Bumpy Knuckles is the true definition of an O.G., father, emcee, teacher, mentor and big brother to many. He came into the game with the legendary Eric B. & Rakim as a member of the Paid In Full Posse. In 1989, the street rapper, who was then solely known as Freddie Foxxx, released his first album on MCA titled Freddie Foxxx Is Here. No one could ever question the authenticity or credibility of Freddie Foxxx in music because his track record as an emcee is solid. Songs with well known emcees like Kool G. Rap on “Money In The Bank,” or KRS-One on “H.E.A.L” and/or “Sex & Violence” was just the beginning for Foxxx. He also has songs like “Hot Potato” with the New Jersey legends Naughty By Nature that were stellar performances by the Long Island native who helped to solidify his name as a lyricist.
His guest appearances with Gang Starr and M.O.P. are arguably some of underground Hip Hop’s hardest verses. He has also worked with some of Hip Hop’s top-tier producers. And in 2000, he released the top-selling independent album for that year — Industry Shakedown. Writing Songs for the legendary rap group Salt-N-Pepa, Foxxx penned the Grammy Award winning tune “None of Your Business.” He also wrote their biggest hit to date, “Whatta Man.”
The list of accomplishments are very long for the O.G. in the music business. His openness about his ups and downs helps him to stay grounded and focused. I spoke with the emcee/producer recently about his career and his new project collaboration with one of Hip Hop’s top producers, Nottz, called Pop Duke.
What is your motivation to keep making music?
The creative process keeps me motivated. The fact that I can push faders and turn knobs is a great feeling. I listen to all kinds of music and sounds. My man cave is a recording studio and I spend a lot of time in there working on catalogue. When I started recording years ago, I was fortunate enough to have great minds to learn from, like Patrick Adams, Herb Powers, Doc Rodriquez, Cris Conway and so many other great engineers that I would always ask questions to. I knew I had to study then, what I would need in 20 years to keep making music. I have an obsession with the creative process.
At any point did you ever feel like quitting music?
At times, I wondered if I should be doing other things, like opening a boxing gym, a burger spot, or something like that. In the beginning, it was tough for me because the business wasn’t what I expected it to be. There was a lot of foul shit happening and I couldn’t understand how artists didn’t see it happening right under their noses. Maybe they didn’t care. I don’t know, but I wasn’t with any of that when it came to my music, my career, or my life.
Why the name change from Freddie Foxxx to Bumpy Knuckles?
Well, in 1989 when MCA Records released my first album, I was in a great place
in my life. I had good people around me, the money was right, and creatively, I was
in a different zone. I was also experimenting with techniques that I had learned from groups like The Cold Crush 4 and The Furious 5 using melodies and harmonies in my music. Once I was signed, I noticed that labels were just manipulating the art and people were trying to tell me who I was and not seeing me as I was. I also saw other artists with the name “Fox” coming out, and I always, til this day, want to have my own identity in anything I do. So one day I was in a little scuffle on Eric B’s block, and a young lady said, “Oh my God. Look at your hands. You have lumps on your hands.” I said, “No. The lumps are on his head.” She said, “Bumpy Knuckles,” and I said “Yea, that’s me. Bumpy Knuckles.”
How did you link up with Nottz?
Another one of the beauties of social media is that you can connect with anyone who is online. I had been hearing about him for a while, and when I got on Twitter, I was able to connect. Took a minute, but a friend of mine, who is an artist as well, was working with him and he told me that Nottz wanted to connect. This was perfect because I had been wanting to work with him as well. V Stylez out of Detroit made the plug and the rest is history.
So is the “Pop Duke Vol. 1” project being done independently?
Yes. We both have studios. I went to sit with him in Norfolk, VA and he started playing so much heat, I was like a kid in a candy store. The first idea I had was to have him totally produce a project that we have called “O.G.ology,” a group with Treach of Naughty By Nature, Trick Trick from GSM and myself. The project is recorded and we have two videos done. Treach started touring for the Naughty By Nature 20th Anniversary and Trick Trick started filming a new movie and our schedules went crazy. I decided then to start my “Pop Duke” project until we all got back in pocket. Nottz started sending me more and more beats and I just rapped on everything. I couldn’t drop all of that fire at one time, hence volumes were created.
Stream/Buy Bumpy Knuckles “Pop Duke Vol. 1” Album Entirely Produced By Nottz
What is your process when writing an album?
Well, the first thing I do is listen to music. What’s crazy is, if I am producing the music, I can’t write to the beats right away. So I will make as much music as I can until my vibe dies. Once that happens, my pen comes back and I can write. Never can do both at the same time though. Not sure why that is, but it works out for me because by the time my pen is lit, I have plenty to write to. I reflect on my life and the things I’ve been through and I try to carve out some structure to it lyrically. Now that I am older I take my time more and I am very lyric conscious. I make sure I say what I want as I have always done. But it has to be bars that represent my teachings and my history.
Any rituals before you record?
I like to clean the studio before I start a session. I put on jazz music or classic soul music and clean. This gives me a chance to listen for new ideas as well.
Which do you prefer – writing or making beats?
I like them both. I get something from both processes. The writing energy comes when it wants, based on what happens in my life that I want to talk about. I will hear a line in my head and jot it down, The first line is always the hardest. Producing beats is probably more detailed because I have to create sounds and sequence them into something that makes me want to say what I write over it. I know the marriage of my music and my words match when I am done because it is well thought out.
Who are your Top 5 producers?
I like certain producers for different reasons. I can only say that based on the ones I’ve worked with though. In no particular order, I can tell you a few favorites:
1. DJ Premier – because he is a director in the studio. He is not afraid to say DO IT AGAIN.
2. Pete Rock – Soulful music. His concern with quality is dope to me. Soulful tracks.
3. Nottz – he has a variety of beats that drag you through different emotions. He could make music for anyone.
4. Alchemist – His grit and his patterns have a unique timing that is identifying of his style. Compliments my voice well.
5. D.I.T.C – The definition of Underground boom bap to me. They are the reason I like to keep it raw. They introduced me to that sound.
There are others, but you asked for 5. Haha!
I know you wrote for other rappers. Talk about that experience.
Ok, I wrote for Salt-N-Pepa on their biggest album, “Very Necessary” (Platinum). I wrote 5 songs on that album. I also did songs for John Cena on his 1st and only album (Gold) (he wrote his own rhymes). I did production on that album though. I have written commercials and produced for DMC of RUN DMC as well. There are a bunch of other projects I have done also. Those are just a few.
“Whatta Man” is one of the classic tracks Freddie Foxxx wrote
You have been a part of some legendary crews. Would you like to elaborate on that?
When I would get a call to work with an artist on a song, somehow I would end up touring with them and becoming a member of the family. I started with “Paid In Full Posse”. That was my original home in the music game.
“Roll Wit Tha Flava” landed me in the Flavor Unit HOUSE.
“Hot Potato” landed me in the Naughty By Nature HOUSE.
“Ruff Ruff” & “The Original Way” landed me in the BDP HOUSE.
“The Militia” landed me in the Gang Starr Foundation HOUSE.
I’m like hip hop’s foster child. Lol. I’ve always earned my way no matter who I rocked with. I love all of the people who have given me a platform to do what I do. Even if it wasn’t always a smooth run, I am grateful. Now I have my own house — KRUPT MOB.
I remember a video you did in 1989 called “The Master”. I always wondered if you studied Martial Arts?
As a kid in Westbury, Long Island I was taught how to fight at the local youth center. I also studied for a little while under S.W.A.M Abdul Mutakabbir, who named me “The Concrete Warrior.” Honestly, I don’t like to fight, which is why I will go harder to hurt any opponent, get this shit over with quick, so you know to never fuck with me ever again.
Any special guests on the new “Pop Duke” album?
Yes. On Volume One I have BIZ MARKIE, CHUCK D, RAHEEM DEVAUGHN, KOOL G. RAP, LIL FAME, BIG GOV, V STYLEZ, and a talented young singer named KUYE MASON. I also have intro’s from both my daughters Leylah & Janah (Liona Jae aka Pretty Knuckles). I didn’t want to put all of the major features on one album. So I have some serious guests coming on the other volumes as well.
Do you plan to tour off this album?
I want to do more shows in the United States. I’ve always liked the stage because that is where the truth comes out for any artist. I am from the backyard party rocking days when you had to know how to rock the mic. So touring is a strong point for me. I will see what the market is doing and make moves based on who wants to really work. I thank Europe for always supporting my music and keeping me over there for so many years. Looking forward to hitting the road again.
Lastly, what is the concept behind the “Pop Duke” artwork?
I thought that Popeye was indicative of my personality. A man who is strong to the finish. Music is my spinach and my passion. I’ve never thought in my wildest dreams that being able to make music after a certain age would be such a challenge. Not creatively, but the atmosphere is weird. People that you know for years are funny acting and it’s evident that success has changed a few people. I laugh because many of them seem to be following trends and looking crazy out here. When people look at BLACK POPEYE on the cover of “Pop Duke”, I want them to be reminded of the fight that we are really in, and not all of the fake video rich bullshit they want to portray. My videos are simple and hopefully affective as well.
“Pop Duke Vol. 1” is out now on digital platforms only. I’ll be doing some special orders for physical copies soon. I want to thank everyone involved with this project, and all of my diehard fans for still holding me down. I love them. Salute!
It is truly an honor to be able to interview another hip hop legend of our era — Freddie Foxxx. All of us over at Weekly Rap Gods would like to sincerely thank you for your time, insight, and most importantly, your contributions to the culture.