Hieroglyphics has a new artist on their roster and he’s a real Knobody. Born and raised in Oakland, California, Knobody has been working with the likes of Bumpin Music and Beethoven for years and he says the Hiero camp been a perfect fit since day one. “I’m ecstatic about working with Hieroglyphics,” he exclaims, “because I feel this is like the perfect fit for my music. They give me an outlet, a forum, where I can make sense with my music and they won’t try to change that. They love that about what I do.” Knobody has an album ready to be released in September titled Tha Clean-Up and this week he’s sitting down with us at RapReviews to discuss his history, how he linked up with Hiero, and how he found a way to make money selling his CDs for only two bucks a pop.
Adam Bernard: How did you link up with the Hieroglyphics clique?
Knobody: A friend of mine, Manip, which is short for Mr. Manipulation, we worked on a lot of music together over the years and somehow he got connected to Casual and Casual got a hold of one of his disks and I was featured on one of the songs. When he talked with Casual again Casual had my friend bring me down to the studio and that’s when we initially met.
AB: How many years ago was that?
Knobody: A year and some change maybe.
AB: That’s really recent. What were you doing before that?
Knobody: Just pushing albums on the street independently. For the past four or five years I’ve been selling my music for a living. I was putting together CDs with 6-8 songs and just going out on the street and selling them. I kept rotating the songs so they wouldn’t get old.
AB: You said you were making a living off of your music that way, which very few people can do. How the heck did you make that happen?
Knobody: Basically what I did was I started off with the 6-8 songs on a disc and I would go out and sell them for five bucks a piece and then it hit me, as much as I want to be surviving and making a few dollars I want as many people to hear me as possible so I started putting together four songs on a disc and I just started selling them out on the street for two bucks a piece. I figured for two bucks some people are going to give me a tip just because they respect my hustle and some people are only gonna have one dollar on them, so if somebody gives me three dollars it balances out when I give somebody a CD for one dollar. For a long time I was just selling CDs for two bucks a piece and going out every day trying to make my quota.
“I would try to move about a hundred discs a day.”
AB: What was a normal quota for you?
Knobody: I would try to move about a hundred discs a day.
AB: And that was enough to make a profit?
Knobody: I was only spending 50-70 cents a disc, if that. I kept my overhead as low as possible. Something that I’ve been doing since I started rapping is I’ve been trying to let my music speak for itself so when people be like “man you don’t have no artwork?” That’s because I’m an artist, but my art is audio, not visual.
AB: You mentioned you wanted to get your music out to as many people as possible, but are there any other reasons you chose seven songs and four songs as your CD lengths?
Knobody: I’m constantly working on music so I wanted to put together a whole project but still have something for people to hear me on right now. I would be working on my project on the side and maybe put together four songs just for the street. It’s less tiring to burn four songs on a disc than it is eight songs. For one disc it’s not a big difference, but when you’re burning a hundred discs a day it makes a big difference.
AB: You’re with Hiero now and Hiero has released about 17 billion different albums this year. How are you going to go about separating yourself from not just the rest of the rap world, but even members of your own clique?
Knobody: Once again I’m trying to let my music speak for itself. They saw something special in me. I’m from the Bay area, Oakland, California, and there’s a lot of the same type of rap out here. There’s a whole bunch of BS being put out all over the radio and I tell my friends all the time you can make music that makes dollars or you can make music that makes sense, it seems like you can’t do both of them. You usually fall into one of two categories, either the gangster rap out here or like a backpack rapper and I kinda try to find that balance between both of them. Hopefully that will set me apart in the long run.
AB: So talk to me about the album. What are you looking to get across on Tha Clean-Up?
Knobody: When I write it’s about expression. I pretty much write for myself so nine times out of ten I’m just looking to vent. I don’t write songs like OK, let me see if I can appease this crowd with this song. I won’t put certain stuff in songs that go against my belief system. I try to express myself the best I can through my music.
“It’s about expression, man, so I just hope people hear that and say OK, this cat is telling his truth.”
AB: With this album, what does it have to do, not even necessarily sales-wise, but impact-wise, for you to consider it a success?
Knobody: I just hope it’s received the way it was written to be received. Like I said, it’s about expression, man, so I just hope people hear that and say OK, this cat is telling his truth. If you don’t buy the album, at least hear it and say this cat is not doing what everybody else is doing. Understand a little about Knobody.
AB: Speaking of understanding a little bit about Knobody, how did you choose your name?
Knobody: It chose me. My name is JD, that’s what everybody in my neighborhood and even my parents call me, but (in Hip-Hop) there’s Jermaine Dupri and maybe a hundred other JD’s we haven’t heard of. I knew I had to eventually come up with a name for myself if I wanted to really make that mark that I was trying to make. I kept racking my brain trying to come up with a name and it just hit me one day, Knobody, that’s perfect! I feel like everybody is aspiring to be somebody and I feel like there are more nobodies. I feel like there are more of us aspiring to be something than there are those that are actually there, that have made it. I felt like I could relate to that.
AB: When you do make it, though, can Knobody be a somebody?
Knobody: I’ll always be Knobody. I said it in one of my songs, too. “I figure Knobody’s the perfect name for myself / especially since everybody’s already somebody else.”
AB: I’m hearing babies crying in the background, I’m hearing beeping, are you buying babies on the black market during this interview?
Knobody: (laughs) No, I’m not. I’m walking around my neighborhood right now so you’re hearing all the background ambience of my neighborhood.
AB: I know we’ve covered a lot, but is there anything else about you that you feel makes you uniquely different from everyone else out there?
Knobody: I create my music pretty much the same way I live my life, I won’t compromise. Once my mind is made up about something, or once I feel a certain way about something, I won’t compromise. I think a lot of artists will conform to what a label or what somebody else thinks they should be doing. That’s what’s gonna set me apart. And I don’t have nothing to prove to nobody. I don’t mind telling people I ain’t no killer. I don’t want to be no killer. There are so many people that are trying to say I got this or I got that or I did this to this person, man I ain’t about none of that, I’m just trying to do me. Hopefully that will set me apart. That’s what’s been setting me apart for the last five, six, seven years in my music and in my career and in my life.