No Trivia

Archive for the ‘Kneel Knaris’ Category

Interview with Kneel Knaris

leave a comment

Maybe you caught my review of Kneel Knaris’ Going Sane In a Crazy World where I called it “rap album of the year” because well it is. Here’s an interview I did with Kneel about the album and he breaks down some select songs and the construction of the album and other stuff.

Written by Brandon

June 20th, 2009 at 3:00 am

Posted in Kneel Knaris

Kneel Knaris’ Going Sane In a Crazy World: Rap Album of the Year

leave a comment

Where most wizened, hard-ass rap albums end–with the song or two that drops the tough talk and allows the inward paranoia and depression to bleed through–is where Kneel Knaris’ eighteen-track trip through bipolar disorder, Going Sane In a Crazy World begins.

On the intro, “Prologue (Act I)”, Kneel’s hearty eloquence confesses A.A-style affirmations like “the person I fear the most is me” atop some medical soap opera piano twinkles but eventually, a fractured, waddling beat lets the flood of disclosures and revelations rush through and wash the relative tact away. “I fear God but the Devil’s taking over” Kneel announces, like he’s jumped from his seat at the weekly meeting and then adds, “Thoughts of suicide are better than staying sober”. This track’s a kind of throat-clearing (and maybe room-clearing) announcement as to what kind of album Going Sane is: one-note, dark, serious, confessional.

-”Never Gonna Make It”

But Knaris doesn’t forget this is a rap album and so he spits suicidal couplets with the passion of a Scarface or Killer Mike, not the lethargic mumbles of recent sad-sack hip-hop (Kanye or Kid Cudi). “Never Gonna Make It”, the album’s first proper song, is essentially a “diss track” only Kneel’s going at himself with the fervor usually assigned to an opponent in a cipher: “You ain’t never been paid to do a show/You ain’t never seen more than ten spins on the radio/You ain’t never sell more than twenty albums/All you ever do is hit the bar with Gerard, Troy, and Malcom/Sad sack of shit…”

This sense of flipping expectations or finding some new way to do some old shit is a staple in most really good rap, but Knaris pushes it even further, using the it’s one thing, then it’s another and it’s both, plurality of rap to reflect Going Sane’s bipolar conceit. Save for a few songs where Knaris does approach a depressed mumble (especially the palpable “Monologue Act III”), he’s usually spitting his laundry list of worries, concerns, and psychosis with a gleeful passion, which is unexpected but makes total sense for an album trying to approximate the feelings of bipolar disorder. The album’s two recurring symbols are Guinness (a depressant) and Starbucks (a stimulant)–also featured on the album art, standing tall over a knocked-over bottle of pills–and it’s a brilliant, but down-to-earth simplification of the album’s themes.

-”Silver Lining”

Starting with “Intervention”, where Kneel rejects the advice of a therapist (voiced by E Major), and all the way to the half-victorious “Silver Lining”, Going Sane bungees from depressed nihilism (“Dear Lord”, “1000 MG Act IV”, “I Don’t Wanna Feel”) to moments of kinda clarity (“No Apologies”, the title track). “Silver Lining” is especially affecting because it’s basically the type of song that should end the album–there’s hints of understanding, regret, and change in there–but it would be too perfect of an ending and there’s a kind of dark joke when Going Sane keeps going past that “moment of clarity” track.

There’s a discomforting, but smart refusal to wrap it all up cleanly, despite the brilliant overlapping of images and symbols, and the final two tracks that do in effect, summarize the album (personally on “Something To Talk About”, clinically on “Epilogue (Act V)”), there’s a great deal of loose ends on Going Sane, giving it a sense of continued life and past-the-running-time struggle, beyond just frantic soul beats and quivering raps from Knaris.

And this is the weird paradox of Going Sane: It’s a remarkably together piece of art about how Kneel Knaris doesn’t have his life together. One thing the Geto Boys or say, Beanie Sigel got away with is not making cohesive albums because the strains of self-destruction and depression in the music are so real it makes sense they can’t get their shit together for an entire album. Going Sane’s cohesion and narrative thrust’s a testament to Kneel’s relative escape or acceptance of his disorder. That he got it together enough to sculpt a concept album that never gets too concept album and grabs on for dear life to the ugly, all-too-real details of bipolar disorder and depression, is where the hope lies.

‘Going Sane in a Crazy World’ is currently available digitally on iTunes and Amazon. It’s currently selling for $7.99 at Amazon…

Written by Brandon

May 28th, 2009 at 1:50 am

Posted in Baltimore, Kneel Knaris