Right now, every story about 24-year-old Chicago music maker Knox Fortune begins the same way: with his profile-boosting guest vocals on Chance the Rapper's exuberant "All Night," from last year's Coloring Book. And in a way, that's the right place to start. The song elevated Knox to a level of visibility that had previously eluded him from his position as a behind-the-boards producer and songwriter.
But those reading the liner notes of the top Chicago hip-hop releases over the past few years already knew his name. It popped up in 2015 on Towkio's .WAV Theory and on Surf, the Social Experiment's freewheeling, jazzy debut; the following year, he had writing credits on Vic Mensa's There's Alot Going On and half of Joey Purp's iiiDrops, including on the playful standout "Girls@."
To return the favor, Joey helped Knox fine-tune some tracks on his debut solo album, Paradise, out today (September 22). For example, Knox told MTV News that the main hook on his song "Lil' Thing," a breezy and delightful funk jam, came together with Joey's help.
"For 'Lil' Thing,' for instance, he said, 'It's the summer,'" Knox told MTV News recently. "I had it say, 'It's always someone,' and he was like, 'You should have it say, 'It's the summer.'"
That one simple tweak made "Lil' Thing" emblematic of the playfulness Knox revels in on Paradise. The album rubs elbows with chillwave and indie pop but never settles on a single genre or particular sound for very long. On the nocturnal "Strange Days," featuring the rapper KAMI, Knox builds a beat from the rolling sound of a shaken spray can and cranks up the vocal reverb to paint a thick, street-savvy smog on the entire track.
It's part of the "unconventional" sonic world-building Knox said he loves to do, some of which begins simply with him out in the world with a microphone, taking field recordings. "Sometimes I'll hear something and just be like, wow, that should be in a song," he said. "It could be even, like, a plunger noise or a water droplet or something like that."
Paradise — for which Knox did all the original artwork himself — is out now, which means you can make a game of finding every unusual sound buried in its 11 songs. "No Dancing," the unsteady but electrified opener, is a fantastic place to start.