Fred Shepeard Jr., better known as hip-hop artist Fred Knuxx, works hard to be different. So, when he sees fellow rappers embracing the party life of drinking and drugs, he heads for a different track.
“My influences, they didn’t have to do a party tape,” Knuxx says. “Nas, one of my favorites, wrote a song about himself being a gun. I want to bring that back to hip-hop. Hopefully people who are missing that scene will buy the music I’m putting out.”
Knuxx, of Bear, promotes himself as a “Straight Edge MC,” who is drug- and alcohol-free.
“In today’s hip-hop scene, partying is glorified more,” he says. “It’s all about smoking marijuana, smoking and drinking—the party scene. That’s the one agenda being pushed. Look how many rappers are endorsing a liquor brand. When I was coming up, it was more of a variety of music, where you could pick what you liked.”
Knuxx, who writes and arranges his own music, wants to influence the genre by adding more variety and balancing the subject matter. He raps about real-life situations, but he lives clean and keeps cursing to a minimum.
Knuxx first rapped in grade school plays and wrote his first song when he was 12. He began pursuing a solo career in hip-hop after graduating from Christiana High School in 1999. He created his own label, StarCore Ent., with a partner and is working to build a brand. He recently released a mix tape, called RapMania, of his lyrics set to refashioned theme songs of World Wrestling Entertainment stars.
Knuxx frequently performs at places like Mojo Main in Newark. But if you go to a show, don’t plan on seeing Knuxx enjoying the post-concert nightlife.
“The stage is what I love,” he says. “But after the show, I’m real humble. If you saw me, you wouldn’t even know I’m a rapper.”
Knuxx has been signed to a label in the past and has enjoyed modest CD and mix tape sales. But while he is poised to make it big, he still has a family to support.
“I get money from (his hip-hop career), but I work 9 to 5, too,” he says. “I’m a rapper with a brain.”
(fredknuxx.com) —Drew Ostroski