If you’re in tune with Chicago’s music scene, the name Knox Fortune should be a familiar one to you now. Not so in touch with the Windy City? He’s been named “your favorite Chicago rapper’s favorite collaborator,” a “man of many creative hats,” and as GQ so eloquently put it: “the voice you know from Chance The Rapper’s ‘All Night’.”
Knox Fortune is much more than just a behind-the-scenes music influencer. He’s a member of Chicago’s SAVEMONEY collective and a visual artist as well; he was an executive producer for Joey Purp’s ridiculously successful mixtape; and he’s won a Grammy.
With all his success, it comes as a surprise we’re just now hearing his debut solo album Paradise, but it is not one to disappoint. He skillfully navigates the world of genre-mixing with a distinctly semi-psychedelic sound.
Knox Fortune spoke with us before his four shows later this fall about his new album, his artwork, and making a name for himself everywhere, not just Chicago.
You draw all of your own single and album art. How did you get into drawing? Is there a message you’re trying to send about your music through your art?
At my old house in Wicker Park, my roommates and I used to buy massive rolls of colored paper and paint markers, and cover our entire living room table with them so that we could draw on the table when we were bored. It started off just as a form of entertainment because at the time our place didn’t have Wi-Fi, but it wound up becoming something we all really enjoyed.
Drawing has always been a release for me and the same goes for music, so when it was time to develop a visual identity, I figured I might as well do it myself. The idea for the look of the covers came from wanting to make a visual that paralleled the music and I’ve always thought my music sounded like a pop collage, so I decided I would draw the covers from a collage perspective but with bold pop colors.
You’ve already got a Grammy from your work with Chance The Rapper, were an executive producer on Joey Purp’s album, and are just now releasing your debut solo album. How’s it feel to be directing your own creative project? Were there any challenges you didn’t expect?
Going from an executive producer to the artist role definitely posed some challenges, the main one being knowing when something is finished. Because I’m the executive producer and artist for my music, there’s no one telling me when to move on from a song or take a break, so often times I’d find myself with thirty different versions of the same song wondering, “Which of these is the best?”
You’ve been involved in the SAVEMONEY collective for a while now. Would you say it has shaped your sound at all?
Savemoney has always helped me grow as an artist and motivated me to keep going and find my sound. While I don’t think it necessarily shaped my sound it did encourage me from a young age to learn many different aspects of production and creativity. Spending time in the studio with amazing artists is how you better yourself as a creative and almost everyone in Savemoney has helped me figure out where I want to be with my own career.
Can you tell us a little bit about the creation of Paradise? You’ve said in the past it’s more upbeat, cheerful songs, but that you have some darker stuff. Are you planning to release any of those in the future?
Paradise has been something I’ve been making for the past couple years, but really turned into a more refined idea within around eight months of it being released.
In early 2016 I realized I had amassed a stupid amount of songs and I had no clue what to do with them, so I started showing them to other musicians in Chicago who I liked and wanted their input. I started doing this more regularly and went from around 100 demos to 17 structured songs, 11 of which wound up becoming Paradise.
I wanted to keep it a bit more upbeat production-wise, but retain some of the melancholy lyrics that were coming naturally to me at the time. But yes, I do anticipate I’ll be dropping a project of darker music at some point soon.
You’ve said you’d be interested in finding a kid to develop and work with. How do you go about finding and discovering new music you like?
I’ve worked with tons of artists at a ground level and it’s really exciting for me to be able to work with up-and-coming artists to help develop their sound. I had the opportunity to do that for Joey Purp along with Kami and it was a tremendous experience that really helped me grow as an artist.
I like all collaborations to come to me naturally though, I’m not really the type of person that enjoys walking into a random session and making a beat for someone I haven’t had the ability to get to know. I like to get to know who I’m working with and understand them on a deeper level than just two guys that work together.
Typically these days I don’t really seek out new music, but the good stuff always gets brought to my attention and I always listen.
What’s your day-to-day like in Chicago? Any places you hit up regularly? Favorite skate spots?
My day-to-day experience in Chicago is always changing, but more often than not, it’s a lot of me working from home, and going out and getting coffee, and then coming home and continuing work, and then at night, hit the studio or the Loop to go skate.
Winter’s coming up, so it’s about to be hibernation period for me. It’ll be a lot of me never leaving my apartment.
What’s in store for the next year?
Next year, I hope to keep dropping good music and play tons of shows. Honestly, the things that have happened in my career in the past couple years have been pretty hard to predict so I have a hard time gauging what a year from today could look like. Right now I’m just focused on continuing to work hard and see where that gets me.
Check out Knox Fortune at some of his upcoming tour dates:
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