Newcomer Knoc-Turn'Al thinks he and Dr. Dre. might have set a hip-hop record.
"We worked 72 hours in a studio nonstop recording 'The Wash' soundtrack," Knoc-Turn'Al said last week from his record label's Los Angeles office. "I don't think we could do it again. The security guys would see me coming and say, 'Man is it going to be another one of those days?' "
Just in case that doesn't make the record books, Knoc's got another impressive feat worth boasting about.
In the three years he spent working on his debut album, Knoc's Landin', due April 23, Knoc wrote more than 300 songs.
"As we were going along, I would do 20 songs and then like drop all of them except the three that everybody felt were the hottest," he explained. "When it was all said and done, I had 30 songs [that] I had to drop down to 14. It wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be, but it was still kind of tedious."
Among those that made the cut is "The Knoc," his first single. Both the song and the video — directed by Jeff Richter (Black Rob, Jurassic 5) — feature Dre and Missy Elliott. Like most of the tracks on Knoc's Landin', Dre produced "The Knoc" at his studio.
"He put the beat up, and I just started writing to it that night," Knoc recalled. "It was like me letting people know I'm here and I want to talk to you. I was really trying to hold more of a conversation than anything in that song — let people get the feel that I can rap, I'm not just a hook person."
Knoc-Turn'Al, whose father was in a funk band and took him to Rick James concerts, has been rapping for as long as he can remember. He honed his skills during a four-year stretch in prison, where he wrote 150 songs, none of which appear on Knoc's Landin'.
"You have to keep moving on. Using songs you wrote three years ago is bullsh--," he said. "And I'm not trying to dig up those bones in my closet. That's not something I want to glorify. I don't want kids walking around talking about prison sh--. That's like embedding something in their minds they don't really need to hear."
Once outside of bars, Knoc hooked up with hip-hop label LA Confidential, whose CEO introduced him to Dre. Knoc made an instant impression on the hip-hop mogul and co-wrote and appeared on four songs on his Chronic 2001. He also co-wrote "Bad Intentions" and "The Wash" for "The Wash" soundtrack, Dre's "Put It On Me" for the "Training Day" soundtrack and Warren G's "Lookin' At You."
"Being from the West Coast, that's the ultimate, working with Dr. Dre," Knoc said. "He is the founder and pioneer of West Coast rap. His sound is incredible. Once I hooked up with him, it felt like home" — only more demanding. "It's always a challenge working with Dre because he does not like to be outdone in any way shape or form," he added. "He strives for perfection."
Several other artists appear on Knoc's Landin' as well, including Timbaland, Warren G, Too Short, Hitman and Slip Capone. Knoc-Turn'Al also recorded a few collaborations that didn't make the record.
"I sure hope they aren't mad at me," Knoc said, sounding genuinely concerned. "You gotta realize, not only are you cutting off songs, you're cutting off people. I just hope they don't take it personal. It's a business."
While recording his album, Knoc-Turn'Al got to know other West Coast rappers who have worked with Dre, and he's since bonded with them in a crusade to help the scene grow.
"We got a nice little foundation out here now," he said. "Instead of being all secluded, we're being more together. Like, me and Xzibit went to a club the other night. Instead of alienating ourselves from each other and saying, 'No, I wanna be closer to Dre,' 'No, I do,' like little bitches. We ain't doing that. We're holding this sh-- together."
Knoc continues to write with other artists and is talking with Nate Dogg and Fabolous about a summer tour. Mostly, though, he's just waiting for his album to come out.
"I'm getting anxiety attacks and sh--," he said.