After studying the album cover, I was not quite sure what to expect from rapper, and Howard University Sophomore hailing from Tallahasee, FL, Elliot McKnight’s, “The Beginning”. The cover immediately reminded me of Kanye West’s “College Dropout” with its dark humor; however, I was unsure of Elliot’s ability to compete. Within the first fourty-five seconds of the intro, Elliot McKnight had a fan in me.
With “smooth sampling” inspired by old-school R&B and lyrics that made me pause and rewind, I was in for 9 tracks of genuine inspiration. Featuring a track with Howard’s very own Jayyiman, “The Beginning” is one mixtape that sets the standard for upcoming young artists at Howard. On the first listen, I was impressed by Elliot’s sound using sampling and live instrumentation. He took me back to weekends at Granny’s house with samples from Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” on his song “Ain’t No”, one of many favorites on the mixtape. I was drawn in by his rapping style and the content of his lyrics was real, telling stories of the life struggles of a country boy with a dream. This mixtape took me back to J. Cole’s “Friday Night Lights” combined with the lyrical content of Kanye’s “Late Registration,” and after only one listen I knew Elliot would become one of my favorites on campus.
Another one of my favorites (which I rated with 5 stars on iTunes) is “It’s Over,” featuring a beat by McKnight’s colleague and friend, Brad Williams. I rate this track as my favorite simply because it is one that I can directly relate to being in a similar position as a Howard University student; chasing a sometimes seemingly intangible and ultimately expensive dream. The old school sample had me swaying in my chair as I rapped along, “…Lord please tell me what you destined me…” I compared Elliot’s life to my own and found similarities in our stories; growing up in the South, knowing that we had big dreams, and feeling that Howard University was the perfect place to chase them. I also have to commend him for the song “Letter to Lexi,” a heart felt and real dedication to his younger sister who had just recently turned 17. He warns her of the struggles of becoming a young adult, particularly a female, and to watch out for the men who sometimes acted exactly as he did, saying “… behind all the nice charm and how it seems, these n****s will cut you down for anything,” and begging his sister to find a man that is better than him.
During an interview with his videographer and comrade, Nick Beauregard, (who created the album cover and also directed and filmed both the videos “La La La” and “Don’t Turn Around”) I asked Nick who he would compare Elliot’s style and flow to; after careful consideration we both confidently agreed on that of J. Cole. Both Producer Williams and Creative Director Beauregard had been working with McKnight for over a year to perfect this project, “The Beginning”. It is obvious that McKnight spent many nights studying and thinking about what he wanted to share with his peers, and his message was perfectly portrayed, that it is great to have dreams as long as you are willing to put the effort in to achieve them. I strongly recommend anyone reading this to take a second listen to this, and I personally look forward to the next project Elliot McKnight releases.
Download The Beginning Here