Me, I’ve never been thugged out. Kno and Deacon the Villain, they’ve been thugged out since cub scouts. A pleasant surprise in an otherwise forgettable year of hip hop, the Cunninlynguists have received praise for their all-star single “So Live” b/w “616 Rewind” and debut album “Will Rap for Food”. So what did these two up and coming ATL-iens have to say?
Mark – Ok, so how did the Cunninlynguists get started?
Kno – Me and Deac met while he was attending Morehouse and I had just left the University of Georgia and moved to Atlanta in ’99. I think we had conversed online before but Jugga was doing a show at Morehouse and Deacon was there and we vibed. I produced a track or two for him and…
Deacon – …then we started talking about doing an experimental hip hop EP…me on the rhymes, him on the beats…slowly it turned into an all out hip hop album, with both of us rhyming…but him mainly handling the production.
What’s the record that got you each into hip hop?
Kno – Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince “Rock The House”. Girls of the world ain’t nothing but trouble-trouble-trouble!
Deacon – X-Clan “To the East Blackwards”…hahahaha….
Where did your names come from, and how did the name “Cunninlynguists” come about?
Kno – Kno used to be KnoKash for obvious reasons, but got shortened. Cunninlynguists just came up while we were brainstorming.
Deacon – I’m a preacher’s kid. “Deacon” has been my nickname as a result of that for years…people would be like “your pops is the preacher, you’re the deacon” but at the same time, I was a real bad kid and teenager…always in trouble crime-wise, and “the villain” got tagged on…but I’ve since straightened up, and kept my badness within music.
So Deacon, what does your dad say about you being a rapper…I mean, hip hop is always being stigmatized as a bad influence and whatnot…
Deacon – He’s 100% supportive. He knows there’s a million other things I could be doing that could land me in jail, or just give me a hard time/life in general. So he’s all for it, sometimes he even plays the role of a semi-manager.
What’s the scene like in Atlanta…I mean, when I think of Atlanta, I think of Mass Influence and the Micranots…Outkast, obviously…who am I missing and how would you compare it to the L.A.’s and the N.Y.’s and Boston’s and Philly’s?
Kno – Yeah, Mass Influence, Micranots, Mars ILL, Stahhr the FEMCEE all holding it down, and on a larger scale, Ludacris, Outkast and Dungeon Fam. People sleep on good hip hop from the south cause there are a lot of BAD ARTISTS out there making it hard on talented people. How you gonna be “ATL’s Finest” or “King of the South” and you JUST DROPPED your first solo LP and nobody ever heard of your ass?
Deacon – Also on the funk side, along with Outkast you got Jim Crowe, Youngbloodz, Moochie Mack, Backbone, Cool Breeze, Witchdoctor…the last three are all part of the Dungeon Fam…can’t forget Kno’s peeps, Jugga the Bully and Cashmere the Pro. Also watch for my man Life!
To the music…I’ve read a few reviews that call “So Live” the single of the year…how happy have you two been with the reaction to the single? How did you hook up with everyone who is on there?
Kno – I’m happy with the reaction. I would have been happier had it gone platinum, but hey. As far as the people on the single, Jugga and Mr. Raw are our people, I hooked up with Celph through working on Braille’s LP, Tonedeff is Deacon’s homie, Sankofa and me met on the net, as did Kash and I.
Deacon – I was happy too…I woulda really like to do a video…rented a couple Bentleys, poured Moet off the CNN center building…a few ass shots at Magic City and shit…but like Kno said…”but hey”.
Since you both produce and rhyme, what are your thoughts on being a well-rounded artist? I mean, I can think of emcees who just rhyme, they don’t even write their own lyrics…do you think it contributes to longevity?
Kno – I don’t want to be an emcee. I’m harder to get on the mic than a kid’s size Wizards jersey…but I can make beats until I’m 80 years old. I don’t want the spotlight, I just like making music.
Deacon – And I’d much rather be an emcee…the only reason I started making beats was because I was too broke to buy them from other people.
The name of the album is “Will Rap for Food”. Was there ever a time since you got “in the game” that it felt that way…I mean financially has it been tough or have you both had other jobs…or what?
Kno – I got laid off 3 weeks ago…so yeah I’m living it.
Deacon – I currently live at my pops crib and sleep on an air mattress in his office.
On “So Live” there’s the line about how back in the day you didn’t have to worry about getting beat up at a party…do you wish that both the music (and society I guess) could be more like back in the day? Basically, are you both nostalgic for those times?
Kno – I mean, as Cashmere would say, shit wasn’t sweet back in the day either, you know? People always get their ass kicked, this is hip hop. By the time my career is over I’m sure I will have had my ass kicked a few times, but what can you do? Ultimately though, I miss the “fun” of older hip hop. It doesn’t have to be corny or nothing, but cat’s nowadays are too boring and serious.
Deacon – I’m 6″2, 220…I’ll fuck yo ass up. Jus kidding…Yeah, I echo what Kno said. I miss the “fun” in hip hop. I’ve been loving all the beef between the up north cats recently…Jigga, Prodigy…Jadakiss, Siegal…LL, Canibus…it puts some of the fun back into hip hop.
Are you guys serious beat diggers? If so, any crazy beat digging stories?
Kno – I buy from dollar bins, and I’m no record collector. I have like 10 or so crates, that’s it. My only crate digging story is about the time I was in Wax-N-Facts and saw this really dope female in there diggin, and it was unbelievable like seeing a unicorn or some shit…wild. Of course I have no game so I just left…
Deacon – Once when I was over at Kno’s crib, he went to use the bathroom, and I loaded a bunch of his samples on disks…went home, made some beats, and sold them to KRS and Masta Ace…just kidding.
Deacon, how did you hook up with KRS-One and Ace, and what does it feel like to have legends rhyming over your beats?
Deacon – Through Tonedeff and Domingo. They supplied the hook up. To have such legends rhyme over my beats is still unbelievable. The fact that King Tee and J-Ro from Tha Liks also got down on the beat with Ace blows my mind every time I listen to it…I never considered myself to be a producer, so for this to happen just makes me wanna go find Patti Labelle and suck on her titties…or get arrested trying.
Who are your influences, past and present?
Kno – Er, KRS, Outkast, ATCQ, Beastie Boys, Eminem, Del hip hop wise…non hip hop…Grateful Dead, Talking Heads, Rick Astley…
Deacon – Er, Outkast, Redman, Biggie, Eminem, Suave House, C-Bo, Twista, Psycho Drama, Jim Crowe hip hop wise…Stevie Wonder, Sam Cook, Michael Jackson, Prince non hip hop wise.
I always ask this question. If you could get on a track with any producer and two emcees, who would they be?
Kno – Me producing a track featuring Rakim and Kool G Rap kicking the shit out of Fred Durst in the vocal booth, not even rapping. That’d be hot!
Deacon – Dre on the beat, Andre from Outkast and Redman on the track, with me of course.
Ok, this is a Newlywed Game style question…Kno, what are the things that Deacon brings to the group that you don’t, or not at the same level, and Deacon, same question except with Kno…
Kno – Deacon has a better flow and voice than me, and has a great ear for music. His drums hit harder than mine. He’s also an “Anti-Hater”, he likes everything, whereas I hate everything and everyone and will let you know about yourself.
Deacon – Hahahaha…yeah, Kno’s a hater. Kno does shit with samples I’d never imagine doing. He comes up with much iller concepts than me. I can write to any concept, I just can’t think of them.
Since September 11th, what does hip hop mean anymore…I mean, does it still hold relevance?
Kno – It’s just entertainment and art, like all music, so if people ever needed a release from stress now is the time.
Deacon – My sentiments exactly.
The album has dropped…any tour plans and have you started working on new material?
Kno – We may do a couple shows, but we aren’t really geared for doing a lot of live shows right now since we live far apart and Deacon is starting on his solo record. I think performing live goes a long way towards making you more popular and getting your name out there, but I’d prefer to just be in the lab making dope songs.
If you could each change one thing about hip hop what would it be?
Kno – Make sampling 100% legal.
Deacon – Damn…you took the words out of my mouth that I wish I formed myself. So since that being said…ummm…making Patti Labelle come with every hip hop CD purchase.
Anything to add?
Deacon – Watch out for a Deacon single by years end! Album late February, early March! Major distribution and wide-scale airplay! Hopefully, I haven’t spoken to soon and shit doesn’t explode in my face…Domingo, Kno, Tonedeff and me on the production!