Queens has always been known for its legendary rappers including LL Cool J, Nas, Mobb Deep, A Tribe Called Quest, Run DMC, Kool G Rap, CNN and more. What’s interesting about Queens is that their music has encompassed all parts of rap whether it be gangsta rap, conscious rap or everything in between. I say that to say this you’ll never know what kind of music you’ll get out the borough.
One up-and-coming artist coming out of the legendary borough is rising rapper/singer/songwriter, Aaron Knight. Aaron Knight is fairly new to the game, but the Sunnyside Queens native is quickly making a name for himself. Before he took his talents to Queens, Aaron was born in Newburgh, NY and was briefly raised by his father and mother who lived a life of crime and substance abuse, until he moved to Queens where he was raised by his grandmother.
First falling in love with basketball, Aaron took his love for the game and pushed himself to be the best which eventually turned into him getting recruited by New York City powerhouse Christ The King. During his time there, he helped Christ The King win a City and State Championship. Shortly after, Aaron fell out of love with the game that once brought him joy and fell in love with music something that he always had a passion for but never focused on 100%.
Taking his talent for writing poetry and combining it with his rapping and singing Aaron Knight began recording music and working tirelessly to perfect his craft. After spending almost 8 years developing his sound and image he released his debut EP When It Get’s Knight Out in November of last year. The 9 track project highlighted Aaron’s knack for songwriting, ability to create hit records and introduced the world to his unique sound which is a mix of elements from hip-hop, pop, trap, and R&B. The EP caught the ears of several notable hip-hop publications, receiving coverage from XXL, The Fader, Vibe, The Source, and more.
Along with releasing When It Gets Knight Out in 2016 he performed at World Star Hip-Hop’s showcase at SXSW. At the end of the year, he joined Rich The Kid on his Flexin Tour, but things didn’t turn out as planned. After performing night after night and gaining new fans in every city halfway through he was kicked off the tour. He wasn’t kicked off for causing any altercations but for having such good performances during his sets, something he prides himself on and taking all of the energy out of the crowd before Rich the Kid could even hit the stage. While it did leave him heartbroken and a little depressed at first he didn’t let it stop his momentum and it pushed him to go even harder with his music.
With his debut EP out and being hungrier than ever, the Queens native is gearing up to flood the game with numerous singles, which includes the recently released “Side Nixxa,” which has already garnered over 500k streams on Spotify, “Come With Me,” “Drugz,” “Real Niggaz,” “Pull Up” and more over the next few months. Get familiar with Aaron Knight and learn about his influences, transitioning from basketball to music, the Rich The Kid situation and much more in our interview below as well as the premiere of the video for “Side Nxxa” and his debut EP When It Gets Knight Out.
Update: Rich The Kid had a few things to say about Aaron Knight’s story. Rich said he never knew or authorized him to be on the tour and that he was performing at venues before he even arrived, by paying a person inside of his camp that is now fired.
Before you fell in love with music you played basketball for Christ The King and even took them to win a City and State Championship. Can you tell me a little bit about how that experience might have shaped your transition over to your music? What were some of the fundamentals that you gained from that experience?
I think it shifted towards music when I saw all the hard work you have to put in to be successful at something. When we won the City and State Championship our girls won it too and it was the first time a boys and girls team won at the same time. It was just a successful ass program so that work ethic I just brought it to music.
The fundamentals I gained from that experience would have to be working hard, being dedicated, trusting the process and not trying to force anything, being confident in your game. I’m the same way with music, I’m confident in my music. I don’t try to do something I’m not good at, I just stick to what I’m good at and I challenge myself and push myself to get good at other things at the same time.
When did your passion for music begin to grow and when did you make the decision to push basketball aside and pursue music full-time? Was there anything in particular that pushed you? Was it a difficult decision for you to make (to walk away from the court)?
My passion for music grew when there was this big game we had and I wound up not playing because my team was stacked and I was junior. These girls walked by the bench after the game and they were like “yo look at number 22 he’s cute, but he ain’t get no burn.” Once I heard that I was like oh no I’m making music. I was always writing and joking around with music, but that made me take it way more serious and I was like yo I could go way further in music than I could in ball. That’s really what shifted me and made me take it for real.
Your sound is a mix of trap, pop, hip-hop, and R&B. Who were some of your influences growing up and when did you know that you found your “sound?” What do you think sets you apart from other artists in the genre?
Aight, so this is going to sound crazy. So I was like 9, 10 years old I went into Best Buy and I have no idea why but I saw this NWA album I bought and right next to it was a Michael Jackson album and I bought that one. Yo, for like two years straight I was listening to just those albums, that’s it. So you got the rapping shit and the singing, and I was just listening to them and I soaked in everything on those albums.
I knew I found my sound when I couldn’t compare myself to anyone, that’s when I knew I found it and I think what sets me apart is my range. I can croon, I can sing to you, I can go high in notes and if I got to sing a trap bar, I can sing a trap bar and it won’t sound forced. So I think my range is one thing that really sets me apart and of course, my stage presence, my shows be crazy, my shows are cool there fun to go to.
In November of last year, you released your debut EP When It Gets Knight Out. What was the inspiration behind the project and what was your creative process like when putting the EP together?
A lot of my inspiration from that project was from being in different situations throughout the year, going out with my boys turning up, having girl problems, this and that. Also, all my sessions were at night into morning, so I was like damn when it gets night out the EP speaks differently because that’s when I was making the records when it gets night out. That was really my inspiration for the project to get everything off my chest.
If you had to pick one track to introduce yourself, what would it be and why?
So one of the songs you would probably know for the EP is “Holy.” That song is so me because it’s talking about everything you want, but you’re not going to give to me, I’m not going to wait for it, I’m going to take it. That’s me.
Shortly after dropping your EP you went on tour alongside Rich The Kid for his “No Flexin Tour,” but halfway through the tour, you were kicked off. Can you explain how you ended up on the tour in the first place and what transpired for you to be removed from the tour?
I ended up on that tour because my management they hooked that up, they had the plug on the tour and they made that opportunity happen for me. What made me get kicked off the tour was people started asking questions, like yo whose this and my shows were getting better and better. The crowds were loving me and they were really into and in most of these places they don’t know me so they shouldn’t even be rocking with me like that but they were just loving the music and the vibe. Homie (Rich The Kid) got tight about it and he pulled the plug, it’s all good though because we coming back stronger than ever.
What did you take from that experience and how has it pushed you to go harder?
The one thing I took from the experience was I was noticing in the crowds there was a whole bunch of dudes. I was like damn it should be more women. So as soon as I got off the tour I was like yo I want to sing more. Catering to the male audience is cool but I want the females though, so I really want to cater to the females. Being on that tour just really shifted my mind, like I want to cater to women and then have the dudes follow along after that.
With your debut EP out now, what do you have planned for 2017 and have you already started working on the follow-up to When It Gets Knight Out?
So what I got planned for right now is dropping fire singles. I’m not really focused on another project until the demand is crazy, where people are like yo he needs to drop another project, but I’m talking about a lot of people. So right now were just going to keep building the buzz so that people start begging for it then were going to give it to them.
Do you have any advice for up and coming artists that are in the same position that you are? Trying to gain and maintain mainstream notoriety.
I’m about to gem right now, so any up and coming artist in the same position as me I’m going to tell them one thing. Save your money! Don’t waste your money on dumb shit, invest in yourself that what I’m going to say. That’s the number one thing right there, yea the music is cool, but if you don’t have any money to push it, it ain’t going nowhere.