to back on a nostalgic tip, treading down memory lane recounting the good and the not so good, nonetheless thankful over the bright and upbeat instrumental.
Thematically, NRG 105 delivers as it’s intended. Tracks are looped together with humorous skits in the form of radio ads which tie the tracks together. Take “Big Kahuna Burger”. A comical fictional ad for a fast food burger, it sets up for the next track “Rice and Stew” while also serving as a nod to Knucks’ previous catalogue.
In tandem with the Hip-Hop vibe, “Rice and Stew” is dreamy and light-hearted with the strings, complimented with the right feel good drum patterns. His first single to drop from this EP, it’s a cheeky nod to his Nigerian heritage but delving deeper, Knucks serves a humorous metaphor for the facades people portray nowadays and the disappointment of realising the actual truth.
And with the radio ad for a seemingly fraudulent couples’ therapy service “Baytese Marriage Counselling” comes the perfect set up for “Wedding Rings”. The second single on the EP, it takes more of a jazzier lane but still very much hip-hop. Taking inspiration from the legendary 2Pac, he delivers smooth and clever bars about love and relationships, spoken like a true Casanova.
“Gwen Stefani” is one of the more playful songs on the project. It’s Afro-Swing production is filled to the brim with double entendre and punchlines galore and we get to enjoy a carefree Knucks flexing his pen.
But without doubt, a clear stand out on the EP for more reasons than one is definitely “Diddy”. Calling upon one of the best rappers to come out the UK in Wretch 32, we have two artists that are renowned for their lyrical prowess and ability to interweave metaphors with ease combining on some emphatic production capable of drawing an aggressive head nod and screwed face from even the most unsuspecting listeners.
As the final skit “Breaking News” moves into the final track on the project “Home”, we see a side to our heralded rapper that rarely gets the spotlight but we all know is there. Here we find Knucks the storyteller giving, quite frankly, a very human and very vivid experience to the heavily perpetuated narrative of knife crime amongst young people in London. It’s a sombre drill beat that concludes the project but it also brings everything in full circle as the news cast ends and we re-join the protagonist in the car.
In the grand scheme of things, these criticisms for this offering are very small. It’s a quality of quantity sort of affair. The creative and witty side to Knucks is on display with an impressive narrative arc and a refreshing array of sounds to compliment. While we only really get 6 songs out of a possible 10 and minimal guest features, it’s fair to say that this was a thoughtful release. Being left wanting more in this case is a good thing.
Purchase Knucks’ NRG 105 EP on iTunes here, and stream it on Spotify below.
Words by Jay Tijani