The merger of rap and rock is a notoriously dubious proposition: sure, sometimes you get surefire party-rockers like Run-DMC and Aerosmith’s legendary “Walk This Way” team up, Anthrax and Public Enemy’s raucous “Bring the Noise”, or the entire righteous-anger-fueled career of Rage Against the Machine. But more often than not you get Crazy Town. You get Quarashi. You get Limp Bizkit. You get Lil’ Wayne’s Rebirth album, the sound of leaping headfirst into a blender and turning it on.
Enter The Knux. The New Orleans sibling twosome gained some positive notices – and some feather-in-the-cap Outkast comparisons – for their debut, 2008’s Remind Me in 3 Days, but remain largely under the radar. Which is understandable – those favorable Outkast comparisons are, honestly, superficial at best, correctly earmarking their penchants for live instrumentation and nimble genre-hopping while saying nothing about their rhyme prowess. These guys have a long way to go before they’re Andre and Big Boi.
Rhyme prowess, in fact, is riding in the backseat for much of The Knux’s new record, Eraser. The laconic, sleepy, half-spoken flows of Krispy and Joey aren’t front and center here; they’re merely window dressing for the music, which is uniformly attention-grabbing. What’s interesting is how The Knux have utilized the studio band at their disposal not for blistering funk, but for an alt-rock, almost indie approach to beat-crafting. Guitars are at the forefront; 4/4 rock beats are the name of the game. If it all sounds a bit samey, yeah, you’re probably right – but it’s certainly an interesting approach to the music.
Eraser‘s “The Road (Intro)” kick-starts the record with a Led Zep redux riff on repeat before launching into “She’s So Up”, a masterclass in dunderheaded, Motley Crue riffology underpinning rhymes about, I dunno, doing drugs and banging people, probably. Partying and sex are, generally, all The Knux are concerned about right now – but lest you think this is a hipster LMFAO at work, Eraser boasts the four-on-the-floor driving rock of “Run” (featuring a chorus assist from Kid Cudi), the new wave rave-up “Razorblade”, the pogo-ing party jam “1974”, and the canned-handclap-and-synthesizers of “Maniac” to change your mind. The guys aren’t interesting emcees, by any stretch; but they’ve got a unique musical vision and a suitcase full of infectious hooks (and maybe cocaine) to make up for it.
Which doesn’t make Eraser an essential record, necessarily; but it’s definitely an interesting glimpse into The Knux’s future, and the directions in which hip-hop has the capacity to expand outward. More importantly, it’s a treatise on how creative, forward-thinking rap artists can make the oft-derided hybrid of rap and rock function as something more than a joke. They’ll win no lyrical awards, but The Knux are onto something here.