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Posted under: Music

The History Behind Beloved Negro Spiritual 'Knuck If You Buck' Is As Wild As You'd Imagine, Boy

We still come in the club shaking our dreads.

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Before the youngins were juju-ing on the beat, “Knuck If You Buck” had folks lit crunk at parties since 2004.

Thanks to the good folks at The Nod Show, we now have an oral history of the iconic song. Crime Mob recorded the classic in summer 2002 at Lil Jay and Princess’ mama’s house. Lil Jay said he was inspired to create the song after watching someone get beat up at a house party he hosted. The guy got his ass whooped under a single streetlight, and that imagery inspired the bell noise you hear at the beginning of the beat. Jay added some snares and made a lot of magic.

His dad bought them a CD burner, and that made it easier for them to promote their music.

“Now, we got the opportunity to let everybody in the world hear our s**t,” said Lil Jay. “’Cause you gotta understand y’all, it wasn’t no Myspace back in the day. Wasn’t no Facebook. Wasn’t no Instagram. Wasn’t no SoundCloud. Wasn’t none of that s**t. So we knew what time it was when we started burning them CDs, and we was selling them CDs like crack.”

The version on that CD wasn’t mastered, but it didn’t matter to listeners and it caught on quickly. Radio stations played the song despite its rough edges.

“You could hear the garage door coming up in the background in the audio. You could hear my mom talking. You could hear heels clacking,” said Princess. “It was so crazy, but that’s how crazy the demand for the song was.”

Journalist Yoh Phillips saw the effects of the song firsthand. When he was coming up, his parents owned a skating rink, and that’s where he first heard “Knuck If You Buck.”

“They run, literally run around the perimeter of the skate floor pounding their fists into their hands,” he recalled. “That was the way the teenagers would react to the song, like a war cry. It felt like gladiator music when ‘Knuck If You Buck’ came on.”

“It’s a fight every time that song came on,” said Lil Jay. “Security gotta tool up because somebody getting they ass beat. Straight like that.”

Princess and Diamond believe the song was cathartic for fans.

“I think violence played a part in us growing up because that’s what we saw at that time. So we, as music should be, take in what’s around you and document it. That’s what classic songs are,” said Princess.

“You gotta think. You’re of that age where you just got all that energy. You happy, you angry, you sad, you figuring yourself out,” Diamond said. “Going through life, going through puberty…it’s just everything all at once. It’s just a beautiful thing. It’s so many different emotions wrapped into one.”

Crime Mob’s members were teenagers at the height of their fame and that, coupled with a shady first manager, led to the group’s demise. After 2007, they were no more, but the song gave them a legacy.

“I’m proud to say we’re the youngest OGs,” said Princess. “We the youngest group in the foundation of Atlanta. So we were 15 being looked at as ‘those just the little kids,’ now we’re the youngest legends.”

Indeed.

Listen to the full oral history of the sacred negro spiritual below: 


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