Kneel Knaris
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Kneel Knaris

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"Rap Album of the Year"

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Kneel Knaris' Going Sane In a Crazy World: Rap Album of the Year

Where most wizened, hard-ass rap albums end--with the song or two that drops the tough talk and allows the inward paranoia and depression to bleed through--is where Kneel Knaris' eighteen-track trip through bipolar disorder, Going Sane In a Crazy World begins.

On the intro, "Prologue (Act I)", Kneel's hearty eloquence confesses A.A-style affirmations like "the person I fear the most is me" atop some medical soap opera piano twinkles but eventually, a fractured, waddling beat lets the flood of disclosures and revelations rush through and wash the relative tact away. "I fear God but the Devil's taking over" Kneel announces, like he's jumped from his seat at the weekly meeting and then adds, "Thoughts of suicide are better than staying sober". This track's a kind of throat-clearing (and maybe room-clearing) announcement as to what kind of album Going Sane is: one-note, dark, serious, confessional.

-"Never Gonna Make It"

But Knaris doesn't forget this is a rap album and so he spits suicidal couplets with the passion of a Scarface or Killer Mike, not the lethargic mumbles of recent sad-sack hip-hop (Kanye or Kid Cudi). "Never Gonna Make It", the album's first proper song, is essentially a "diss track" only Kneel's going at himself with the fervor usually assigned to an opponent in a cipher: "You ain't never been paid to do a show/You ain't never seen more than ten spins on the radio/You ain't never sell more than twenty albums/All you ever do is hit the bar with Gerard, Troy, and Malcom/Sad sack of shit..."

This sense of flipping expectations or finding some new way to do some old shit is a staple in most really good rap, but Knaris pushes it even further, using the it's one thing, then it's another and it's both, plurality of rap to reflect Going Sane's bipolar conceit. Save for a few songs where Knaris does approach a depressed mumble (especially the palpable "Monologue Act III"), he's usually spitting his laundry list of worries, concerns, and psychosis with a gleeful passion, which is unexpected but makes total sense for an album trying to approximate the feelings of bipolar disorder. The album's two recurring symbols are Guinness (a depressant) and Starbucks (a stimulant)--also featured on the album art, standing tall over a knocked-over bottle of pills--and it's a brilliant, but down-to-earth simplification of the album's themes.

-"Silver Lining"

Starting with "Intervention", where Kneel rejects the advice of a therapist (voiced by E Major), and all the way to the half-victorious "Silver Lining", Going Sane bungees from depressed nihilism ("Dear Lord", "1000 MG Act IV", "I Don't Wanna Feel") to moments of kinda clarity ("No Apologies", the title track). "Silver Lining" is especially affecting because it's basically the type of song that should end the album--there's hints of understanding, regret, and change in there--but it would be too perfect of an ending and there's a kind of dark joke when Going Sane keeps going past that "moment of clarity" track.

There's a discomforting, but smart refusal to wrap it all up cleanly, despite the brilliant overlapping of images and symbols, and the final two tracks that do in effect, summarize the album (personally on "Something To Talk About", clinically on "Epilogue (Act V)"), there's a great deal of loose ends on Going Sane, giving it a sense of continued life and past-the-running-time struggle, beyond just frantic soul beats and quivering raps from Knaris.

And this is the weird paradox of Going Sane: It's a remarkably together piece of art about how Kneel Knaris doesn't have his life together. One thing the Geto Boys or say, Beanie Sigel got away with is not making cohesive albums because the strains of self-destruction and depression in the music are so real it makes sense they can’t get their shit together for an entire album. Going Sane's cohesion and narrative thrust's a testament to Kneel's relative escape or acceptance of his disorder. That he got it together enough to sculpt a concept album that never gets too concept album and grabs on for dear life to the ugly, all-too-real details of bipolar disorder and depression, is where the hope lies.

'Going Sane in a Crazy World' is currently available digitally on iTunes and Amazon. It's currently selling for $7.99 at Amazon... - Brandon Soderberg's No Trivia

"TOP 100 MP3 Album downloads in a week"

"Going Sane in a Crazy World" made it to the TOP 100 (#100) in MP3 Rap Album downloads on Amazon!!!!!!

"Almost Famous: Kneel Knaris goes solo"

Kneel Knaris and his partner-in-rhyme Jurawd Simpson have been destined to make music together ever since meeting in the sandbox. The Baltimore natives began as solo artists, but after coming together to hit the studio with a case of Guinness, the two emcees joined forces to create the group Parts Unknown. After independently releasing their album, Hood Therapy, the two lyrical giants have again chosen solo projects as a way of bringing their own unique brand of imagination to Baltimore hip-hop. Kneel Knaris talks about his plans for solo and mutual success.

How has Baltimore affected your creative output?
I enjoy the fact that our city is so rich in culture and diversity. Being that the Mason-Dixon Line makes us too Northern to be completely Southern and too Southern to be completely Northern, our hip-hop scene is a reflection of that fact. There is also this dichotomy that exists and splits the Baltimore music scene into various factions, which is great as an incubator but stifling for musical growth.

Talk a little about your respective projects.
Well, my solo project is titled Going Sane in a Crazy World. It’s the story of one man’s triumphs, tragedies, highs and lows. It’s very personal and quite autobiographical. … Grammy-nominated producer Ivan “OrthdX” Barias is an integral part of this project, lending his talent to just about half of the album. … [My album] has a release date of Feb. 24, 2009. Jurawd’s solo project, The Reason Why, is an ode to his love of music. This album is a combination of hip-hop, soul and R&B like it’s never been done before. … Look out for The Reason Why in spring 2009.

You guys have a major fan base overseas. Are you guys more accepted over there than in Baltimore?
Our fan base is so diverse and widespread because we make it a point to not be limited to Interstate 695. We make world music, so the world is open to what we do. … We’re just happy to be able to receive just as much love at home as we do using a passport.

Check out Kneel Knaris at Timothy Cooper is a Baltimore-based hip-hop writer. His column appears Thursdays. Contact him at

 - Baltimore Sun B Magazine

"Know Your Product : Hood Therapy"

By Al Shipley

Five years ago East Baltimore rappers Blankman and Kneel Knaris, along with producer LB, became Parts Unknown, later shortened simply to PX. But after dropping the great Police-sampling single "S.O.S." featuring Comp, PX has spent the last couple of years lying low, at least in Baltimore, while performing as far abroad as Hong Kong. When the group finally dropped its sophomore album, Hood Therapy, this fall, its decidedly underground approach was bolstered with national distribution and the support of numerous retail chains.

Hood Therapy features an organic, homogenous sound throughout, owing to LB's consistent in-house production and Blankman's sung choruses. Still, like 50 Cent and most other rappers-turned-hook singers, his somewhat limited melodic imagination proves monotonous over the course of an album. It's PX's verses that are the real meat, striking a balance between streetwise and world-weary, reminiscent of the older and more grounded late-period De La Soul. Two late-in-the-record Hood highlights are collaborations with other Baltimore hip-hop lifers--Ogun and Profound on "Four Horsemen" and OOH from Brown F.I.S.H. on "It's My Life." Another local legend, Baltimore club staple DJ Booman, produced the album's standout track, the cowbell-heavy banger "All I Need."

Shortly before releasing Hood Therapy, Parts Unknown learned they would have to re-record a few songs with live instrumentation to avoid the inevitable delays that result from clearing samples. In some instances, this made for more interesting arrangements, such as on the brief "Save Our Soul," in which Blankman and Knaris rhyme over a minimal backdrop of guitar and bass with no beat. Even with the lengthy preparation that went into the album, some of Hood Therapy's biggest successes are the result of happy accidents and compromises. - Baltimore City Paper

"No Trivia: Interview with Kneel Knaris"

- No Trivia

"Kneel Knaris "Going Sane in a Crazy World""

Kneel Knaris from Parts Unknown has a new solo project that comes out May 19th called Going Sane In a Crazy World and it’s a rap concept-album about Kneel’s battle with bi-polar disorder.

While it’s got the structure and focus of a concept album, Going’s just as much a solid, focused hip-hop record that just happens to be divided into five acts and provides its listeners with a fairly comprehensive dive into the messy feelings that come with battling such a disorder. There’s even a track where it does go all-out concept album, like in the Prince Paul style, on “Intervention” where E-Major provides voice to a concerned doctor and of course, Kneels comes back at him angry: “What you know about that, Doc?/Typing on your lap-top/Think you know about Kneel and what’s he’s all about?/Stop-”.

Kneel’s “Who’s Watching Me” samples Rockwell in a way that’s brilliantly silly and really affecting, and it’s an apt introduction for Going Sane. Kneel spits detailed biography like “all Starbucks and Guiness got me so fired up”, and harsh self-criticism (”eyes in the back of my head for self-loathing”), atop Rockwell synths that creak and creep around. “Who’s Watching Me” actually won’t be on the album, so it’s almost like an actual, old-fashioned single or, given the conceptual nature of Going Sane, something of an overture.

- Brandon Soderberg

"Kneel Knaris "Who's Watching Me""

“All that Starbucks and Guinness got me so fired up…”; Every few years, there’s a gut-wrenching piece of hyper-honest depression rap that battles with the king of the genre, The Geto Boys’ “Mind Playing Tricks On Me”. Like Beanie Sigel’s “Feel It In The Air” from a few years ago, Kneel Knaris’ “Who’s Watching Me” comes really close and gains power from sorta cheesy production--call it “the Cam’ron effect.

There’s too many lines here worth quoting, a healthy (or unhealthy) mess of self-deprecation (“My album is an inside joke with a hidden verse”), self-hate (“eyes in the back of my head for self-loathing”), and knowingly dead-end indulgences (“I feel slightly reassured when different girls undress me”, “the only time they disappear is when I sip a beer”) with the life of crime and hustling usually in the fore-front of songs like this, placed in the background implicitly making the point that even without those pressures, the shit in his head would remain.

Knaris is Baltimore rapper with a concept album about bipolar disorder called Going Sane In a Crazy World that comes out in May. “Who’s Watching Me” is not on that album—I’m assuming sample clearance issues—but Kneel’s brilliantly using it as a promo, pre-album single anyway.
- Brandon Soderberg

"Kneel Knaris "Who's Watching Me""

“Don’t get me wrong. I have as much fun as everyone else. Matter of fact I probably have more. But that fun ends up in a funnel just as quickly. My album is a reflection of my life. The amusement park where the cost of admission is quite possibly a straightjacket.” – Kneel Knaris

Kneel Knaris, from Baltimore’s acclaimed rap duo Parts Unknown, is one of the most candid MCs to bless the mic. Knaris keeps it 100, blending lyrics that will open your mental and question his sanity at the same time. The manic “Who’s Watching Me” uses a chopped MJ sample where Kneel exposes lyrical paranoia. Kneel is the storyteller, the beat is his diary — and you listeners are in for one hell of an escapade. “Going Sane in a Crazy World” drops Online on May 19th, 2009. Tell a friend! - DREA

- Andrea Wilson


"Everybody Wanna Know" by PX (Parts Unknown) - Full Length
"Hail to the Streets" by PX (Parts Unknown)- Mixtape
"Hood Therapy" by PX (Parts Unknown) - Full Length
"Going Sane in a Crazy World" by Kneel Knaris - released May 19th, 2009



Imagine living a life that unravels and falls apart right before your very eyes. It’s what Bipolar Disorder sufferer Kneel Knaris endures on daily basis. He’s been on multiple “cocktails” to combat his rapid cycling with no effective combination. Neither group therapies nor psychiatrists were able to get through to him. Nothing seemed to work. Except music.

It's 2009 and it’s finally about to happen. So many years in the making that most have stopped inquiring about it. So many tears, triumphs and tragedies that this album will capture the minds, hearts and souls of everyone who understands that pain reminds us how alive we really are. May 19th, 2009 marks the emergence of a voice that will silence itself no more. “Going Sane in a Crazy World” is the solo debut from Baltimore native Kneel Knaris.

As a member of PX (Parts Unknown) he helped to bring the world “Everybody Wanna Know”, “Hail to the Streets” and “Hood Therapy”. Now he plans to reveal himself as the man with a story worth listening to. “Going Sane in a Crazy World” boasts production from Grammy-nominated producer Ivan “Orthodox” Barias of Karma Productions (Musiq, Mario, Jill Scott, Raheem Devaughn), F.U.P. (G-Unit, Joell Ortiz, Skillz), as well as up-and-coming producers Dischoe, Da Slumlordz, Quantis Music Group and DJ AntonToulouse from France.

“This project is so personal that I almost didn’t release it. I expose myself on this one. There isn’t a person alive who can’t relate to real life, real emotion, real pleasure and real pain.” Clinically diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, Kneel’s genius is only multiplied and oftentimes marred by his chaotic mood swings. He affectionately refers to his “gift” as “Starbucks and Guinness Disorder”.

There is a stark contrast of painful honesty and sinful pleasure throughout “Going Sane in a Crazy World”. Songs like "Edge of Sanity” and "I Don’t Wanna Feel" translate the effects of Bipolar Disorder through clever arrangements, crisp hooks and succinct lyrics full of introspection and confusion. Conversely, songs like “Addiction (Going Sane in a Crazy World)” and "Two Women" draw listeners into the spiral of dependency, escape and self medication.

"Don’t get me wrong. I have as much fun as everyone else. Matter of fact I probably have more. But that fun ends up in a funnel just as quickly. My album is a reflection of my life. It’s the amusement park where the cost of admission is quite possibly a straightjacket."

Is it possible that this project should be protected by HIPAA Laws? Could these words, verses and songs actually help the constant conflict between mania and depression? May 19th, 2009 offers answers to every question you will ever have concerning Kneel Knaris and why he’s “Going Sane in a Crazy World”.