Art isn’t created in a vacuum.
You can read it two ways: 1) all art requires inspiration, which doesn’t come from nothingness – the artist is always informed by their life, the events, and culture they find themselves in.
And 2) art requires a minimal infrastructure; the techniques and technologies of art are perishable and require a base of support – you cannot paint if you don’t have any paint, or play a piano without a piano.
In shorter terms, it means that without inspiration, or the proper tools, art cannot come into existence.
So when Detroit-based producer and MC Sacramento Knoxx made his return to Fort Collins, CO as his artist engagement during the Music District’s Hip-Hop History Month, the OneBeat alum grabbed his tools, some inspiration, called a few friends, and ran with it.
“Things are smaller (in Fort Collins) but there’s lots of big activities there, a lot of things happening all around; I really appreciated that vibe there of being in a small town but having a big vibe of community and music and entertainment and art,” said Knoxx, articulating his inspirational takeaways from his Fort Collins visit.
“It reminded me of like a pocket of the boroughs somewhere in NYC, or any other city – always something happening, but then you could drive through the neighborhoods and it would slow down; I really liked the vibe of that.”
The producer-extraordinaire, who follows in the footsteps of Detroit’s own late, great J Dilla, was in town teaching a sampling workshop alongside Colorado Hip-Hop duo Kind Dub.
“At the end of the day, building cultural exchange and musical experience are the two things we’re trying to cultivate. Foster and continue to build relationships across state lines and cultivate the essence of what it’s like to revisit music, creating in another way, or refreshing way,” echoed Knoxx on what he hoped to accomplish during his artist engagement. “Those were some of the intentions for sure, and I’d say we did some good positive impact.”
“At the end of the day, building cultural exchange and musical experience are the two things we’re trying to cultivate.”
Armed with Kind Dub’s newly-released sample pack and feeling creatively energized, Knoxx got to work chopping, EQing and arranging on his MPC. What began as his routine creative workflow, a workflow that led him to releasing 96 songs on Spotify this year alone, ended with the creative spark that birthed his newest single “Feeling Good Right Now”, featuring MCs K.Benally & Letsjusb.
The duo from New Mexico had stopped in town to perform at the Downtown Artery’s Native American Heritage Celebration, the same weekend that Sacramento Knoxx was completing his artist engagement. Knoxx, eager to take full advantage of his time in Fort Collins, quickly jumped on the line-up to perform, and DJ for K.Benally & Letsjusb.
“K.Benally was gonna do a show with him out in Portland, and just stayed in contact over social media,” recalls Letsjusb. “He saw that we were going up to Fort Collins and he was just like ‘yo, we need to link up, let’s make a song.’ We were so into it because the dude is from Detroit, and all across the Turtle Islands. It’s making music with our indigenous brother we’ve never met, but the connection was there, you know?”
“Yeah, Knoxx just hit us up, he was real nice about it, saying he was gonna be hanging at the Artery where were performing at,” K.Benally recounts. “We didn’t know about the artist engagement or what he was doing until we got there. Shout out to Fort collins, Colorado – y’all took care of a brother real nice for sure, and y’all took care of us too.”
Linking up after the show, the group went into the studios at the Artery inspired by each other’s performance, and after grooving to Knoxx’s newly crafted instrumental, began solidifying their ideas to audio recording.
“Everything just worked, he had a little portable recording studio in his bag, he had everything; and everything just clicked,” said K.Benally. “Usually it doesn’t happen for us like that, we weren’t even in a studio yet. Like, we were just in one of the rooms jamming in the Artery and he was already pressing record when we were just freestyling.”
The group then trekked back to the Music District, making late-night use of the beat labs: tracking vocals and arranging a tune that was conceived of no more than 8 hours prior.
“(I) recorded their ideas and vocals for the track on the fly at the Artery while they just showed up for soundcheck, and then later that evening we went to the Music District to sequence, and really put the song together, like the vibes and the thought of it,” said Knoxx. “I told ’em to just go off the vibes they were feeling and they were just talking about feeling good right now…we pretty much recorded that whole track during that one-day process.”
The track intros with a sweeping granular synth, laying the bed for a voice to boom out with the illuminating words “Fort Collins: This is the land of the the Ute, of the Cheyenne, of the Arapahoe, and so many…”
The soundscape evolves; melodies fade in, building anticipation. Crafting a thunderous bass-line and rich drum loop that would make the cut on any Slum Village record, Knoxx delivers a proper underscore for the harmonic tones of K.Benally & Letsjusb to infuse as soon as the first kick drum hits.
Stepping outside of their typical lane, K.Benally & Letsjusb employ auto-tune; a tasteful touch that enriches the sonic landscape of the track, and serves as a playful ode to the track’s title.
“We love this song, it freaking bumps, and Knoxx is a genius for what he did with the sample pack,” said K.Benally “It’s a really cool beat, we really enjoy it, had a good time recording it and making it, jamming it out, just being in the creative mode like that.”
Check out “Feeling Good Right Now” on Spotify. Mixed and mastered by Kind Dub.