Echelon Knoxx is a Washington, D.C native, who is changing the game with his “conscious” lyrics and catchy beats.
I once heard the question asked: “When did you first fall in love with hip hop?” For me, it was when I heard “Reminisce,” by Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth. I will never forget that feeling I felt when I heard C.L.’s “smooth” delivery of those nostalgic lyrics about growing up in a close knit working class Black family and that infamous saxophone and bass sample in the background. There were no curse words, no violent references, or misogynistic metaphors, just some good old hip hop.
“Reminisce” went on to become a staple of classic early 90s Hip Hop, and reached #1 on Billboard’s Hot Rap track list some 25 years ago. It was a time when many rap songs seemed to reflect the realities of everyday Black life, and while rappers brought light to the “struggles” of their people, they also used songs like “Keep Ya Head Up,” and “U.N.I.T.Y” to empower their communities.
According to Billboard, today’s number one spot on the Hip Hop charts belongs to new comer, Desiiigner, for his first “hit” single, “Panda.” In the song, the artist boasts about his “violent” lifestyle and glorifies murder. In one verse he raps, “ know niggas, come and kill you on the camera.”
At a time when the murder rate for Blacks is said to be four times higher than the national average, it is absolutely absurd that some of today’s “hottest” rappers are bragging about “murder,” as if taking a precious life is something to boast about.
In his new song, “Lowlife,” chart-topping rapper Future goes as far as making a reference to that unforgettable scene in Menace to Society when an innocent young man was maliciously shot. In the song, he cold-heartedly raps, “ shoot you in the back like Ricky.”
When it is “normal” for rappers to boast about everything from killing their fellow “brother,” to sleeping with as many women as humanly possible, (I’ve even heard one rap about not caring if he “had rubber or not”) I believe it is safe to say that rap music is currently in a “state of emergency.”
Although it might appear to be a very discouraging period in rap music, I am so happy to say that there is still hope, and rapper Echelon Knoxx is an artist that is using his craft to uplift people who are in dire need of some good music that is also good for the soul.
He undoubtedly touched the hearts of many, and started becoming a household name when his song, “Concrete Roses,” began getting heavy rotation on D.C.’s gospel station, 104.1.
I remember first hearing it, and it giving me a feeling that I rarely get when I turn on the radio these days. I didn’t feel ashamed of my struggles, and I felt proud of everything that I had overcome. When it seemed as though I’d lost virtually all hope in rap music, hearing that song by Knoxx helped me to believe again.
Unlike a lot rap songs that degrade women, calling them derogatory names, and making only sexual references to them, “Concrete Roses” speaks to so many Black women who overcame oppressive circumstances, and still managed to come out as a “rose.” In the song he raps, “And she knows that she’s a rose…roses don’t compete with daisies….she ain’t focused on being the baddest…she’s content with being a lady.”
At first glance you might think Knoxx was your typical rapper, he can be seen rocking the latest clothes and kicks, and just enough gold jewelry. However, unlike many artists who don’t want to be recognized as role models, Knoxx willingly takes on the task.
The true genius of Knoxx’s music is that it’s not only uplifting, but he makes great music that will have you “bobbin’ your head” and moving your feet.”
On his song “Nervous,” he raps over a beat that can bang with any other hot radio hit of today, saying, “If you ain’t with the grindin’ do not bring the skates out…good vibes over here…keep the fake out…I ain’t have to be in the Garden of Eden for God to show me what them snakes ‘bout.” He doesn’t use profanity to get his point across, and he is living proof that you don’t need to.
Some people have told me that my concern with the current state of rap music is a bit “over the top,” and that I need to “chill” a bit. Well, when my seven year old son is constantly going around the house singing, “I got two phones,” and “You need to cut it,” I have every right to be worried. Both of those songs are about selling drugs, and although I have never listened to either, somehow and someway my son has been exposed to these lyrics.
I would personally like to thank Echelon Knoxx, Lacrae, and all of the rappers out there who making music that not only makes us want to dance, but makes us think, while uplifting and empowering us. You are appreciated!
Crystal J. Nunn is a writer for the AFRO.