Ill Knob was going too fast. Too fast in life, too fast in the streets, too fast behind the wheel. It finally caught up with the Queens-born, Brooklyn-bred and Los Angeles-based rapper in 2016. Ill Knob totaled his car as part of a DUI accident.
When his public defender said he should take the prosecutor’s offer of a six-year stint behind bars, Ill Knob fired him, hired a new lawyer, entered rehab, and stopped drinking. “That's when everything started coming,” Ill Knob says today. “I was supposed to stay there for maybe two or three weeks. I ended up staying for six to eight months.”
As he took classes about drinking and reflected on his life, things became clear. He examined the root of the evil he’d been wrestling with since childhood and found solace in a number of books, including The Alchemist and ones focusing on spirituality and earning money.
“It wasn’t really about things that I wanted, like wanting to be a rap star,” Ill Knob says. “It was about me understanding who I was, knowing myself, being a better person and just being clear on everything. It was about my purpose. What I wanted to do in life. What I wanted to get out of it. How did I want to help people? How can I be of service? That’s when everything started coming together.”
Now alcohol free and with a clear head, Ill Knob realized he needed an outlet. He decided to refocus on his musical career, one shaped by his early collaborations with RZA, Wu-Tang Clan producer 4thDisciple, Storm, Deadly Venoms, and Wu-Syndicate. In 2019, Ill Knob followed the Wu-Tang Clan’s blueprint and took his career into his own hands. He started recording new music, bought cameras to shoot his own music videos, and got to work with a new thematic output, one shaped by his newfound perspective.
“I was watching all the murders and crime that was happening and it made me sad,” he recalls. “I saw how young they were and how many bodies they had. I didn’t want to put any more of that out into the universe. If you’re my age, you should have learned something in life. So I’m like, ‘You know what, man? I'm just going to speak on positive stuff, fun and positive stuff.”
Inspired by the work of such seminal rap acts as Boogie Down Productions, Public Enemy, and Big Daddy Kane, as well as the film Krush Groove, Ill Knob expanded his musical horizons and sought greatness. “I started studying Michael Jackson, Prince,” says Ill Knob, who fell in love with hip-hop in junior high and was part of the group KGB when he worked with RZA and 4th Disciple. “I started studying everybody and the things they were saying used to go over my head back in the day. Michael Jackson used to say, ‘Study the greats and be better.’ I was like, ‘I could be a one-dimensional rapper,’ but how would that make me great?”
Ill Knob remembered that he’d made some significant inroads back in 2006. That’s when he released the “No Time” song. Built off the music from Mary J. Blige’s Dr. Dre-produced “Family Affair,” Ill Knob filmed the song’s clip at Venice Beach in 2019 and implemented what he’d learned by studying marketing. He learned how to advertise effectively and was soon garnering online acclaim from Brazil and Columbia – countries he’d never been to.
The results have been remarkable and steady. Already in 2022, Ill Knob has collaborated with Odd Wall for the inspirational self-sufficiency anthem “Keep Believing” and delivered lessons over an elegant, piano-driven beat with “Catch the Vibe.” The latter came after a brief bout with writer’s block.
“I kind of got stuck for just a second, like, ‘What Am I going to say now?’” he says. “I looked over and I had The Law Of Success book sitting next to me. On the cover, it says, ‘The master wealth builder’s complete and original lesson plan for achieving your dreams.’ So I said, ‘That's it. That's what I am. I'm the master wealth builder, complete and original.’ I just take what I’m learning, what I'm feeling, what I’m knowing and I try to cleverly give it to people that might want it.”
Elsewhere, the confrontational “Shut Up” features Ill Knob dismissing people unworthy of his time, while he showcases a gruff delivery on the head-nodding “Every Day.” While these songs have a harder edge, they also speak to resiliency and purpose.
“Being a father and a husband is another reason why I will not put negative stuff into the atmosphere, into the universe anymore through song,” he says. “I look at my family and I watch a lot of stuff. There’s a lot of rappers that speak evil into other people’s children, but then their children are riding on boats every day and going to the best schools. I want the same thing for other people’s children that I want for mine. I don’t want kids to be out there doing what I had to do, or worse, when I was growing up.”
It’s been a dramatic and remarkable evolution for Ill Knob. He’s had to unlearn many of the things that shaped his life as a child. He did so in order to stop repeating the same mistakes that were getting him into trouble in the past.
Now, Ill Knob is focused on steadily releasing thought-provoking music that brings him a profound sense of satisfaction.
“I feel like I’ve made it without music,” Ill Knob says. “I feel like I’m happy with where I’m at in life. I’m proud of myself. I’m going to be myself, do whatever I want to do and grab my own people, the ones that feel like I do. That’s it. I don't care if it takes 10 years, but I’m just going to do it.”
Written by Soren Baker