From day one, we saw potential in one of Delaware’s most talented indie artists. Throughout ’07 his buzz had both the streets and Internet going nuts. His versatile and honest rhyme style made him a well-respected figure on the West Coast and landed him a management deal with West Coast veteran, Jazzy D Management, as well as collaborations with artists like Spider Loc and G. Malone, and not to mention a recent feature in Vibe, which came as a welcome surprise to underground heavyweight.
Now that Fred wrapped up his long-waited album, Delafornia, a junction of his home area Delaware and California, he is ready to step his game up and is on a shopping spree for a record deal. Ballerstatus sat down with the big deal from the small wonder to find out how labels can convince him to tie the knot and what it is he has to offer them.
BallerStatus.com: A lot has happened since we last spoke. You released a mixtape, started to work on your debut album, signed with a new management company in Los Angeles. It looks like you have become a flagship artist for the Delaware hip-hop scene, plus your local buzz is expanding to more states in the country. How do you look back on your personal and artistical growth during the past year?
I acknowledge my past accomplishments as a blessing, but I’m so focused on the future that’s all I see right now. 2007 has definitely been my best year musically. I believe I came into my own as an artist and businessman. From throwing my own shows in Delaware, touring with my partner in rhyme AO, recording damn near a song a day, finishing projects Delafornia, On The Verge EP and releasing my mixtape called Face of DE. Also I’m working on my official solo album called The Big Deal. 2008 is already looking promising for me and I plan on landing a major deal.
BallerStatus.com: What are some of the do’s and don’ts you would recommend local artists from Delaware?
Fred Knuxx: Some do’s I would tell them is to get on they grind. If you’re serious about what you’re doing then your actions have to show it. It’s bigger than just being a hot rapper on your block. Be consistent with everything. Its times where I emailed or called people everyday until I got results. I say don’t try to sound like anyone else. Since Philly is only 30 minutes away, a lot of artists out here try to sound like Philly artists. Also don’t hate on the next man that’s making moves. Everyone has their own path and you might not know the hard work it took for that person to get where they are. The Delaware hip-hop scene has improved a lot since the last time we spoke and it’s continuing to break the barriers. I’m just happy to be apart of the movement.
BallerStatus.com: You are currently shopping for a record deal, which you also rap about in a leaked promo track called “A Message To The Labels.” Now you’ve had meetings with some labels, but in the end, you chose not to sign with any of them. What are the most important criteria for you to sign with a particular label?
Fred Knuxx: To me it all comes down to the label believing in you as an artist and see your vision. I’m not a gimmick rapper that’s just trying to milk the game with one song. I plan on making a career off of music and being a household name for years. I respect artists like Jay-Z, Nas, Snoop, Dre, Outkast… to name a few because they all came out early to mid 90s and kept their importance to the industry. Need I mention, LL Cool J who is the example of longevity. If I can last half as long as he did I would feel blessed. I want a label to look at me as a franchise artist and not a “for the moment” artist. I mean, I have catchy songs, but I’m passionate about music and making an impact, so when the right label sees that, then we will have a lot of success together for many years. It’s all about believing in the vision and executing.
BallerStatus.com: What does the process look like of you putting together a song? Do you first come up with the lyrics and find a matching beat afterwards or vice versa?
Fred Knuxx: It all starts with the beat. I don’t always choose the best beat, but I choose the right beat for me. Once the track jumps out at me, then I usually come up with a hook in like five minutes. After the hook, I write the verses around it. Your vocals and beat are like a marriage. They have to compliment each other. Its times where I hear artist on a banging beat, but it still doesn’t sound right. But, there are times where I heard an OK beat and the artist made the song a classic.
BallerStatus.com: Now that you wrapped up your first real album, Delafornia, an amazing record on which you show your diversity and qualities… and with a cast of high profile guests, it seems that this is the right time for you to break through the mainstream. How do you cope with deadlocked label and distribution meetings? Do you feel any pressure and find it difficult to keep on grinding and stay motivated?
Fred Knuxx: To me there is no pressure because I have faith that the right situation will open up for me as long as I keep grinding. Delafornia has features from Spider Loc, G. Malone, Crooked I, Akil from J5, Eastwood, Doggie’s Angels, Bad Lucc (Westurn Union) and many more talented West Coast artists. What label wouldn’t want in on that kind of project? It’s just all about finding the right fit for it, so that’s why I let my manager Jazzy D negotiate deals while I grind hard with the music and keep my name out there. My plan is to get a indie distribution deal for Delafornia and a major solo deal for my solo albums. But, if we can find the right home for both, then that’s cool with me. When you have a good product and good work ethic, then something good has to happen. That’s what keeps me motivated because I grind by nature and I know I have great material that the world needs to hear. It’s just a matter of time.
BallerStatus.com: What made you decide to first release an album with a cast of high profile guests and afterwards release a solo album with no features at all?
Fred Knuxx: I think everything is all about timing. I have over 200 solo songs done, but the time is right for Delafornia. To me it’s a perfect set up for my solo album. A lot of people might not have gave my music a chance until they heard me on a song with G. Malone, Crooked I or a Spider Loc, and once they heard the songs, it got people ready to hear more of Fred Knuxx. That’s where the solo album comes, it’s going to show people what I’m really made of as an artist and songwriter. Being from Delaware people don’t really take you serious until they see a bigger name co-signing you on a track. Not that I need any co-signers, but it’s a smart business move. Plus the project represents unity and that’s always needed in hip-hop.
BallerStatus.com: When you first started to write and record Delafornia, what did you want to achieve artistically?
Fred Knuxx: I treat each project differently. For Delafornia, I wanted to capture a more West Coast sound, but still have the universal appeal. I have a lot of love for West Coast music. Ever since I was a kid, I loved NWA, MC Eiht, DJ Quik, Spice 1, E-40, Death Row and all. So most of the time I took myself out of the equation and thought more, what would the other artist sound good on? Delafornia is more of a compilation project because I have 20 songs and only two of them were by myself. Anyone that really knows me can tell you I’m not a big fan of features, but this project is bigger than me and the artist involved, it represents unity in hip-hop and that’s what I’m all about. Now for my solo projects, I try to get as creative as possible and have everything on there from storytelling songs to club bangers and try to stay theme driven. For instance, my solo album, The Big Deal, every song has to have an impact and each single could be a separate movement.
BallerStatus.com: Now the album title is obviously a junction of Delaware and California. Not only do you work with a lot of artists from California and are you signed to a management company from Los Angeles, but you also went there on a business trip and to basically invest in your career. How do you look back on your stay there?
Fred Knuxx: It was cool just getting familiar and seeing most of the artists I made songs with. Shout out to Geo Brown and Noni Spitz for being my tour guides out there. I finally got a chance to meet with Jazzy D. The first night I was out there Jazzy took me to a G. Malone show with Hot Dollar, Suga Free and Guerilla Black. It tripped me out to see cats actually already knew who I was out there. It was like a homecoming for me. G. Malone is a cool dude, he took us out to eat in Long Beach after the show. Noni Spitz took me to a radio station out there and they played my song on air and liked it. So overall it was a good trip. Next time I go out there I plan on closing some deals.
BallerStatus.com: Most people just learn about West Side hip-hop from what they hear. Was the hip-hop scene different from what you expected it to be?
Fred Knuxx: Yeah the scene is different than what you could imagine. I’m not even going to lie, I was expecting it to look like “Boys In The Hood” out there. L.A. is big as hell, especially being from Delaware. But people dressed like how we do at home. People were mad cool and showed a lot of love. I definitely want to go back. I finally got a chance to eat at Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles (laughs).
BallerStatus.com: No release date has been set for Delafornia yet. In the meantime you are releasing a mixtape called Face of Delaforia. Tell me more about the mixtape and why it stands out from all the other mixtapes out there.
Fred Knuxx: Me and DJ K came up with Face of DE. It’s another throwback mixtape. It’s 70 minutes of real hip-hop and it sounds more like a 5’o clock mix show the way it flows. DJ Fusion did his thing with the mixing. There’s not a lot of talking on it, so you don’t have to worry about hearing a DJ’s voice all over it. A lot of artists are just putting pause tapes out, but I wanted something that sounded more fluent. I’m also working on an EP called On The Verge, which is an eight song project with a more soulful sound that I’m releasing on iTunes.
BallerStatus.com: Now you’re featured in a recent Vibe issue. How did you react when you heard you were featured in one of the most respectable hip-hop magazines and what kind of effect did it have on you as far as promotion and people contacting you?
Fred Knuxx: I feel real humbled by that situation. It was all a surprise to me. I was at an industry event and my homie came up to me like “Congrats, I heard about you being in the new Vibe magazine” and I was like “What are you talking about?” He said he got an email saying that I was picked as the top 51 unsigned rappers in the country. I thought he was joking until the next day I got an email from Vibe on MySpace saying “Congrats.” It just shows me that all my hard work is paying off and hopefully it will add more momentum for me getting a deal. If a major magazine can recognize my talent a label is right around the corner. So far I have been getting a lot of attention on MySpace from labels, artists, producers and even DJs are showing love, so that’s definitely a blessing.
For more info on Fred Knuxx, visit MySpace.com/FredKnuxx or FredKnuxx.com.