A Talk with Unknown INK
Updated: Oct 15
Representing the East Coast, Unknown INK is a Virginia-based MC gearing up for the release of his debut album, Praise the Unknown. The record comes after a slew of collaborations with artists such as King Havana and Harvey Gold, as well as his own debut single, ‘Dying Breed’.
Starting off, INK touched on the process behind ‘Dying Breed’, produced by Philadelphia beatmaker Matt Swain. He said: “At first, when Matt had sent the beat, I kind of put it aside. I was already working on another song on the album … and when I came back to it, I listened, and I was bobbing my head. Then when the beat started slowing down, I was like, ‘I might just want to bar people, go bar for bar.’ … I was listening, just bumping my head, and then that caught me an idea. I wanted to go for that funky type of music, to have people nod their heads … I wanted to be able to put an earphone to somebody’s ear, and they move their head with it.”
The rapper chose the track as his debut single because “I felt it expressed me more. It gave me the chance to express how I feel, and just to show people who I am. To show people I can deliver in any circumstance; that I could be generational.”
Although the release date for Praise the Unknown has not been decided, the MC was quick to confirm that more singles are on the way. “You can expect four more singles. While I work on the album, I want to still give people music … I don’t want to not have any songs out, because then how will they listen to me if there’s no music?”
Speaking more on the LP itself, INK said: “It enters me as a person … How I fought from being that person to being this person – expressive, happy, just the joyful person that I am. Going from stage to stage. Climbing up the ladder.
“Originally, I was talking to some family members. I was rapping – doing a lot of features – and then everybody was like, ‘You can’t just be someone who hops on features. You have to put your own songs out. You have to have your own story and tell people what you feel. I looked into making an album. I came to my brother, and he was like, ‘So what should your album be about?’ I wanted to do the unthinkable on the first album … To show I can be an asset to the underground community.”
He added: “My writing process has been improving. I’ve had to erase whole songs, thinking about, ‘I’ve got to move this, put this here.’ It was basically putting a puzzle together. Picking apart the pieces in every lyric that I put down. What would fit better? What would people hear? What would people listen to? Don’t just add something in there that doesn’t mean something. Every word has to count.”
Production on Praise the Unknown will mostly be handled by Matt Swain, but as for the MCs involved, INK has more ideas. “I definitely have some artists in mind I want on the album, like Unruly, and even Patty Honcho. He’s very nice – I heard The Blaxploitation, it was amazing … It’s definitely mainly about me, and I’m definitely going to have more solo songs than features.”
Turning away from his solo work, he touched on ‘Funny Dog 2’, a 15 minute collaboration between INK, his brother and fellow MC Unruly, and Norwegian producer Harvey Gold. “I feel like me and Unruly definitely put our minds together, and when we put our minds together, it’s just unstoppable … I was going upstairs, and I went in my brother’s room. He was like, ‘I’m finna do a 15 minute song.’ I was like, ‘Fifteen minutes? That’s a lot of rapping. How are you going to do this?’ So as the days passed by, he was showing me his verse, and he would keep coming back to me, showing me, recording … And then I said, ‘I want a verse on that.’ Hearing his words on that verse made me want to talk about something real, something that people face today – what my community, what black people face today. I wanted to really talk about that, and put some aggressiveness behind it, and push the fact that black people are struggling in today’s world … My people are struggling today, and we need to combine as one.”
He added: “Working with Unruly is a very interesting experience. You have to be serious; you have to be ten toes down, ready to work. You can’t goof off – every minute counts, every second counts, with Unruly. You can’t be in a rush. You have to have patience, breaking down the song, and each part, and what could make it better … You can’t talk about certain stuff you don’t know about; you have to talk about what you know about.”
Moving away from his latest music, Unknown INK spoke on his inspirations as an artist. “What appeals to me about rap music, I would say, definitely the lyrics – people talking about what’s actually going on in the world today, getting the message out. Everybody getting their situation out there and telling the world, ‘Listen to what I have to say.’ I grew up all around music. My mom would be listening to 2Pac on the way to school. I was surrounded by all types of music.”
He went on to break down his stage name: “I was definitely a real attention-seeker. But then, as I got older, I started to cool down, and I stayed to myself. Once I stayed to myself, I started writing down how my day went; what happened at school today; what I could have done better today; what I could work on. So ‘Unknown INK’ is just how I felt as I was growing up. Sitting in my room, I felt like I wasn’t the expressive guy that I am now. I was just in the shadows. So ‘Unknown INK’ originated from when I was in the shadows – when I felt by myself.”
Looking to the future, INK is full of ideas for his career. “I feel like I could really put some flavour on a Klwn Cat beat,” he said, listing off his dream collaborations. He added: “I’m definitely thinking about doing an R&B album. I’m thinking about taking my singing to the next level as much as my rapping.”
Having released his debut single this past September, the career of Unknown INK could go in any direction. But with singles written, an album in the works, and plenty of collaborations down the line, the future of INK’s career has already been planned out. Find his music below;