Sierra Leone native uses hard knocks of life to inspire
others through music
HARRISBURG, PA – Paul Kpakiwa is no stranger to the school of hard knocks. In fact, his stage name Knoxx is born from the life lessons he’s learned over the years. And his music is infused with wisdom gleaned through those hard knocks in ways that are making fans all over the world sit up and pay attention.
Growing up in war-torn Sierra Leone, Africa specifically in Freetown, the capital, – young Kpakiwa would often dream of a better life in the United States of America. It was a dream shared by many of his friends, but unlike them Kpakiwa had a father who had managed to find a job in the U.S. And though it took some years and a lot of paperwork, he was eventually able to bring his entire family to the States.
When he arrived in the U.S., some of the tribal music he’d grown up with was replaced by hip-hop, and the dreams that started in Freetown grew into much bigger and loftier ideas. He had traded up from poverty in Sierra Leone to poverty in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania – but the struggles were still there every day of his life. He was growing up among the have-nots, but was fortunate enough to attend a private Catholic school where he rubbed shoulders every day with peers who had more than they could ever need. The music in his life became the comfort zone between those two worlds – a bridge, if you will – and to this day it’s that bridge that inspires his music.
“I definitely want my music to be an inspiration,” he said. “I want to be something positive. I would love to be that person someone listens to when their day is rough. I would love to help them feel good about their life or provide a perspective that reminds them to keep going, be motivated and keep pushing. The majority of my music comes from a place of inspiration and motivation. When you’ve been through enough darkness, you can’t help but want to see light and help others see that light.”
That positive, inspirational hip-hop vibe is on full display with his new album, “Talking Black.” It’s an album that explores political, racial and social justice issues. Some of the inspiration for the album comes from his wife, who is Caucasian, and their mixed family. The debut single from the album, “Black Girl Magic,” is an homage to his sisters and mother and displays a flow that’s comparable to Biggie’s “Hypnotize.” Throughout the entire project – in the midst of all these subjects that are sometimes difficult to talk about – Knoxx weaves his positivity and uses words of motivation to help others consider a different point of view.
“I’m not a gangster rapper,” he said. “I’m an honest guy who likes positivity. My angle is usually concept-driven, and I have a background of a songwriter who knows how to rap. That’s who I am. I’m a guy who wants to show other people who don’t have a lot of opportunities that they can still dream and they can get to a place that’s much better than their current situation. I’m trying to let my music pass the baton in a paying it forward type of way.”
To listen to Knoxx’s music, or to follow him on social media, please visit: