MC Kuf Knotz is one of those rare artists who can bridge the gap between many different genres. While known primarily as a hip-hop artist, there are really elements of many different sounds in his songs. Yet he makes them fit into a cohesive conglomeration that has allowed him to transcend genres, and perform in places that don’t usually cater to the hip-hop world.
“It’s good vibe music,” Kuf relates. “It’s hip-hop with a lot of different genre influences. The lyrics are honest and the beats are banging!” His influences include artists ranging from Tupac and Bob Marley to A Tribe Called Quest and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
The new CD, Boombox Logic, showcases a wide range of textures and musical styles, spanning jazz and hip-hop mixed with elements of pop and folk. The CD is also is notable for several other reasons. The South/Central Jersey and Philadelphia-based artist teamed up with a student run label at Drexel University to complete the project and get it out to the public. “Boombox Logic was half finished when I brought it to Andy Hurwitz, who oversees the student-run label and who I knew through Ropeadope Records,” Kuf explains. “He presented it to the Mad Dragon faculty, and they were all on board to move forward with it. This is the first hip-hop project to ever be on this label, and it’s the first label ever to be run by college students through a university.”
One of Kuf’s worries was that the students would only be interested in partying. “Because, you know, they’re college kids,” he laughs. “And college kids like to party, to have fun, to go out. So, what’s going to drive them to be interested in what I’m doing? But the fact is that they’re interested in being in the music business and being successful in what they do. I think that puts a fire under their ass. The kids, man, they work hard. They take it serious. Having worked with them the amount of time I have, I’m really impressed. I’ve really enjoyed the experience.”
As such, Kuf has the support of the student body at the school, which has helped his popularity and enabled him to perform regularly at venues such as the World Café Live, one of Philadelphia’s most prestigious music venues, and to get airplay on the influential station WXPN. He is also very interactive with the students, working with them both inside the classroom and outside of it, to create opportunities and to get exposure for the project.
Kuf may bring musical diversity and funk to the table, but he backs it up with meaningful and reflective lyrical content. In “Clock Tickin’,” he expresses his pain, and his method of using music to deal with it. The electro pop track “Party Queen” is the story of an out of control, insecure girl, whose life is heading in the wrong direction. And in “Currency” he talks about the value of a dollar and how greed and desperation can taint people.
“I usually hear the music I am going to be working with and then write the lyrics to that,” he says. “There are times that I write an outline of what I want to talk about, and give that to the producer and he builds the music off that Idea. I vibe best in the studio listening to the track for the first time and then I just go from there.”
On Boombox Logic, Kuf tried to keep the music positive, upbeat and interesting. “I think performing live with the band changes the songwriting process,” he explains. “When you’re performing in a band, it’s about energy. You see people moving and dancing. But with the more laid-back, introspective songs, people go to the bar to get a drink. Or they go to the bathroom. Some people will stick around and be into it. But it’s the upbeat songs that get the crowd into it.”
The name of the album also has a symbolism behind it as well. “The ‘boombox’ part is a shout out to that era in the late ‘80s and early ’90s, when the whole culture of hip-hop was very big,” says Kuf. “Breakdance, graffiti, turntablism, MCing. When you think of that era, you think of the big boombox, the linoleum tiles. But you’ve also got to be logical in the sense that you’ve got to make something appealing to today’s audience as well. With the kids now, the 20 to 30-year-olds that are buying music right now, you have to have something that appeals to them as well.”
Kuf’s background includes working with some other well-known acts. He has collaborated with Slightly Stoopid, G. Love (well known for his own group G. Love and Special Sauce) and Ben Arnold. And speaking of crossing genres, Kuf has the honor of being the first hip-hop artist ever to open for Bruce Springsteen, which took place at an Obama rally on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. He was featured in FUSE TV’s Bodog Music Battle Of the Bands, and the collaboration known as Geurrilladelphia; made up of Chuck Treece, Don McCloskey, Tom Spike, and G. Love, recorded a song called “Unstoppable” that was played at games four and five of the World Series two years ago when the Phillies were part of it.
Kuf’s goals are to grow as an artist, and grow as a force on the musical landscape, spreading his message as far and wide as he can. Even his name comes from a place of bringing people together. “Kuf is short for Kufie, and Knotz is a play off of my hair,” he laughs. “A knot is a tight bond, strong and secure, that holds things together.”
For more information about MC Kuf Knotz, and Boombox Logic, check out kufknotz.com.