My DIY Heroes 6: Keith Knight
Welcome to this brand new edition of my ongoing series celebrating the people I know that embody the Do It Yourself spirit . This week: “My DIY Heroes”: Part 6: Keith Knight, Cartoonist / Rapper.
If you missed them, check out my previously covered DIY Heroes: Hush, Matt Goff, Tavius Aiton, Carina Lomeli, and Hidden Agenda Press.
– Cartoonist, Rapper
Marginal Prophets, (th)ink, The K Chronicles, The Knight Life
I first met K2 (K squared, like math, not K2 like the mountain), as he is called in The Marginal Prophets, who play “hip-hop with a punk rock aesthetic,” through 90.1 FM KZSU Stanford radio when I hosted the show “The Open Casket Buffet”. I have since chatted with him at A.P.E. and other Comic Book Conventions when I was hocking Cuddles the Urban Pirate and he was promoting “Fear of a Black Marker”, the second of six collections of his “The K Chronicles” comics, where he is also known as Keef.
Knight’s single panel cartoon “(th)ink” first appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle and has appeared in the Washington Post, Ebony, L.A. Weekly, Funny Times, MAD Magazine and the list goes on… He has since gone on to syndication through United Media with “Knight Life”. Keith is dedicated to DIY as his website points out, he is “a passionate media literacy teacher, who tours the world with his famous and inspiring multimedia slideshow, in which he tackles race issues, the media, censorship, and activism with a humorous D.I.Y. attitude.” He also co-wrote and illustrated “The Beginner’s Guide to Community-Based Art”, the co-author is referenced only as Schwartzman.
To the Prophets, DIY seems to be more of a matter of frustration from trying to break into the music industry. “Allow me to parlez about the dues we’ve been payin’,” The Prophets wax over samples of Tori Amos and King Crimson on the track “C-Side” from their Gamma Ray Records release “Twist the Knob.” “Strictly independent and here’s the real: Because that F’en guy at Geffen wouldn’t give us a deal.” They look to the bright side of DIY in “The Prophet Zone”: “We can’t be stopped, never flop, never goin’ pop, we’re on our own label so we’ll never be dropped.”
Their lyrics are arguably the most intelligent in Rap music, indeed music in general, with references to Truffaut, Aunt Jemima, Hamlet’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Absolut Vodka, Wavy Gravy, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Courtney Love and ‘80’s dance-off Dance Fever’s Deney Terrio. And that’s just the one song “C-Side”!
Self-promotion is an obvious part of DIY, and Knight has that down, with a plug for his comics in the CD sleeve for “Twist the Knob”, which is peppered with his artwork, including the cover which features caricatures of him and his co-MC The Noble DEF G sitting on a sidewalk with signs reading “Will rap for food” and “Spare beats?”.
Also included in the CD sleeve for this album is a dissertation on “The Sampling Question,” which reads like an open letter to those that might sue for unauthorized use of a riff, and a complete credit list for the musical samples. “In order to prove to you that we have nothing to hide,” they note, “and that we do NOT advocate the stealing of other people’s music…”
It’s a little off topic, but to end this article, I quote the Prophets quoting a funk legend: “George Clinton said it best: ‘Think, yo, it ain’t illegal yet!’”
Hush – Since I first launched this series with Hush’s space-saucer flying chicken, he has fallen off the face of the Earth, or some similar quirk of physics, as his outgoing message is some guy named Gerlüz hocking his Chicken House Records ragtime album of Scott Joplin covers. If you missed the article, read it now!
Tavius Aiton – Since Tavius’ article, he has launched Tavius.org to promote his music and writing, and The Artist Collective, an arts networking and resource site with the motto “artists helping artists be artists.” If you missed the article, read it now!
Carina Lomeli – Since writing the article about Carina, she has been very busy with POOR Magazine her and artwork, including a live painting show that I got in the way of with my camera. If you missed the article, read it now!
Hidden Agenda Press – Small press comic book artists and publishers. If you missed the article, read it now!
Keith Knight – Fun Facts from his website: In 1984, Keith Knight was the official Michael Jackson impersonator of Jordan Marsh, a department store in Boston.
The Marginal Prophets – The Marginal Prophets are Keith Knight as K-Squared and the Noble Def G on the microphones, Adam Lodge on bass, drummer Adam Lipsky, and guitarist Jeff Ranney. Their CD Bohemian Rap CD (a play on the song Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen) was awarded the 2004 California Music Award for Outstanding Rap Album. However, they are still an unsigned band.
“Hip-hop with a punk rock aesthetic” – According to Hard Knock Radio, dedicated to underground rap.
90.1 FM KZSU Stanford – This place has the greatest selection of CDs, vinyl and reel to reel I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen a few! I Dj’ed there in the late 90’s, hung out in studio with rockers, entertained tens of people weekly, and owned the air waves!
“The Open Casket Buffet” – I still find that too funny! At KZSU 90.1 FM Stanford, I was DJ tomb and I co-djed with Professor Rubberhead Theophobia and Enola Gaye, co-editors of Poop God.
A.P.E. – Alternative Press Expo., a comic book convention for small press and DIY comic creators. The 2010 Expo included, Linda Barry (Ernie Pook’s Comeek), Tony Millionaire (Sock Monkey), and Daniel Clowes (Ghost World) to name a few. Clowes’ website, by the way, is just a gateway to buy his latest offering “Wilson”. The Ghost World link takes you to CurrentTV‘s Rotten Tomatoes show, which I love.
Comic Book Conventions – Nerds in Spiderman outfits and Batman tee shirts, and nerdy chicks in Harley Quinn and Black Widow outfits. Funny thing here is that I wrote the last line before finding this picture.
Fear of a Black Marker – This is a reference to “Fear of a Black Planet” by Public Enemy. You may be familiar with PE alum Flavor Flav from the Flavor of Love.
The K Chronicles – A weekly, semi-autobiographical comic strip based on the life of Keith Knight. It “threatens to bring the funny back to the funny pages.”
Keef – Also a marijuana reference. From the Urban Dictionary: “1. (noun) THC crystals from cannabis buds. These don’t only come from dank buds, but from any weed which has been ground in a Spacecase, or any other weed grinder with a keefbox.”
San Francisco Chronicle – A newspaper serving primarily the San Francisco Bay Area of California, but distributed throughout Northern and Central California, from the Sacramento area and Emerald Triangle south to Santa Barbara County. It was founded in 1865 as The Daily Dramatic Chronicle by teenage brothers Charles de Young and Michael H. de Young, who now have an art museum named for them. Home to Keith Knight’s “(th)ink” comic strip.
Ebony – “The No. 1 source for an authoritative perspective on the Black-American community.”
L.A. Weekly – “Since 1978, LA Weekly has been decoding Los Angeles for its readers, infiltrating its subcultures, observing and analyzing its shifting rhythms, digging up its unreported stories and confronting the city’s political leaders.”
Funny Times – An American humor newspaper founded by the husband and wife team of Raymond Lesser and Susan Wolpert in 1985.
MAD Magazine – What can I say about MAD Magazine that you didn’t already know when you were 13? What, me worry?
United Media – A large editorial column and comic strip newspaper syndication service, owned by The E.W. Scripps Company.
Knight Life – Keith Knight’s syndicated semi-autobiographical comic strip.
Multimedia Slideshow – From knightlifecomic.com: “Keef’s multimedia lectures have been a hit at college campuses, conventions, and fundraisers all across the United States and beyond. Presenting some of his finest and funniest cartoons, Keef tackles race issues, the media, censorship, and activism with a humorous D.I.Y. attitude. Hilarious, poignant and inspirational, a night with Keef will be a Knight to remember.”
“The Beginner’s Guide to Community-Based Art” – Illustrated and co-written by Keith Knight (with someone named Schwartzman – I could not find a first name), it is suggested reading in some college courses.
King Crimson – Since 1968, Robert Fripp and an assortment of players, ranging from Adrian Belew (who had worked with David Bowie and Frank Zappa), Jon Anderson (of Yes), Greg Lake (of Emerson, Lake and Palmer), Bill Bruford, Tony Levin (who had played with Peter Gabriel, former front man for Genesis) and so on, have been making music ranging from Progressive Rock to minimalistic chord building. The sample used by the Marginal Prophets was the ominous guitar build from “21st Century Schizoid Man“.
“C-Side” – “This ain’t the B-side, it’s the uh the uh the C-side.”
Gamma Ray Records – Seemingly defunct independent record label that carried The Marginal Prophets “Twist the Knob” album.
“Twist the Knob” – The Marginal Prophets’ album. “Twist the knob, slob, and crank it to the maximum. You can’t hear ’cause your ears got wax in ’em.”
Geffen – With the line “Stictly independent and here’s the real, ’cause that effin’ guy at Geffen wouldn’t give us a deal” they could mean any male representative at Geffen Records, but they may have also meant David Geffen himself. From wikipedia: “David Geffen is an American record executive, film producer, theatrical producer and philanthropist. Geffen is noted for creating Asylum Records in 1970, Geffen Records in 1980, and DGC Records in 1990. Geffen was also one of the three founders of DreamWorks SKG in 1994.”
“The Prophet Zone” – “You better tell your mother that you won’t be home, because you never know what happens in the Prophet Zone.”
Truffaut – French director François Truffaut, best known for starting the French New Wave cinema movement with his 1959 film “The 400 Blows”.
Aunt Jemima – Classic icon for maple syrup and pancakes. The first ready-made pancake mix (1889). From the official site’s “Our History”: 1889: Chris Rutt and Charles Underwood of the Pearl Milling Company developed Aunt Jemima, the first ready mix. 1890: R.T. Davis purchased the struggling Aunt Jemima Manufacturing Company. He then brought the Aunt Jemima character to life when he hired Nancy Green as his spokeswoman. 1914: The image of Aunt Jemima was so popular that the company was renamed the Aunt Jemima Mills Company. 1926: The Quaker Oats Company purchased the Aunt Jemima Mills Company. 1933: For the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933, the advertising planners decided to bring the Aunt Jemima character back to life. They hired Anna Robinson, described as a large, gregarious woman with the face of an angel. She traveled the country promoting Aunt Jemima until her death in 1951.
Hamlet – “To be or not to be.” That guy.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern – Two minor characters from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, who are killed due to the title character’s growing paranoia. In the Tom Stoppard’s movie “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” starring Gary Oldman and Tim Roth, we get to see “Hamlet” from behind the scenes, from these two character’s perspective. What are the odds of flipping a coin and getting “heads”
Absolut Vodka – As vodka goes, it beats out Taaka, Potter’s and even Smirnov, though not as good as Grey Goose. Their advertising campaign, featuring lemon slices, islands and other objects in their iconic bottle shape, is one of the best I’ve seen.
Wavy Gravy – Hugh Nanton Romney, an American entertainer (clown) and activist for peace, best known for his hippie appearance, personality and beliefs. His moniker was given to him by B.B. King at the Texas International Pop Festival in 1969.
Crosby Stills Nash and Young – During the late ’60’s and most of the ’70’s it seemed like there wasn’t a band that one of these fellows hadn’t been a part of, so they are probably the first supergroup. David Crosby had been in The Byrds (“To every thing turn, turn turn), Stephen Stills had been in Buffalo Springfield (Stop now, what’s that sound, everybody look what’s going down), Graham Nash had been in The Hollies (Bus stop, she’s there. I say please share my umbrella) and Neil Young had been in Buffalo Springfield and had his back up band Crazyhorse.
Courtney Love – Born Courtney Michelle Harrison, the former singer for the band Hole, she was married to and implicated in the death of Kurt Cobain of Nirvana.
Dance Fever – (1979 – 1987) The dance show before Dancing with the Stars, but after American Bandstand.
The Noble DEF G – “The D to the E to the F to the G, my first four grades at university. While Keef is listed on their site as “the black one”, the Noble DEF G is “the jewish one”.
George Clinton – Probably the most influencial funk musician ever, having started Parliament and Funkadelic, which later fuzed to become P-Funk. He also did the voice characterization for Flutterguy in an episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.
“Think, yo, it ain’t illegal yet!” – From the album “One Nation Under a Groove”, the song’s title is “Lunchmeataphobia (Think! It Ain’t Illegal Yet!). The Marginal Prophets added the “yo”.
Check back soon for “My DIY Heroes” spotlights on Zine Publishers Kill Zinesters, Vetted Word’s Editor in Chief Olga Rosales and Writer / Comedienne Lynn Ruth Miller!
copyright © Tom Boyle