"My roots are in that era," says the 6-foot-2 DJ, grinning. "I’m kind of old school, but I still got some new to me."
The DJ pays homage to those roots on weekly hip-hop nights around town; he has a residence Thursday and Saturday at Rick’s Music Café (9565 Telegraph, Detroit; call 313-533-8000) and Tuesday at Marilyn’s on Monroe (498 Monroe, Detroit; call 313-963-1980).
Coming up, K-Nice was just a white kid from Taylor, removed from the fast track of Detroit’s hip-hop centers. Until Eminem blew up, white guys weren’t getting much love on the hip-hop scene. Like other rising hip-hop artists, K-Nice saw racial lines blur with the success of Slim Shady. "Dr. Dre put his stamp of approval on Eminem and he’s off and running," he asserts.
Yet, the turntablist is quick to admit that it wasn’t always easy. "There’s more skepticism when people first see me — until they see me work the turntables."
Undaunted by early hurdles, K-Nice kept spinning and passing out his mix tapes to anyone who wanted to listen — mostly his high-school classmates. K-Nice acquired quite a few listeners. "I tried to learn how to scratch and learn how Jam Master Jay was doing it," he explains. "I would rewind Krush Groove [a 1985 hip-hop film] and watch it over again. That was my favorite."
Seeing P-Funkster George Clinton brought about another epiphany. "That’s when it really started getting serious for me," he says. "I always wanted to be a producer, but I wanted to know enough to tell the engineer what to do. I wanted to work with artists and start a record label."
K-Nice enrolled in the Recording Institute in Detroit, a local trade school for music recording and graduated in 1995. Three years later he launched Richter Scale Records. In each of the four years since the label’s inception, he has released a mix CD highlighting Detroit artists and producers. The most recent, World Famous Vol. 2, saw light in May and has already sold out of its initial pressing. "The CD features two of the hottest up-and-coming MC’s, Obie Trice and Sol," says K-Nice.
The next Richter project, Blacklisted Volume 2, will drop in October. It will be one of the largest comps of Detroit hip hop ever released, a double CD featuring 14 producers and 39 rappers.
"The first volume of Blacklisted focused more on the artist," explains K-Nice. "But Volume 2 will highlight several local producers including Money Mike, Sick Notes and Disaster."
In addition to bringing together Detroit’s hottest artists and producers, K-Nice also had "sought out underexposed artists who were so dope on the street. Everyone needed to hear them."
K-Nice has done time behind the turntables with several local artists, including the Fat Killers and Trice, who has recently signed to Eminem’s imprint, Shady Records.
Marwon, of the Fat Killers, at a respectable 5-foot-10 and 305 lbs., testifies, "I love K. He’s real and he doesn’t pull any punches. He’s given local artists the opportunity to showcase their talent in an avenue that we wouldn’t normally have."
K-Nice has also managed to fuse Detroit’s hip-hop underground with nationally celebrated heroes of the genre. For Blacklisted Volume 2, DJ K-Nice recently initiated "You Gotsta Chill Showcase Saturdays" at Rick’s Music Café. Every week, there is an open mic and a live performance around midnight by one of the artists on the pending Volume 2. World-renowned DJ Kid Capri will be brought in to kick off Volume 2’s release.
K-Nice has his sights set on Detroit hip-hop becoming more of an influence on the world. He’d like to see Richter Scale become a major label.
What’s more, K-Nice is one of the most sought after local DJs on the hip-hop scene. Fear is no longer a part of his vocabulary and he’s confident that eventually he will be heard. "My biggest critic usually ends up being my biggest fan." he says. Curtrise Garner is a freelance writer from Detroit. E-mail her at [email protected]