Like many who’ve come before him, Kirk Knight is dueling his way to the top of rap’s hierarchy with every verse. A member of the Brooklyn collective Pro Era, Knight has gone from go-to producer to fire-spitting MC in a matter of a few hundred thousand SoundCloud plays. Although many associate Pro Era with its current breakout star and former XXL freshman Joey Bada$$, Kirk’s relentless lyrical prowess and background in producing are slating him as next of kin.
“Me and Joey went to middle school together so out of all of the Pro’s, I know Joey the most, I knew him way back.” said Knight. “I would be beating on the table, this that and the third, and then Joey used to come through and rap to me beating on the table. And he was like, “Yo, take it to a program” you know, to elevate it.”
An agile listener of the Era can pick out Knight’s production skills on songs like “Big Dusty” and “Haezus View” from Joey’s debut album, B4.DA.$$. But don’t pigeon hole him into one role or genre just yet. At just 19-years-old, Knight has a debut EP in the works and plans to showcase a style separate from the typical Pro Era archetype.
Here’s why you should get familiar with the “dusty young fly muthafucka.”—Sidney Madden
Name: Kirlan Labarrie
Hometown: Brooklyn, N.Y.
I grew up listening to: Everything. The way I got into music was kinda different. I have a brother and like, he listened to hip-hop but it was more so at the time when he was growing up. We’re different ages, he’s like 23 now, but at that time he was listening to like Calvin Harris, Animal Collective, Yellowcard. So it’s kinda like I didn’t grow up off of that but that was kinda like the only things I knew. My first hip-hop song that I ever heard was “Ms Fat Booty” [by Mos Def] when I was like around 13, 14 and that’s what changed my whole perspective. I was like, “Yo, this is crazy, this is hard,” you know? And then, of course, my brother, he had an extensive catalog like MF Doom and Biggie, etc. He knew about everything, it’s just at that time, when I started learning to differentiate music from each other, because I was young, that’s when he was listening to Calvin Harris and all that. And then when I was like, “You heard Ms. Fat Booty?” He was like, “Yeah, of course I heard this.” And he was like, “There’s this, there’s this that and the third.”
Then that’s when I was like, “Yo, I think I wanna rap.” And he was like, “you know what to rap, you gotta learn, you gotta listen to all these people.” And he started giving me lists of people for me to listen to. Probably when I was like 15.
Most people don’t know: I eat pizza backwards. Like legit, crust first. Yeah, backwards.
My style has been compared to: Well see, it’s different. They wouldn’t compare me to Joey. I’m his producer and everything, so all the shit he likes, I make them, you know? So I’ll just make something on the side for me. Like, I have essence of “Big Dusty” and “Hazeus View” from his album on my joint, but it’s not that.
Standout record or moment to date: Touring with Mick [Jenkins]. That was amazing. That was like the changing point in my life. Because it was me on the road I was the only Pro, the only other Pro with me was Ed and then Dee came after to shoot videos and stuff like that. But the only Pro there was was Ed and he’s my DJ, he’s like everything, so I was just like, “Damn, I’m really on tour by myself.” The whole tour was all Chicago artists, I was the only New York artist. So it was just like seeing how they move, the type of music that they’re into and then when I went to Chicago, seeing how their environment and their culture just brought me in.
And the thing is, I love Mick Jenkins, that’s my brother right there to the death. Just musically, mentally, like I really fuck with him. And in terms of who’s really politicin’ I was actually learning things. Because at the end of the day he’s 24 and I’m 19 so I’m always going to look up, you know what I’m saying? I look up to a lot of people because I’m very young. So I just try to take from each person and add it to my little book of what my life should be. So that’s why it was a really changing point in my life because just watching Mick get up there every night and just the way he stands and preaches to the crowd or just the way he looks at each person’s face is just like, that’s a whole experience. That tour really helped me learn how to create an experience for the fan and really be into what you talking about, what your message is.
My goal in hip-hop is: I’m trying to learn how to make a thousand genres of music. From deep house to reggae to anything and everything. It’s different. I don’t really have a genre and that’s why Joey said that was a good thing ‘cuz like, at first I was trying to follow the whole Pro ‘90s thing, you know what I’m saying? Because I seen how Joey was bodying it so to watch him grow from that point was crazy. And the flows was just getting tighter and he’s like, “No, you’re in a good place and they going to try to put you in a box, you know what I’m saying?” And that’s the thing I want to eliminate. No limits, no box, no genre. That’s why I try to give myself no genre because it helps me create things and move onto to better things or express a feeling that I really want to express about my current life or situation.
That’s lowkey the main point to be honest with you because then it’s like I can just make how I feel true from the ground up. I can make how I feel this type of way, like, “Oh, I heard something”, and then I’ll just rap on it. It’s just different because there’s a lot of rapping styles, there’s a lot of producing styles but it all starts with the beat.
I’m the next: I’m the next artist of the young generation. Just off the fact that, like I just learned that Kehlani is the same age as me, I ain’t even know that. But that’s basically just what I mean, it’s just to be able to be taken on a serious level at this age is just a blessing itself because like I said, when you tap into the younger generation, you’re actually growing with that generation.
So, think about it like this, when Joey’s album came out and he was performing shit from 1999 and Summer Knights, the transition is kind of different. It was to a point where it went reverse and not a lot of people knew it. And it’s like, the real fans knew it. And some people just knew the album, but the people that knew the album were like 14, 15 year olds so now they’ll go back and listen for it. It’s kinda like a whole time thing. That’s a thing I like to play off a lot is time because, you know, thats what it is, it’s different times. Now, we’re the generation that’s going to grow with our fans in terms of mind, age and all that. Maybe like, when Meth was out and his fans, now they all old with the gold teeth, that’s probably going to be us in a few years, you know what I’m saying. It’s kinda like a whole thing restarts a cycle.
And that’s what I feel like is the illest part because we can connect with them really because we’re all talking about the same shit, all going through the same things. That’s how it is for Brooklyn, even with the slang. There’s a lot of people that’s older than me that don’t know the slang, but I know the slang because I’m in the game. Shit like that. Just growing.
“Amethyst Rockstar” with Joey Bada$$
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