Rapper learns hardships of making a name

Knox Hill, a rapper with dual ties to D.C. and Philly, promotes his new album here and abroad.

Knox Hill is currently working on promoting his latest endeavor, “Redemption” released this past January. | courtesy KNOX HILL
Knox Hill is currently working on promoting his latest endeavor, “Redemption” released this past January. | courtesy KNOX HILL

Knox Hill is so busy with his career that he barely has time to fit it all in. Calling all the way from Manchester, England, he fought off jetlag to squeeze in an interview between appearances on English radio and nightly shows. 

Hill, a rapper from “the DMV” – the area encompassing Washington, Maryland and Virginia – is something of a globetrotter. With family in England, plus ties to both the Philadelphia and Washington areas, he said his ultimate endgame is to make his name internationally known. The next step in that process is the two-and-a-half week tour of the UK he’s embarking on to promote his most recent album, “Redemption.”

“One of my biggest fan bases comes from [the UK],” Hill said. “I like to look at analytics for Facebook and YouTube and see where my fans are coming from, and I’ve got a lot over here.”

Though he said he’s had a creative mind for as long as he can remember, in another life Hill might have been a businessman.

Hill said he’s a self-promoter, looking for every opportunity to expand his fan base, sometimes nabbing niche audiences other rappers wouldn’t think to look for.

In the past few months, Hill has even begun a collaboration with a community of “League of Legends” gamers.

“You have thousands of people that are on livestreams watching these games. They have commentators, interviews, everything behind it,” Hill said.

With the way ESports have expanded to a professional level, Hill  said he saw no reason not to use them as a form of cooperative promotion the same way other artists have used more traditional sports leagues. As a video game fan, he said he’s not ashamed to put his name alongside a fantasy strategy game, either.

Hill has made theme songs for two “League of Legends” teams, creating what he calls a “win-win” promotional situation for both his music and for the teams.

Even with fans in communities around the world, it’s hard for Hill to pinpoint a place he would call home.

“I’m kind of a vagabond,” Hill said with a laugh.

Never letting himself get too comfortable in one place, Hill keeps moving in order to keep his career from stagnating. His run in the UK is all about promoting “Redemption,” the 10-track album he released in January.

“’Redemption’ is meant in the literal sense of the word,” Hill said about the release. “This album came into creation during one of the more down times in my life.”

“Redemption” is about personal struggle and inviting listeners into the mind of the artist to find pieces of their own story in the lyrics. Hill said one of the primary themes in his songs is motivation. No matter what a listener might be doing when listening to a track off of “Redemption,” Hill said he hopes the song will inspire them to do it better.

The message is not only for the audience, but also for Hill himself.

“I still consider myself a rookie at everything I do,” he said.

Less than three years into his career as a rapper, Hill said he understands how crucial it is to do more work beyond booking shows and recording. He sees the current state of the genre as being over-saturated with rappers. If everyone thinks they can do it, artists like Hill need a way to distinguish themselves.

“You need a brand that stands out and people can relate to. You need to be willing to put in the hard work,” he said.

That’s why, when he gets back from his brief international tour, Hill plans to shoot a few more music videos and start recording new music.

He’s growing the fan base he has abroad, but doesn’t plan on ignoring the one has at home.

“The goal is to get to the point where Knox Hill is a household name,” Hill said. “Anything less than that is not good enough for me.”

Tyler Horst can be reached at tmhorst@temple.edu.

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