Knox Artiste is a singer in addition to being a music producer. Learning to DJ at the ripe age of 14, Knox has over 16 years of experience in the music industry. While he initially started producing mashups and covers for YouTube, Knox has turned into the confident performer that we see today, making his own original music and working alongside popular artists such as Jasmine Sandlas and Mafia. Best known for singing 14 songs on one beat, this young performer is paving his way to the very top.
Covering some of the greatest tracks, Knox releases most of his content on YouTube. During the lockdown, however, he hasn’t been working on a lot of his videos because it requires them to shoot in different locations and that’s something they’re trying to avoid in the hopes of keeping everyone safe.
“We don’t usually get a lot of time to creatively work on originals because we’re so busy with shows and other things.”
He did, however, release the RapCorona Challenge on YouTube, an initiative to encourage everyone to stay at home and keep safe. He explained that the song was actually conceptualised when the lockdown was initially announced. With his studio being in Delhi and finding himself stuck in Dubai, Knox and his team struggled to get the whole video ready for YouTube. Although writing the song and getting the music in place was easy, recording the video without the necessary equipment was an obstacle.
“Not many people know this, but the vocals of RapCorona were recorded entirely on my iPhone 11.”
Shooting the video at his friend’s and his own house, Knox also received help from his influencer friends Bhuvan Bam (BB Ki Vines) and Prajakta Koli (mostlysane). Knox is managed by Artist Aadmi, a company owned by Rohit Raj, who also happens to be Bhuvan’s manager. Rohit helped get a lot of influencers to come on board for the music video. Knox also met Prajakta through Onedigital Entertainment, a digital agency that manages mostlysane.
“I met them, and they’re so down-to-earth and lovely to work with. Every time we come up with a project, they’re always ready to go.”
Finding Acceptance Within the Industry
Like most artists at the beginning of their career, Knox also faced issues gaining acceptance from his audience and from the music industry.
“Any artist, if you keep developing your sound and keep doing what you’re doing, eventually you’ll get that one single content piece or music which the crowd will relate to.”Says Knox Artiste
Early in his career, Knox found himself writing only English music. Having studied in Dubai, his Hindi wasn’t good enough and there existed a language barrier. It was only in 2009, when Knox started working in Delhi, that his language started blending in with the Delhi crowd. That is how his now-famous slang creeped into his music.
In 2017, Knox made it big. He released his debut single ‘Botal Khol’ with T-Series Music and collaborated with Jasmine Sandlas and Mafia. A turning point in his career, the release of this single is not to be mistaken as his beginnings.
“There’s a lot of hoops you need to pass through to get a release with T-Series or collaborate with an artist like Jasmine Sandlas and work on a song with a director like David Zennie.”
Knox began his journey as a DJ in Dubai, some time in 2003. It took him almost four years to be even recognised as a DJ. Over the next 5-6 years, He slowly developed into an artist and a songwriter. He believes that the music industry works on two basic things – “talent and ‘kismat’”. He’s had to wait for his opportunities patiently and he’s never turned them down, now having amassed 2.8 million YouTube subscribers.
Knox also talked about his experience working with Jasmine Sandlas. Meeting her at one of her shows in Dubai, Knox felt that his song was missing a female element. Sandlas, who had just recorded her hit song ‘Raat Jashan Di’ with Honey Singh, was the one that came to mind. Knox even claimed that “she has her own swag” which she brought to the video effortlessly.
“She has a powerful voice. We wanted that powerful element in our music and to have someone with that kind of vocal strength coming on to the song boosted the energy of the track.”
Knox started as a DJ relatively young – he was only 14 years old. Being a DJ has been a huge part of his life. However, he feels that the DJs are not given the respect that they deserve in India.
“I wanted to make an impact musically in that field instead of just playing or producing someone else’s music. I wanted my vocals to come out; I wanted my face to be out.” Says Knox Artiste
However he did admit that sometimes during soundchecks before a show, he still messes around with the player. “I think I can still DJ.” While he does not collect music and have a ready playlist, he does keep track of the current trending music, and still has a few of his DJ techniques up his sleeve.
He also had a very interesting story to share about how he got into DJing at 14:
“My [most memorable experience as a DJ was my] first show when I didn’t know how to DJ. I used to collect music, but I never worked as a DJ. Dubai has these Dhow Cruises, and it was a New Year’s Dhow Cruise. There was a full setup for the DJ, and tickets were sold to about 200 people. But on that night, the DJ didn’t show up. So I was asked to come in to make sure that the party doesn’t flop. I had no technical skills, no knowledge about anything. I just knew where the CD went in and where the play button is, that’s it. [laughs] So I went in, put my CDs in, hit the play button and I amped up the volume. The party went on. But the next day, the sound control guy came, and he was like the speakers are all blown up, everything’s gone. My dad owned that Dhow Cruise. My dad was the one who pushed me to do that gig. So my dad had to pay a hefty amount to him to get the equipment restored. But it was a good learning experience.”
Being a DJ helped Knox understand what his audience liked and didn’t like. It also gave him the necessary push that he needed to come up in this industry. While it did not necessarily help him as a singer, it helped him in learning how to get into the field. “People got to know me through my music. There are very few artists that I know – Zaeden is one of them – who came from DJing and went into singing.” Knox had a hard time convincing people that he wasn’t a DJ anymore. That, however, changed with #FlashUp which went viral; he was regarded as a serious artist and not just a DJ.
Knox then started doing mashups and covers before launching himself into a singing career. At first he wasn’t too confident singing because he never received the proper classical training. Instead, he resolved to only rapping. Most of his first raps were English; he hardly experimented with Hindi. His first actual project was his cover of ‘Kolaveri Di’, which helped him understand how it all worked. He slowly moved into covering more commercial tracks and started bringing in his individual element that we’ve all grown to love. Even though he may have started with 20% of his original style in his many covers, gradually that grew until he was comfortable enough to do a 100% original track.
“I remember I used to try and write original songs from scratch, and it never came to me just like that. I had to develop it slowly, and it took time.” Says Knox Artiste
When making covers, Knox tries not to regular covers of mediocre music. First and foremost, he credits himself as a music producer more than anything else. “When it comes to any type of cover or music, or remake for that matter, I’m focused on the music. Especially the drums and the dance element of it, if the track requires it,” he says. So, he only chooses to make covers of tracks he genuinely loves or knows he can bring a creative twist to, instead of covering just about anything to get him views. He says that he’d rather do covers he knows he can implement.
“Many people ask me to cover ‘Despacito’ but I only know a part of it. Even if I tried, it wouldn’t come out great. I’d rather those people listen to that one single block in #FlashUp. That’s the thing with covers. Like I try to sing a lot of Arijit Singh’s tracks sometimes, but I know that I’m not Arijit Singh. So I don’t release it.”
Knox also had a lot to say on the popular trend in the mainstream industry wherein all the old super hits, and independent music is remixed and put out again. While remixes existed before, the concept is now more developed with the vocals and styles changing. The industry has found a way to give us back the same content that existed 10 years back. Knox did not think that this was necessarily a bad thing; we get to listen to our favorite tunes and the new generation gets to listen to them in a style that’s familiar to them.
“I don’t know how this industry is going to evolve now because when we’re going to get old, we’re not going to have retro songs. The generation before us was very fortunate to have retro music, but we have remixed and remade everything. If this trend goes on, then eventually people are going to have to turn to original music.”
Knox’s music is a rich blend of Pop, R&B, Hip-Hop, Bhangra, and mainstream Bollywood music. Knox has always been a fan of the top Pop songs that featured on the American Billboards. He was also heavily influenced by acoustic bands such as Lifehouse and Switchfoot. “Very few from the Indian audience get that music. That inspired me to get into music,” explaining his ventures into music.
With time, Knox evolved into the Bollywood Pop genre. He is grateful that the music industry isn’t rejecting the American beats or the electronic music style. “It’s not about a single genre anymore. I’m inspired by music from the global level, the Michael Jackson(s) of the world.” Knox has set out to bring this music into the Indian scene. Experimenting on his own unique fusion style, he finds inspiration from the West, and blends it with the Indian style.
When asked if he thought mainstream music was sidelining rap music in India, he had to disagree. He explained that every artist has their own genre that they like to experiment with. While some artists want to do serious rap, some artists want to make commercial music. Additionally, there are artists who like to make commercial as well as underground music. He explained it with an example:
“Badshah bhai makes commercial music even though his new album isn’t quite that. He has catered to a side that he hasn’t shown before. Previously it was all about the commercial sense of it, but now he has the platform to show the other side of things.”
He argued that the music industry would blend according to what an artist has to offer. Knowing that there were artists who had so many versatile techniques to offer made him feel reassured. He also had high praise for Raftaar as well, calling the two artists “the best of both worlds.”
Endeavors in Music
For #Flashup, Knox sang 14 songs to a single beat, covering not just Bollywood songs but English, Punjabi and even Spanish songs. Knox revealed that when it comes to any kind of singing in Punjabi, he asks his mother, who is Punjabi, to check if the language and diction is correct. “Despacito was like the biggest hit of that year. When a song keeps playing, again and again, you tend to memorise it.” Knox had to make sure that he knew if he could sing such a popular song. He performed it in shows and learnt it over time. He admits that singing these songs can be a bit tricky, if not difficult, because of the language. Some of the songs, like Mi Gente by J Balvin, became so catchy that he memorised them.
For all his brand related work, Knox works with Rohit Raj, who’s known to bring up most of the influencers in India. Working with Rohit, Knox also managed to work with OYO – he released a rap song ‘O Yo Yo’ for their year-end sales last year and the song became a huge hit.
While Rohit manages brand deals, Onedigital Entertainment handles Knox’s YouTube. Knox has also done multiple singles in collaboration with Pepsi – ‘Bada Swag Star’, ‘Salaam Namaste Mein Swag Hein’ and ‘Swag Se Solo’ to name a few, which he got through Onedigital Entertainment. At first, Knox covered singles that Pepsi created for the likes of Tiger Shroff and Badshah and others. Eventually, Pepsi approached Knox for original singles.
“For that matter, there’s another version on Salman Khan’ Instagram, ‘Swag Se Solo’ which was written by me. They elaborated a single for me – ‘Salaam Namaste Mein Swag Hein’.”
Knox also told me that he’d love to work with many international artists, when I asked him about it. One of them was Chris Brown. “For the last ten years, I’ve been listening to his music, and it’s just brilliant,” he says. He also said that there were artists that he’d love to work with but that would be a considerable risk in terms of the Indian audience relating to them. He continued, “I would love to work with Jay Sean, who just did a track with Guru [Randhawa] also. He has always inspired me a lot because he’s one of the first Indians to get on the Billboard, that too in the No. 1 spot.”
Knox is currently working on his new album. “It might not even come out as an album; it might come out as singles.” However, Knox did reveal that we may get to see a few collaborations. Discussions are still ongoing, so he couldn’t really confirm who we’ll see him with next. However, some big tracks are definitely on their way, so look out for those!