Every year there’s at least one new R&B artist that emerges on the music scene and takes over the Billboard and radio charts. In 2013, Def Jam artist August Alsina was that artist and shook the airwaves with his massive hit “I Luv This Sh-t” with Trinidad Jame$. The memorizing jam struck a core in the eardrums of fans and helped the single reach No.1 on the Urban contemporary radio chart, while becoming a top five hit on both the Billboard Hot R&B Songs and R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart.
While Alsina was enjoying his breakout success, so was Knucklehead, the producer behind the enthralling instrumental.
Over the last few years, the Texarkana (AR/TX) native has built up an impressive resume, becoming the go-to producer for major trap artists including Gucci Mane and Rocko, who he calls a “big brother.” However, Knucklehead’s work history didn’t include him ever working with an R&B artist. But all that would changed when August Alsina sat in on a studio session where Knucklehead was working on songs for hip-hop artist Roscoe Dash.
In the studio, Alsina began vibing to the sound of the records and started to sing, which shocked the trap producer. “I didn’t even know he sung,” says Knucklehead. Not only did the NOLA native’s singing talents catch his attention, it was his humbling presence to not intrude on their session. “That alone made me realize he was a stand up dude,” he says. “Most people in the industry, especially when [they’re] new, they’re thirsty.”
Eager to hit the studio and make hot music, Knucklehead took Alsina’s melodic voice and matched it with his signature street sound and created a record that not only females could ride around to, but fellas as well.
Knucklehead says after the record was finished, the next day he put the song on repeat. It was then he got an epiphany that “I Luv This Sh-t” was destined for success. “I just knew based how many times I listened to it, it was,” he recalls. “It never got on my nerves. It was pretty addictive.”
Before scoring a number one hit, meeting August Alsina and keeping trap artists laced with the best beats, Knucklehead was a marketing student at Texas Southern University. While he wasn’t doing homework and having fun on campus, he would be in his friends’ dorm rooms, who were DJ’s, playing around and mixing records.
While acquiring skills from his friends to making his first beat on his cousin’s Casio keyboard, Knucklehead knew producing was his passion. A close friend of his insisted he be more proactive with his passion by bringing his urban instrumentals to the east coast. Thus, Knucklehead dropped out of college and moved to Atlanta.
To help form and hone his newly developed pastime, Knucklehead studied hit-makers such as Kanye West and Pharrell. He also cites rapper Jeezy as an influence. “When his first album [“Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101”] dropped, that’s when I knew this was something I really wanted to do,” says Knucklehead. He even credits Harlem MC Cam’ron as one of his influences. “I was a huge Dipset fan and some of the stuff he use to say on his mixtapes really influenced me to do music.”
Though he believed he would be the next big producer, Knucklehead remembers his struggle breaking into the industry. “Just getting invited to studios and getting people to take my music serious was hard,” he says. “But the hardest part I feel was being the new guy and you already got your household names and you’re trying to make people listen to your music before their music.”
Yet, he says “the hunger of wanting people to hear you” kept him motivated along with wanting to see the reaction of people hearing his beats. “My biggest thrill was for people to hear my stuff,” Knucklehead says. “My passion was to hear and see people’s reaction – before a placement or a check.”
The checks started coming in when he began working at T.I.’s imprint, Grand Hustle Records where he worked with rapper Yung L.A. and engineer Daniel Disaster of HeroesXVillians.
Soon enough, Knucklehead expanded his comfort zone of working with trap artists and took a chance with singer August Alsina. Not only did he earn his biggest check but it became his biggest hit to date.
Money aside, he’s pleased with the risk he took of working with an R&B artist since he never wanted to be known as just a producer of the trap world. “I never wanted to be categorized or just in a box of one genre,” he claims.
While the success of transitioning from trap music to more of a R&B/hip-hop sound could have put salt in the wounds of his peers, it didn’t. In fact, Knucklehead saw more of an acceptance. “I really got received more than anything. I think more people want to work with me now since its more versatility there,” he says. “I’m going to be forever in love with hip-hop…it’s deep in my roots but I have other sounds as well. I think as a producer, people will accept you more when there is another side to your music.”
Soon Knucklehead will reveal the tricks up his sleeve when it comes to more all-around production. “I’m going to really surprise people with tracks that I have right now,” he says. “It’s going to be crazy once the tracks I have right now get released and people see a whole ‘nother side of my production.”
Even though Knucklehead has plenty of records that have the same vibe of “I Luv This Sh-t,” he knows he has to step up his production style quick. “I know the rest of the industry is already trying to bite that sound,” he says. “So I’m already reinventing my sound so I can be ahead of the curve of everybody else that’s biting that record.”
Now earning a badge for a more multi-talented producer and creating more buzz for himself, Knucklehead says he’s pretty open to working with anyone but hopes to work more with female artists. “The sound of [“I Luv This Sh-t”] is big and it’s a fun sound and I just want to elaborate more of that with females,” he says.
One female artist in particular he could see jumping on one of his productions is K. Michelle. He even has high hopes for another leading lady in music. “Even a Beyoncé,” he laughs. “Let’s shoot for the stars.”
Knucklehead recently tweeted a bold statement, “Get use to hearing my name.” He continues to stand behind that statement with a plan already laid out. “My goal is to take over hip-hop and R&B,” he reveals. “I look at most of the producers when they come out, they have their run in one genre…like the hip-hop genre and then they shrivel out. I’m versatile and I can go both ways with my music. So not only am I going to have the hip-hop world but I’m going to have R&B as well. It’s about to be a crazy year.”
Fans of Knucklehead’s production can be sure to hear a few songs on August Alsina’s debut album “Testimony” due April 15. He’s already got three tracks on the album including the intro which he calls “dope.” “I’m really proud of that record,” he says. “It’s so musically.”
Knucklehead is also working with Style P and Jadakiss of The LOX.
Despite his rising success, Knucklehead says there’s a possibility he may go back to school. “Who knows… I might get bored and go back to it,” he laughs. “I can’t say I’m opposed to it but right now, I’m just focused on what I’m doing.”
To keep up with Knucklehead, follow him on Twitter @KnuckTaylor.