For “Studios Sessions,” we delve into the stories behind the long hours in the studio and all that goes into making an album by talking with artists, producers, engineers, photographers, and more who are intimately connected to the recording process with some of the biggest artists in the world. These are the stories that rarely leave the booth.
Fifteen years ago, Atlanta hip hop group Crime Mob brought the beast out of everyone when they gifted the world with “Knuck If You Buck.” The song didn’t top the Billboard charts or win any Grammys, but its lasting impact is very much still evident today.
“Once we started performing it, you could actually see people go into this trance. Something happens in their eyes. It’s crazy to see, but it happens all over the world,” Princess told REVOLT TV.
In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” Princess and Diamond of Crime Mob discuss who they’d like to hear on a 2020 version of “Knuck If You Buck,” the obstacles they had to overcome to record the original, and what’s next for the group.
Earlier this year was the 15-year anniversary of Crime Mob’s ‘Knuck If You Buck.’ Where and when do you remember that song being recorded?
Princess: The first time was July 2002. We had to go to a show at the skating rink that day and Lil J came up with the beat. That was the first time we recorded it. The first couple of versions had 10 or 12 people on it. Everyone in Ellenwood thought they were part of Crime Mob (laughs). Part of how that became what was eventually released was process of elimination. We had other songs and the boys were also in another group. Once that group disbanded, they stopped performing their songs. Then, Money Black — who used to be Cyco Black — Killa C, and Lil J were the first few main members of Crime Mob. Then, Diamond and I joined. The version with the girls became the most popular one. So, we started performing that one. When it came down to actually putting on paper who was in the group, it was whoever was on that version of the song.
What do you remember about making the version of the song that we know and love now?
DIamond: It was exciting. We had a show that we had to perform at and I think one of the members either wasn’t in the group anymore, or got arrested, or something. That’s how it came about for me to put a verse on the record. I had already written a verse to this song called ‘Shake Ya Dreads, Show Yo Grills,’ that we never ended up putting out. Once I rapped my verse to Lil J, he was like, ‘Oh, this is hard. You have to rap this on ‘Knuck If You Buck’ so we can have the verse ready for when we perform.’ I think we were performing at the aquarium or the Atrium and that was a pretty big deal for any artist in Atlanta with a name. We recorded it at a home studio in a closet when it was unheard of to do that, and now you have everybody doing it.
I remember Lil J, Money Black, and Killa T were the first guys of our age group that was really into that type of technology like Fruity Loops. I remember Lil J and Princess’ father and mother wouldn’t allow us to curse. So, we would have to hurry up and record when their parents would go to the store. Whatever you didn’t get recorded, by the time they got back from the store, that was it. That was our time. You had to make sure you had your verse memorized. It was fun.
Princess, the entire song is memorable. But, your ending few bars before the chorus is the most indelible part. How did you come up with it?
Princess: First off, I didn’t like ‘Knuck If You Buck’ when we started recording that. I thought we had better songs. I wasn’t really enthused about re-recording ‘Knuck If You Buck’ a lot of times. Everything came from Lil J first. He’s my older brother, and with me being in the group because of him, he monitored everything, especially early on. Everything had to be run by him. Lyrics and all of that. So, he had a big input on delivery and flow back then. I used to be more of a tongue-twister. When we started performing I was like, ‘OK. That’s not going to work with breath control and everything.’ A lot of it came from him.
I don’t think anybody back then knew what ‘Knuck If You Buck’ was or the impact. My dad knew ‘Knuck If You Buck’ was a hit early on. I didn’t understand what it was. Once we started performing it, you could actually see people go into this trance. Something happens in their eyes. It’s crazy to see, but it happens all over the world.
Fifteen years later and you’re still able to perform it to hyped up crowds. What does that say about the song’s legacy?
Princess: I think it says there are times where songs that last a long time weren’t planned. ‘Knuck If You Buck’ is definitely one of those songs because it’s had a resurgence three or four times now. It wasn’t something made off the best equipment with the best, Grammy award-winning writers and promotions team. It was authentic. It was six kids coming home from school and rapping what they knew. So, that energy is felt and is able to transcend decades. That’s amazing. We’re performing at the Red Bull Music Festival... Just to see it grow each year is great.
I present you...— Keith Nelson Jr (@JusAire) November 8, 2019
Princess and Diamond of Crime Mob doing "Knuck If You Buck," in Atlanta, 15 years later pic.twitter.com/zcvZYFGlTL
What was the dynamic like recording the first album?
Princess: It stunk (laughs). It wreaked of black boys in one guest bedroom. It was the size of a regular room with two futons and a computer. My brother would record every rap group in Ellenwood. It always had a lot of boys in the room. It’s crazy thinking about it now. Why would my parents let these many negros in their house smelling like cigarettes and smelling like weed? Sometimes, they would steal a car to get over there. It was so much they didn’t know back then that we tell them, over time, that we can laugh at. But, it was crazy. It was....sweaty (laughs).
Besides ‘Knuck If You Buck,’ what was your favorite song to record from the group’s self-titled debut album?
Diamond: I would say ‘Rock Ya Hips’ because we were at a time in the group where it was majority rules. Of course, it was three guys and two girls, and we wanted to tap into our sexy side. I was 18 or 19 and we were switching our hairstyles up from the kinky twists to wearing more weaves and lace-fronts. We were wearing lace-fronts before everybody was wearing lace-fronts. ‘Rock Ya Hips’ was initially a song the guys recorded, but the label was like, ‘Nah, we need the girls on there.’ When we added our sauce to it, it changed the dynamic from fighting to dancing. For me, it’s right under ‘Knuck If You Buck.’ The ladies love. You’re going to hear ‘Knuck If You Buck’ every night, but if you stay or listen a little bit longer, ‘Rock Ya Hips’ might come right behind it.
Princess: I would say ‘Rock Ya Hips’ or ‘Stilettos.’ That song ‘Stilettos’ is a surprising one. It’s still a silent killer. It still streams well. A lot of sororities step to it. That’s another one I didn’t see the vision for right away. Diamond had a verse on it. I heard it, I liked it. But, it was the beat that I didn’t feel all the way. So, when Lil J did the beat over I was like, ‘OK. That’s cute.’ Now, people are still doing memes and ‘Stiletto’ videos. It’s amazing that we can still be relevant in a time when everybody can make music. A lot of people that came out when we came out aren’t out anymore.
What was the first moment when you knew ‘Knuck If You Buck’ was a hit?
Diamond: We already knew before the world knew because you couldn’t get your song played on the radio unless you had a major deal. So, the radio station actually reached out to us for the record because the streets were calling like, ‘Why y’all not playing ‘Knuck If You Buck?’ I knew it was a hit worldwide when we shot our video. We went through a lot with that because we were supposed to have a tour bus. The label had a big budget for us to do the video and it ended up being something smaller than what we intended it being. It still connected with girls and guys. It was raw, uncut, and us being on this mobile home, coming from this show in Atlanta down to something in Columbia, Georgia. When we got the reaction after the video came out and people were like, ‘Oh, they’re just like me.’ That was really it for me.
Princess: For me, it was the day we did the ‘JAY-Z & Friends Tour’ (in 2004) and Diddy sent somebody around the whole arena to find us because another artist went in our place and we weren’t going to perform. Then, we heard Diddy wanted to bring us out and we ended up performing with him. He coached us in the little locker room (laughs). He was in his robe like, ‘Ok, J, you’re going to come out this way. Princess, you’re going to come out this way.’ We do this all the time, but to hear him tell us how we’re going to come out was like, ‘Oh my god. Diddy is really about to bring us out.’ That was dope.
What is next from you two and Crime Mob?
Princess; Crime Mob has an album coming out whenever we can finish it (laughs), and get it mixed and mastered the right way. That’ll be out soon. There are some other things in the works.
Diamond: In the meantime, Vagina Power is out. We released that on the actual 15th anniversary of Crime Mob. We’ve been getting good feedback and it got a lot of our loyal, day one fans excited.
How long have y’all been working on this album that’s coming out?
Princess: It’s been on and off for us for a few years. With us being older now, having families and other obligations, it’s hard for all of us to get together and have the same synergy to create at the same time. When we do have those bursts of energy, we do get stuff done. We let the boys do the production part and we’ll come back to see what needs to be tweaked... We’re just learning how to balance everyone’s solo careers and the group’s stuff at the same time.
We’re entering a new decade. Who would you want to see do a 2020 version of ‘Knuck If You Buck?’
Princess: DaBaby would sound good on ‘Knuck If You Buck’ with them bells. As far as energy, I’d like Travis Scott. I’d also want Lizzo on there and have her play them flutes behind them bells... Y’all go ahead and set that up. Come on, now. Set that up.