Alum Eric Crawford ‘16 has spent his postgraduate life dedicated to working in different mediums. A musician, filmmaker and artist, Crawford’s many talents were honed during his time at Knox. He started rapping during one of his winter breaks when a couple of friends started messing around with recording music.
“We weren’t taking it seriously at all and just being silly. Then I started freestyling and [one of my friends] was like ‘I can really rock with this’ and after that I started considering rapping,” Crawford said.
Since then, Crawford has released numerous songs and even released an album titled “Elixir” as an undergraduate. He also performed at Lincoln Fest during his time at Knox. Crawford looks to musicians like J.Cole, Kendrick Lamar and Donald Glover for inspiration.
“It’s kind of hard to describe in my style. I like crafting and lyrically Kendrick Lamar is where I draw inspiration from,” Crawford said.
Crawford particularly enjoys how socially conscious Lamar’s work is. Crawford’s own work centers around the issues he sees in his home city of Chicago. Things like violence and economic disparity are issues close to his heart. On one of his songs, Crawford talks about how a friend had a baby and in order to provide for his child, started selling drugs.
“I draw from my experience growing up in my home and from experiences that my friends had. I also look at what’s going in the world, but I don’t get really political,” Crawford said. “I’m never preachy, but I talk about the issues I see.”
For Crawford, moving to Chicago has helped shape him as an artist. He says that it’s tougher to gain support in a bigger city since the pool of rappers has expanded dramatically. In Galesburg, he says that most of the feedback he got was positive since the rap scene wasn’t too big.
“[Audiences] are definitely more critical in Chicago since everybody raps here, but the support is there. It’s just been different vibes and different waves than at home,” Crawford said.
Crawford hopes that audiences can see the different layers and emotions he puts into his work. He likes to describe his music as “dense” since it’s packed with a lot of information about the things he’s been going through.
“There is a lot to unpack in my music. People put in a lot of work to analyze Kendrick Lamar’s “D.A.M.N” and I hope they do the same with my music,” Crawford said.
Crawford is unafraid to admit he has high hopes for his rap career. He eventually would like to play Chicago’s famous stadium, The United Center. In terms of immediate goals, Crawford aims to release his upcoming album “The Fog” by the end of the year. The title is both a reference to the rainy weather in Galesburg and a reference to the themes of anxiety and depression in the album.
“It’s about how it may be difficult to see past the fog and even though you might not see the other side, the fog is always is going to clear up. You can walk through it without being harmed,” Crawford
Click to be taken to Crawford’s “Elixir”
Jacob Allen, who goes by the stage name J-Allen, doesn’t seem like the type of artist who must dig deep in order to produce music. His lyrics typically include a confident barrage of insults against people who’ve done him wrong. Yet, when a serious relationship didn’t work out, Allen was heartbroken. The only way for him to process the emotions he was going through was by turning to his music career. His new album “Sounds of Heartbreak” is set to release on May 23.
“I was almost engaged and all of a sudden it was done. [The album] is pretty much me talking about how you can continue to live life after you’re heartbroken and what it feels like,” Allen said. “I seem confident in videos, but I’m still a person. I get down on myself.”
Though rap is typically the genre Allen turns to for his musical endeavors, his tastes range from soul music to rock and roll. For Allen, music was a way for him to cope with the struggles of growing up in Galesburg. His love life isn’t his only source of turmoil. Though Allen loves his hometown, he wants to escape the troubles with economics and narcotics Galesburg has faced. He’s also had his fair share of troubles with his peers. He often calls himself the most hated man in Galesburg.
“It’s a lot of disrespect from people who are my age, not so much the older generation, they all think they’re the best and they don’t need help. It’s honestly hard to make it yourself in Galesburg,” Allen said. “It’s cockiness and I can’t work with people like that.”
At times, Allen feels like the Galesburg scene isn’t the most supportive. Allen hopes to change the culture. He’s also hopeful about making it big after seeing other artists break through to mainstream success using platforms like Soundcloud.
“Thats where most of the upcoming artists are. A lot of the artists on ‘XXL magazine’ all got started on Soundcloud, but they’re from big cities,” Allen said. “When you come from Galesburg it’s impossible to [rely on that].”
A huge moment in Allen’s career happened when Galesburg artist Young Friez, who inspired Allen to start rapping, added a verse to two of his songs on “Sounds of Heartbreak.” Another came when Bill $abre, a musician who boasts nearly 3 million stream on his song “Creepin N’ Lurkin,” also contributed to his new album. Allen hopes to similarly inspire new artists in Galesburg. He even has plans to start his own record label comprised of local artists. So far, Allen has released the singles “Killing Me Slowly” and “In My Head” off the album. He plans to release another by the end of the month.
“This is my best album,” Allen said. “I feel really excited about the production … It shows I’ve come a long way.”
As Senior Jeremiah Horton sits in his anthropology class on deviancy, he can’t help but think about how his newfound connection to spiritualism and music has helped him deviate from the norm. Starting out as a basketball player during his freshman year, Horton eventually pivoted away from his athlete identity by embracing his love for ethereal and conscious rap. Horton goes by stage name Comfort Lord.
“I always want my music to have some sort of substance to it,” Horton said. “I got into spirituality and that’s what I wanted to express in my rap because I felt like it couldn’t be expressed otherwise.”
Balancing his honors project with all the efforts of producing a professional-sounding album has been challenging. Horton typically spends 4 to 5 hours on his music a day, which can leave him exhausted when trying to complete his schoolwork. Now that Horton has finished his album “Heart Drive,” which was released on Spotify on April 7, he’s been trying to focus on school work.
“School is one of those things that inspires me. Especially when we talk about indigenous cultures or cultures that are more in touch with nature,” Horton said. “It pushes me to connect to a deeper essence of myself.”
Horton got his start in music when a friend and Knox alum, Theo Mills ‘18 asked him to join a song he was working on. To Horton’s surprise, listeners encouraged him to pursue music more seriously.
“The response was a lot better than I could have imagined,” Horton said.
For “Heart Drive” Horton enlisted the help of European producer, Logos. The previous feedback he’d gotten on music was that the sound quality needed to be more professional. The next step for Horton is learning how to promote his music. As an artist, it’s harder for Horton to grasp the business side of the music industry.
“When I released [Heart Drive] I was expecting a bigger reception at first. Since then I’ve got a lot of people who’ve said they’ve listened to it. I feel like I was lacking the patience and I knew it was good, but I thought it could do more,” Horton said. “I still think it can do more.”
For Horton, the project is very personal. It’s his first professionally produced album and many of the themes are close to his heart. In “One Rain” he talks about the struggles he’s had with mental health and feelings of inadequacy.
“The second verse it starts ‘I’ve been depressed out of my mind, obsessed with the rhyme, did I spit them correct this time?’ I’m talking about stuff you don’t normally hear in a rap song É its about ‘is this good enough?’ and it’s about the self-rejection we all face,” Horton said.
Though “Heart Drive” was just released, Horton is already working on new music. He has three singles coming out on May 5, June 6 and July 7. His mixtape, “Earth’s Ether” will be released on Aug 12.
Editor’s Pick: Click this link to be taken to a Spotify playlists featuring artists such as Comfort Lord, Dominick Fike, D Savage and Lil Xan. (Warning: Explicit Language)