You should never judge a book by how many superstars it’s written songs for, but with new artist Knox Brown’s star-studded roll call of Jay Z, Aloe Blacc and Mary J Blige, it’s almost impossible to look past it.
“They heard my music and wanted to work,” explains the Jamaican-born musician. “I feel so humbled and slightly gassed. This is what I’ve been dreaming of for the longest while!”
The first Knox Brown track to surface explored dreaming, but not necessarily his. In ‘Redemption Song’ he samples Martin Luther King, Muhammad Ali, Louis Farrakhan and Nelson Mandela to construct a powerful, piano-led track with a smooth Marley-inspired vocal hook over a Southern-style hip-hop beat.
“It wasn’t something I had planned, it sort of happened,” admits Knox, “but the message in that song is basically me looking back at the past and learning from these role models, seeing what people go through and still persevere. Out of a bad situation may come inspiration.”
He’s working on a EP now, and recently released another number called ‘Harry’s Code’ online. Where ‘Redemption Song’ felt more like a bite of Knox’s influences and beliefs, this track is a more complete single. He champions seeing music “without barriers”, and it starts off appropriately, like a classic dub cut, before the electric guitars and percussion slip into a funk and soul swagger, emphasising Knox’s lyrical potential and Jamaican English delivery.
“My first real introduction was when I was at a friend’s house,” begins Knox, explaining his musical genesis. “He put this game called Music 2000 in his PlayStation and my addiction for music production was born after seeing how he was making beats. Whilst in Year 10 at school, I made my first mixtape the summer after and sold 20 copies.”
It’s hard to believe, but the Knox Brown story is only just warming up.
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WHERE: Jamaica / Birmingham / LA
WHAT: Hip-hop fused with reggae and soul
FACT: The first hip-hop song he ever heard was ‘Dangerous’ by Busta Rhymes.
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Words: Joe Zadeh
Photo: Mike Hernandez