Sometimes a producer just needs a push.

For Houston-based boardman and The NUMB3RS Committee affiliate Yung Knight, talented though he was – and is – at making beats, he had a story to tell beyond just playing the background.

The locals know Yung Knight even if they don’t know his name: he’s the man who provided sounds for some of the city’s better records of the last two years. OneHunnidt’s “Ain’t Mad” off Field Sobriety? Courtesy of Yung Knight. Doeman & Propain’s anthemic “How Can I Lose?” Knight did that. WhyJae’s trap meets EDM sleeper “Lights?” That’s a Knight beat, too.

That’s part of the reason why Yung Knight opted, on his birthday last Friday, to release a “greatest hits” compilation of sorts featuring his best beats from 2014-2016. The result? Knight You A Fool, Vol. 1, co-presented as a “DJMix” with DJ Trigga Mike. It blends snippets of 13 tracks featuring Knight’s handiwork, and is singlehandedly a testament to his versatility with instrumentals, as well.

But we told you Yung Knight had a story to tell. The truth, is that in the midst of layering sounds for other people, Knight got bit by the bug to rap himself. Producers turning performers can be hit and miss. If you’re lucky, you have a Kanye West or The-Dream-esque ascension. If you aren’t? Well, you go back into hiding; and that doesn’t necessarily mean you weren’t good at it, just that you may have been MUCH better at one thing than the other.

Eleven11, Yung Knight’s debut solo mixtape, can be seen as an experiment or a coming-out party, depending on your perspective. Yung Knight prefaced the project by way of his collab fall single with OneHunnidt, “Mansa Musa.” But from the one-two punch of “Dreaming” and “Myself” to open the album, it’s apparent that rapping isn’t just some hobby for Knight: it’s another weapon in his arsenal, another means to demand the city and the world notice the talent, and he takes it very seriously. Knight himself produces the lion’s share of Eleven11, though he recruits others for help on two of the tape’s fourteen tracks – ReddBluffYungin on the posse cut “NUMB3RS” featuring OneHunnidt and Bigg Fatts; and JoshDidThis on the dabtastic Hogg Booma-assisted “This Way.”

There’s an overarching theme of rising above after being counted out on Eleven11. “Myself” has the rapper-producer declaring he can walk the road alone if he has to, because he’s done so for so long with little to no help. “Need Something” is deliciously spiteful, as Knight insists on the track’s refrain, “I ain’t change – I just don’t f*ck with YOU.” “Run It Up” may be Knight at his best as he settles into his groove and delivers his bars with a laid-back yet focused flow. And outro “Show The World” is a motivational speech on wax, even as it feels like the listener is all but eavesdropping on Knight talking to himself.

“I’m just a young n*gga dreamin’,” Yung Knight declares on Eleven11‘s intro “Dreamin’.” It always starts with a dream. And if how Yung Knight started November is any indication, the producer-rapper is working diligently to make at least a couple of them a reality.

Stream Yung Knight’s Eleven11  debut solo tape down below.

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