Meet Knowledge the Pirate, The First Gangster To Rap Over Neptunes Beats

Categories: Roc Marciano

Knowledge the Pirate
Knowledge the Pirate counts himself as a member of the rapper Roc Marciano's inner circle. Alongside KA, who we recently nominated as recording the best New York City rap album of the year, Knowledge appeared on Marci's acclaimed Reloaded project and was also around during the recording of that project's predecessor, Marcberg. But it turns out Knowledge's story goes back long before the recent rise of Roc Marci -- as he tells us here with a personal history that involves bouts with Teddy Riley, Biggie's girl, and Will Smith's old bodyguard Charlie Mack.

See also:
- Meat Guns, Weed Brownies, and Riesling: Our Conversation With Roc Marciano
- The 10 Best New York City Rap Albums of 2013

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Welcome To The Quiet Storm: A Primer on Drumless Rap

Roc Marciano

Boom-bap be damned! The latest micro-movement in hip-hop involves rappers layering their rhymes over production that either ditches the idea of using drums entirely or mixes any errant snares so low down in the mix as to be barely audible. Hooked around the interchangeable Action Bronson, Roc Marcy and Alchemist trifecta, here's a primer on the quiet storm that's beginning to define the tail-end of 2012's rap schedule.

See also:
- Meat Guns, Weed Brownies, and Riesling: Our Conversation With Roc Marciano
- Every Food Reference on Action Bronson's New Album Rare Chandeliers
- Party Supplies' Five-Step Guide To Making Music From YouTube

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Meat Guns, Weed Brownies, and Riesling: Our Conversation With Roc Marciano

Roc Marciano

In Tweets is Watching, Phillip Mlynar asks local artists questions based solely on the contents of their Twitter timeline.

Next week, Roc Marciano will release his exceptional new album, Reloaded. It's a fitting success for Roc Marcy, who used to count himself a part of Busta Rhymes' Flipmode Squad and then the Pete Rock-endorsed group The UN before achieving solo acclaim for 2010's Marcberg album. Tapping into Roc Marcy's Twitter account, here he explains away the idea of a "meat gun," his crush on Sheila E, and why he's diggin' Earl Sweatshirt's raps.

See also:
- Download: Roc Marciano, "Raw Deal"
- Sean Price: "Cornel West Is The Devil"
- Top Five Hometown-Obsessed NYC Rappers

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The Ten Best Hometown Productions By Large Professor

Large Professor cuts an outside figure in the New York hip-hop scene these days. As a producer who also happens to rap in an endearingly economical manner, he's integral to any overview of hip-hop's storied golden era--he tutored under Paul C, contributed production input to Eric B & Rakim songs, scored a classic with his own group Main Source's Breaking Atoms, and helped kick-start the career of a [then] Nasty Nas when Queensbridge's golden son was still rocking a band-aid over his cheek in promotional pics. But since his late-'80s emergence, Large Pro's solo career has unfortunately faltered, with his intended solo debut The LP caught up in label politics and long-delayed, and his subsequent statement on Matador, First Class, resonating limply at best. As a producer, Large Pro has never caught a particularly pop break either--unlike, say, DJ Premier he's never been handed an opportunity to gallivant with a feisty chanteuse. Instead, he's maintained a dedication to working with grass-roots New York rap talent as if the very idea of cracking the mainstream is absurd.

Large Pro's newest project, the album Still On The Hustle, reunites him with fellow Queens resident Neek The Exotic--a pairing last heard on 2003's Exotic Is Raw set, for which Large Pro handled around half of the production duties. It's a release unlikely to trouble those whose RSS feeds frolic above rap's underground layer, but it's a collaboration that allows Large Pro to continue to dwell in a hip-hop world of his own creation. When I interviewed him a couple of years ago, he was late because he was cycling around Flushing Meadows Park while listening to his iPod--the impression given was that he'd prefer to produce at his own leisurely pace and on his own terms rather than pucker up and play the major-label game. It's a stance that should be applauded. With that in mind, here are ten commendable hometown anthems produced--as opposed to remixed, which would be a whole other lengthy listicle--by Flushing's finest self-proclaimed "live guy with glasses."

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Top Five Young, Hometown-Obsessed New York City Rappers

Roc Marciano, leading the charge
Last year a small, underground pocket of NYC-based hip-hop found its voice again. With Roc Marciano's unimpeachable Marcberg album as the catalyst, a crew of loosely associated artists shook off that tired cliché about our city's commercial-outsider status and, for the first time since the height of the Dipset era, reaped the dividends of pulling from their immediate environment. They dropped tracks paying tribute to graffiti culture, rattled off rhymes about various Queens neighborhoods as if reading from a street map, shot videos on the type of deli-and-produce-stand-populated blocks you walk down every day, and, fittingly for a city where everyone's an amateur chowhound, embraced a recurring culinary sub-theme: mixtapes titled after ghee, say, or raps mentioning pan-seared tilapia and heirloom vegetables.

There's no snappy, collective tag for the sound, and no sense that the whole thing's about to be co-opted by major labels and established artists. It's not led by teenagers, and there's certainly no quirky signature dance. But that all just adds to the organic charm. It's healthy hearing local artists celebrating the city around them -- consider it the aural equivalent of shopping at outer-borough mom-and-pop stores, rather than indulging the big-box invasion of Manhattan. Here, then, are the five leading rap acts chronicling the authentic sound of New York in 2011.

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The Best Local Music Of 2010: Our Annual Mixtape Starring Sweet Bulbs, Marnie Stern, Sharon Van Etten, and Special Guest Hannibal Buress

Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing MP3s from new and emerging local talent. This is a compilation of 2010's best local music, lovingly curated by YIMBY columnist Christopher R. Weingarten. See last year's tape here.

R.I.P. Chris Weingarten's old blue trucker hat. Photo by Rebecca Smeyne.
Have you heard the one about how the recession is over? Uh, don't tell it to New York City's musical community. While our center-of-the-universe assembly line of hype puttered on unabated, 2010's biggest up-and-comer success stories were actually beamed from the outer limits of the five boroughs--Titus Andronicus (Glen Rock, NJ), Screaming Females (New Brunswick, NJ), Phantogram (Saratoga Springs, NY), Real Estate (Ridgewood, NJ)--places where money can go to tour vans instead of landlords, where musicians aren't paying $400 a month for the luxury of sharing a practice space with three other bands. The remaining New York City indie-crossovers all benefited from frugal one-man home-recording set-ups (Oneohtrix Point Never, Matthew Dear), stripped down line-ups (the Drums, Sleigh Bells, Matt & Kim) or simply embracing the idea that sounding mushy is smarter than buying new gear (Small Black).

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Download: Roc Marciano, "Raw Deal"

Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing MP3s from new and emerging local talent.

The long-in-the-works debut album from Long Island rapper Roc Marciano, Marcberg (out now via Fat Beats), is the ultimate subway listen--a mix of murky Walkman-ready boom-thwap, the subterranean feel of Raekwon's water-damaged Purple Tape, and labyrinthine rhyme schemes that require the deepest of headphone listening. It's a defiantly New York rap record, and long overdue, as the veteran MC has put in work as a member of the Flipmode Squad and nimble '00s crew The UN. His experience shows in the effortless, workmanlike rapping on Marcberg, where Marciano displays an ease with wordplay that is downright superhuman--think Biggie's freestyles or Smif-N-Wessun most undisputed classics. Check the album's best track, "Raw Deal," where the first line of every verse still rhymes with the last, a constant spiral of assonance tumbling and unraveling:

Slow-drag 'em, this is how you go platinum
Chrome magnum, rolling in my gold Aston
Blow past em, ask 'em, cold smashin', rope and gag 'em...

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