Glen Boothe, aka Knxwledge, has been making waves in the underground hip hop community since 2009. His storied portfolio began with a number of self-released beat tapes on his Bandcamp, now totaling an impressive 69. Like predecessors J Dilla and Madlib, Knxwledge’s approach to sampling and beat manipulation has always been a little to the left, without regard of how relevant his music sounds to the industry around him, instead choosing to become lost in his craft.
Boothe’s musical voice revolves around rugged loops that never sit too comfortably. He samples just about anything, be it soul, jazz, or nostalgic acapellas that become re-imagined alongside wonky rhythms. It’s this unorthodox method of beat construction that earned him a production credit on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, as well as a signing to indie hip hop stalwarts Stones Throw, where he dropped his debut album Hud Dreems last year.
26 tracks of neck-breaking instrumentals, that LP clearly showed a man overdosing in ideas, with loops barely exceeding the minute mark. The awkward structure of the full length was reminiscent of Dilla’s Donuts in its unwillingness to compromise, and for the listener to truly appreciate its genius, sounds best in one sitting.
Fast-forward to 2016 and we have WrapTaypes, landing on Dublin’s All City Records. The vinyl-only compilation is a selection of bootleg rap remixes crafted by Knxwledge between 2011 and 2015. Following suit from Hud Dreems, the album again comprises 26 tracks in classic beat tape fashion.
Restless arrangements provide a foundation for reviving classic rap acapellas. From the woozy R&B-tinged ‘unkonditional’ Tupac edit, to Busta sounding like a superhero villain on the film-noir-like ‘Stedilly’, Boothe places the vocals of Wraptaypes at the forefront, using them as the main instrument rather than just another layer.
Of course, some of the acapellas are from rappers who are well past their prime, yet it’s the simplicity of putting a good vocal on top of a great beat that Boothe does so well, and suddenly, these classic figures are sounding at the top of their game once again. 50 Cent has never sounded better on the soulful ‘knxbodilykesme’, which wouldn’t sound out of place on a 70s Blaxploitation film, whilst Snoop is at his funkiest on the low-rider themed ‘gtsoul’.
A lo-fi hum permeates each track. Dusty drums push through crackling jazz samples, vocals are swamped in delay; all merging to form a collection of THC-covered beats that sound like they’re straight from the cassette. The lack of concern for audio quality could be seen as intentional, adding to the air of the nostalgia, but it seems Knxwledge is already on to the next beat before the last one is finished anyway. With an output this big, the only direction is forward.
Artwork by Gangster Doodles. Order and stream the album here.
Words: Callum Wright