By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Knowledge Nick fans have known for years the young rapper has a diverse skill set on the microphone.
Working clubs and concert halls from across the Mid-South, Millington Central High School graduate Nick Hicks has made clear the impact hip-hop legends like Dr. Dre and KRS-1 have had on his rhythms.
But the recent release of his third album Memphis — The Soul of Hip Hop illustrates Knowledge Nick’s Bluff City roots and pays tribute to artist closer to home that have influenced him.
“This album is undoubtedly my favorite album,” he said. “It’s a Memphis album. A lot of the inspiration comes from the Memphis stuff I grew up listening to or seen. A lot of the tracks have Memphis sample in there. It’s either talking about Memphis or me spitting over a Memphis sample.”
The 12-track album is reminiscent of CDs that blanketed the city back in the 1990s and early 2000s. The tracks feature samples of soul classic with a Memphis beat and bass.
It’s a 180 degree turn from Knowledge Nick first two albums The Enlightenment and The Transcribed Setiment.
“My first two albums had their own sound like Neo-Soul type sound,” he said. “You to listen to it in a certain setting. This album here, you can play dominos, listen to it while you riding. It’s just so many, it’s made for different settings. If you love riding music or at the house chilling, this is a Memphis album. It felt great.
“The thing with this album, it took 5 months to make,” Hicks added. “Initially it was going to be a Memphis soul album. But then I was like I want to make it like a gumbo flavor of Memphis. That’s what I came up with.”
While working on his third album Hicks has been busy in his academic and professional life.
“I graduated in May from The University of Memphis,” he said. “My senior was balancing school, internship and music to all the same weighing. Now I got a college degree. I’m very proud of that.”
Hicks is also proud of Memphis — The Soul of Hip Hop. Knowledge Nick brought some of his usual friends to rap on the album like Royal T, Taktix, and another Millington graduate Virghost Memphasco.
And also making an appearance on Knowledge Nick’s album is Memphis Rap legend Tom Skeemask. Since the 1990s, Skeemask released CDs like You Can’t Hold Me Back and work with well-known producers like DJ Squeeky.
Hicks said reaching back to work with pioneers like Skeemask was just part of his motivation to make a Memphis rap album.
“I read an article about a year ago,” he recalled. “It said Stax is the most sampled record label. That’s Memphis. I think a lot of the time, people just don’t give credit where credit is due. Memphis is definitely the soul of hip-hop. It’s running through the veins of people’s productions.”
Rappers from California to New York have influenced Hicks love for the genre. But he said it was the local flavor that has had the biggest impact.
“I’m probably more influenced by artist like Skinny Pimp, 8Ball & MJG, Playa Fly, DJ Squeeky and the Family, Al Kapone — all those cats I grew up listening too,” he said. “When I was doing the album I was like man, I just want to make a Memphis album and make it Knowledge Nick.”
Memphis — The Soul of Hip Hop is available at Spin Street in Memphis, Goner Records, Shangri-La and will be feature on Underground.hiphop.com. To contact Knowledge Nick e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, contact Facebook.com/Knowledge Nick or follow him on Twitter at kdotnick