There are groups in hip-hop that you can’t categorize into a box and The Cunninlyguists are definitely one of those groups. From the debut album “Will Rap for Food” to their newest offering “A Piece of Strange” you never know quite what to think. Each of their albums have a different sound and for this ever evolving group who has no expectations but lofty goals the battle has been up hill. I got a chance to chat with Deacon Da Villain and Kno of CL and they had a lot to say. They aren’t trying to just make an album, they are trying to make you rewind and make music to be remembered for years to come.
HHS: I’m sitting here with the critically acclaimed crew the Cunninlynguists, what’s up fellas.
Kno: It’s funny because people always put that in front because people can’t put million selling or platinum so critically acclaimed is all we get because there is nothing else. (Laughs)
(Laughs) That is good though, it’s better than saying y’all are wack.
Kno: Exactly, that’s what we always get so hopefully one day we can get a little more.
You guys have been around quite a while, your first album dropped in 2001. But do a little introduction.
Deacon: I rap….yeah, yeah, yeah
Kno: This is Kno, I don’t rap anymore but I make beats mainly.
Deacon: Can’t forget MC Natti who isn’t on the phone this time around.
Kno: True, Natti is not on the phone, but he is heavily on the record and will be heavily involved in future projects. He has a great work ethic and he’s a dope rapper.
I have to ask….what’s up with the name….some say it’s comedy while others say it’s down right wrong (laughs) I say it’s genius!!
Kno: I’ll break it down for the very last compound as they say in hip-hop music. We met through Jugga Da Bully; he goes by J-Bully now. I did some beats for him and Jugga used to do shows at Moorhouse. Jugga and I were roommates and we were sitting on the couch. We were trying to come up with something that was catchy but catchy in a weird way. We weren’t even thinking of doing a whole record back then.
Deacon: We were just going to do like half a record, not even an EP. Just some songs really.
Kno: We weren’t even serious at that point, we were just going to do a couple songs and see what happens. It wasn’t supposed to be a permanent thing; we didn’t even put much thought into it. But now we are now stuck with it (laughs)
Kno: I think it’s a good name and people don’t forget it about it. It will stick in their minds but some people fucking hate it. Like XXL said it was the worst name in hip-hop (laughs)
I know, that’s one of the reasons I brought it up (laughs)
Kno: It’s so damn long, no pronounces it right and honestly our own label misspells it.
Deacon: I still misspell it. (Laughs)
Kno: Our homeboy Cash the Pro can’t even pronounce it (laughs). It’s a blessing mixed with a curse. It is what it is.
For the record Kno’s version of the “Black Album” was hands down the best remix album….
Kno: You know I really appreciate that and if you have heard all of them, you just got finished yesterday. As we are speaking someone is still working on a Black Album remix.
With so much to talk about with “A Piece of Strange” let’s get into it…..Kno, once again you are the primary producer and you continue to impress, what equipment do you use?
Kno: I have something called a beat machine (laughs). This is a shout out to my people at the record store. Wanna be producers will walk in and ask for a “beat machine”
Kno: I don’t know what the fuck that is but, we have come up with a concept, it’s basically a big black box with a red button that says “BEAT” (Laughs). It might flash once a month or once a day, but when it flashes you have to hit the button and it will make a beat. You have to always have to pay attention to the “beat machine”
Kno: For real though, I use a computer and I use wax, turntables, we have a lot of different things at the house. I use the computer to sequence because it is so versatile. I have Acid, Fruity Loops and all that stuff.
What are you thoughts on Fruity Loops and the whole making beats on your laptop argument?
Deacon: I’ll tell you where Fruity Loops one up the MPC. The MPC has such limited sampling time.
Kno: Exactly, today you can hook up all kinds of out board equipment to the computer to get the result you are looking for. Producers used to be the ones on the cutting edge of technology and now they are like “naw I can’t fuck with a computer”. Honestly, I just use whatever works.
The album dropped January 24th on QN5/LA Underground
Kno: Yeah, there is a lot of miscommunication with our label about the single and a lot of different things. So as of now we are free agents, so if anybody reading this on the site wants us, just holla at your boys because the contract is up.
So this label wasn’t really a good choice?
Kno: It wasn’t a perfect match. They do what they do and we do what we do.
This is your third album, how does it feel to have three under your belt?
Kno: It feels….broke
Deacon: I was going to say that exact 5 letter word, but I didn’t know if it would be too revealing (Laughs)
Kno: It’s one of those things; the industry has changed so much. You have to kind of MF Doom/Dipset/The Game to really make money at it. At this point very few new independent artist even make it.
Deacon: I just think hip-hop has reached that point. At to a lot of the average consumers, rap is nothing more than talking, so damn near anybody can do it. People think they are going to make it to the NBA, it’s even worse with rap. Everybody thinks they can be a rap star, they just think they rap on a cd and people will pay them $500 for a show.
Kno: My major deal with hip-hop is that, sure in your mind you might think you can make it to the NBA. But you aren’t going to go out there with actual NBA prospects and making a fool out of yourself for scouts. Everybody is rap is always working on an album and they try to push their crap for $5. So you’re a kid that buys that cd and it’s always crap. My point is, you might play basketball and think you’re nice. You can be nice in your head all you want but the problem is that anybody in hip-hop thinks they can be professional at it but has no clue on how to go about it. Honestly, that fucks it up for everybody.
Deacon, you do the majority of the mic work and on this one you brought in hip-hop heavyweights Cee-Lo and Immortal Technique. What’s the difference in style of you compared to Cee-Lo or Immortal?
Deacon: I feel that we have a common ground in that we are all making music that is true to us. At its core we sought out people for this album that are true to what they believe in, even if our beliefs aren’t the same, they stay true to themselves. That’s just who we have bumped into on our musical path. That’s who we met and that’s who we got to vibe with because our music is strange like that.
Kno: The types of guest we have on our records all have a common ground through music. Whether it’s Masta Ace or Supastition, we seek them out or they seek us out because we that common ground of doing good music. A lot of people just go get a bunch of guests and pay all this money to try to sell their records. But these are people and it speaks a testament to how people can’t box us in. How many other groups do you that will have Cee-Lo on one record and the next record has Immortal Technique and it all blends, there aren’t very many. I just think it speaks on how dedicated we are to making good music rather than fitting a niche.
You guys being from the south are sometimes pigeon holed into a certain stereotype how do you deal with what south music has become and where your trying to take it?
Kno: Everything about that really gets on my nerves. On one hand you have people who hear that we are from the south and they have some idea in their head about what southern rap is all about based on what major labels want to push. That all fine and there is room for everything but, at the same time there are people who say I only listen to Cunninlynguists out of the south because they are not like southern artists. They will give us props based on that, but both of those things fucking annoy me.
Deacon: People say they only like Cunninlynguists out of the south, but when you say that you are shitting on our heritage. Because our major influence is southern music, you can’t really like us that much if you don’t know where we came from, or you don’t respect where we are from, which is the south.
Why aren’t there more hip-hop crews hailing from the southern regions?
Kno: To be honest with you, things are way too boxed off now. You have fit into some type of box or genre.
Deacon: If you don’t fit into a genre you are just going to float around and be like nobody.
Kno: That’s kind of like how we are, we not really down with anybody and we don’t have any co-signs. Jay-Z and ?uestlove aren’t going on any press junket for us, because no one can figure out what box we fit into.
Deacon: We are one of those stories that only pay off in the long run. During that long run it’s fucking tiring because you are still running. So and So stop running and I’m over here tired as hell and cramping up and I’m ready to stop running.
People are saying “A Piece of Strange” is one of the best albums they have heard in a long time, it’s being hailed by the critics….is this what you expected?
Deacon: We didn’t expect people to catch on off the bat. We figured it was going to be a more uphill journey to get people to understand the music we we’re making.
Kno: This record is very different from all our other albums and frankly it’s not an easy listen. I understand that we didn’t do something that can be digested in one sitting, you are either going to hate and most likely never listen to it again or listen to it over and over again. That’s what our fans are telling us and the more they listen to it, the more they like it. It’s a loose concept record and if you really take the time to digest it there are a lot of different things going on. But, reviewers usually don’t take the time to give a record what it deserves and that has been the biggest surprise.
Would you say you have “made it” in the rap game and if not, what are you future aspirations?
Kno: To people under us yeah, to be over us no.
Deacon: I feel blessed to be where I’m at, but do I feel like we have reached out potential and do I think we are getting to use our gifts the way that we are able to, no, not exactly. We have gotten to see the world and the nation and we have fans in all different areas of the world and I can never take that for granted. For the people below us, I’m appreciative to where we are at but I feel like we can still climb.
I’m just glad to see people are still doing good hip-hop out there….any last words?
Kno: We are working the Witchdoctor’s (Dungeon Family) new project; we are actually producing the entire project. We have to find a label for it so hopefully summer and expect some surprised guests. We are producing that as a duo under the “Piece of Strange Music” tag. We have Pack FM coming out real soon.
Deacon: We might do a little EP or something, we will be very busy.
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