Today’s Feature – July 10-11: Mikel Knight

July 12, 2008 at 2:37 pm (Today's Feature)

You know, Mikel Knight has a point. You can’t deny the unreal success of the rock-rap connection, with bands like Linkin Park constantly dominating the charts and the airwaves. Nor can you deny the craze of Raggaeton, as hip-hop successfully blends with Spanish stylings. So, why not combine two of the most popular genres in the world? What would the world be like with a country-hip hop connection?

Listening to Mikel Knight, it sounds pretty promising. Growing up listening to Lionel Richie and Alabama, as well as Lynyrd Skynyrd and Stevie Wonder, Knight is winning over fans around the world with his new formula of country hip-hop. The formula includes ‘hip-hop drums, the swing of rap music that makes a kid want to dance. Then add the musicianship, the lyrical content that country has.’ And Knight trusts this equation to excel; after all, Snoop Dog was just on the CMT awards.

And he’ll tell you he isn’t the first one to think about this. But he has best demonstrated it on his new album, ‘Urban Cowboy.’ He says all you need to know comes from the title, ‘It’s the urban side of life and the country style of life. It’s big-city country boy music.’ Check out his single ‘Saddle Up,’ and see if he can make you into a believer. His performance might win you over too along with his band The Outlaws. He looks to the best for inspiration in showmanship – guys like Kid Rock and Garth Brooks.

While Mikel Knight will continue to tour tirelessly, you may catch him around the movie set as well. He’s been directing videos and acting for some time, and now he’s written a film. Somewhere down the road you’re going to run into this guy. So keep your eyes open. And get into the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Mikel Knight

PEV: Hey Mikel, how are you?

Mike Knight (MK): Good – hey, are we recording this? Or do you have a fast hand and you’re jotting it down?

PEV: Nah, we’re gonna record it.

MK: Alright good, sometimes I’m kind of informative and I can talk fast so boy you would need to have a really fast hand.

PEV: (laughing) Oh no, we’re going to record it, don’t worry. So where are you right now?

MK: Actually I’m in Nashville right now. I’ve been here for about three days. I have a gig on the 31st – it seems I travel every other day. I’ve basically been on the road for about a year and a half straight. But as well as the single is doing I could very well be on the road for the next year and a half.

PEV: How do you like life on the road?

MK: I actually chose this line of work because I’ve always been one of those guys that never complained and remembered that I worked for myself. I see a lot of people around me who are 6, 7,8 year college students and it’s only because mom and dad paid their rent while they were still in college. Some people make the decision to do what I do early on – I was doing this at 17. Kinda worked out for me. Can’t really complain. Life on the road has it’s up’s and down’s definitely but I work for myself.

PEV: What’s been your favorite city to play?

MK: Oh man! To play? Or be in?

PEV: (laughing) Well to be in might be a more interesting answer so let’s go with that one.

MK: Well actually Tokyo to play and be in. One of my favorite places I’ve ever been in my life. I was very well-received – sort of like my comeback to music. I was actually very big in Japan, so playing there was pretty awesome. Other than that, I love LA because I’m into the entertainment and the movie side of things – I write films as well as direct my own videos. But I’m also a Texas boy – I’d never marry a woman from LA (laughing). I still love the people of Texas, the people of Tennessee.

PEV: That’s pretty cool. I think people would be surprised to hear that Japan has such a large country base.

MK: Japan just has a need for new things. They’re up on their technology and on their fashion, but behind on their music. But it’s the hip-hop side of country that they love.

PEV: What kind of hip-hop music were you listening to growing up?

MK: It was before hip-hop – when I left home my mom gave me a big milk crate of vinyl records so I was listening to country and soul – Lionel Richie and Alabama. Or it was Lynyrd Skynyrd and Stevie Wonder. That was what my mom had in her record collection. That’s probably where I got my love for music period. Growing up though, I really started to enjoy hip-hop, kind of how my son is now. I mean if you were one of those first 750,000 people that bought MC Hammer of the Sugar Hill Gang, you literally took hip-hop into the forefront of the music world, the most lucrative genre in the business. I was one of those kids. My first rap tape ever must have been The Fat Boy’s Crushin.’ I must have been 8 year old. I don’t even think I had permission to buy a tape at the time. And then all the way into Dr. Dre, Snoop Dog and Tupac. LL Cool J. I really followed it as a whole – I wasn’t into just one certain artist.

PEV: Your sound is actually very interesting – it’s been described as “country hip-hop.” Tell us about this new style you have.

MK: There’s a formula we have. The one thing I want to tell everybody is this has been thought of for a long time. It may not have been accepted 2, 3 of 4 years ago, but the bottom line is that people have been thinking about this because we’ve seen rock and rap like Kid Rock and Linkin Park, Reggaeton is just Spanish music and rap music mixed. The only thing left in this world that hasn’t been mixed aside from polka and rap (laughs) is country and rap. Snoop Dog was on the CMT’s the other day – that tells you right there that somebody has already thought of this. The powers of country music have already seen the youth and where they’re going today. Guys like Cowboy Troy aren’t authentic – he’s an older man. He grew up listening to country, but more power to him. I took a more genuine stance on it. Growing up this became a way of life for me.

Here’s our formula – we take hip-hop drums, the swing of rap music that makes a kid want to dance. Then we add the musicianship, the lyrical content that country has. Country artists take 3, 4, or 5 artists writing their songs. No other genre can move me with lyrics like country.

PEV: What can people expect from a live Mikel Knight performance?

MK: You would probably get the energy of a Kid Rock and Garth Brooks, but I have my own style, from the outfits I wear to my demeanor – it’s always really come from Texas, with a little bit of spice added from LA. My voice doesn’t really sound too Texas, but my show will definitely capture my image that I’ve grown up with. And I have a great band called The Outlaws.

PEV: What can people expect from the latest release, “Urban Cowboy?”

MK: It kind of says it in the title. It’s the urban side of life and the country style of life. I like to tell people, if I could chance the way I grew up, the places that I’ve been and the way I’ve come up, maybe I would. But you can’t change the way you grew up. It’s big-city country boy music. I spent a childhood in the country but grew up at that crucial time between 14 and 21 years old in the city. There’s some different songs like “All on my Own,” which talks about how nobody believed in something like country-rap music. No one could have told you some years ago that Snoop Dog and Willie Nelson were going to do a duet. The song has to do with the decisions I’ve made, right or wrong. Then there’s the new single, “Saddle Up.” Now, I know that any day God can take me away from this Earth, so you better live every day with a smile on your face, every day you wake up. That song is just a fun song, a song for the club, a song for people to smile and dance to. I’m sort of in that era with songs without cursing in them, songs without the bitches and the ho’s. Expect a lot from this record. It’s genuine Mikel Knight.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about you?

MK: I used to not believe in God. I was the kid who went from nothing to something – when I was a kid I didn’t believe in much. I had to go to prison to find God. We’re all here for a reason. Everybody has a gift – we just need to figure it out. I believe in destiny, that’s why I have it tattooed on my neck. I could have died 5 or 6 times, so it took some time for me to figure it out. Also, my mom’s my best friend, and I’m a gentleman.

PEV: Speaking of your mom, how have your family and friends reacted to your career?

MK: My mom is my biggest, most amazing supporter in my life. She gave us very good values – really pushed my brother and I to be the best we could. It’s not so easy to support a son who has promise, and then goes to prison. I gotta give my mom a lot of credit. I think it makes her smile to see me grow up into a man that really changed for the positive.

PEV: When you’re not writing or performing, what can we find you doing in your spare time?

MK: Taking care of my daughter and my son. I just had a baby girl named Brooklyn about nine months ago, and my son is a little wild child like me. I also run a company with the same 12 friends I’ve had my whole life – an overseas distribution company for other artists. I always wanted to be a business man. I also write screenplays, and I just shot another video. I love acting and directing. I spent a lot of my life having, but now I’m really focusing on the business side. It’s still fun, but I’m really trying to better my company, 1203 Entertainment.

PEV: I actually just had a daughter – any words of wisdom?

MK: With a little girl? Mine changed my life in a different way than my son. It will hit you when you see her. I wasn’t expecting that, but I knew right away the different kind of bond between a father and a daughter. I already have a rule that she can’t date until she’s out of the house – I’m going to be that kind of dad.

PEV: Tens years from now, where do you see your career?

MK: I have really known for a long time that I had something in me to make me do the things that I’m doing. I should have stopped a long time ago when record labels were first turning me away. I know years ago things would have been different when it comes to country-rap music, and years from now someone may be doing it better than me. But I know that country-rap music is going to be here to stay. I’d like to one day see a country-rap category on the CMT’s.

PEV: So what’s next for Mikel Knight?

MK: My “Saddle Up” tour probably continues for another year and I might sign a joint-venture deal. I’ve been independently successful, and I’ll never sign another record deal, but my label might take on a joint-venture deal with a major label. I’ll be overseas as well, and I have a new film called “The Plex” about an apartment complex, a comedy mix between “Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels,” “Half Baked,” and “Friday.” Got some new material as well on (web site). I’m into making records, and I’m going to break the sound.

PEV: Great! Well, thanks for talking to me today Mikel. I know you’re a busy guy.

MK: Thanks for taking the time sir. For more information on Mikel Knight, check out www.MikelKnight.com

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