Knocka a.k.a. Mark Roberts is somewhat of a neighborhood legend. When you mention his name in Harlem you will get a reaction whether it is good or bad. Everyone it seems in Harlem has heard of him, or his antics or they know of him through music. Knocka who grew up in Wagner Projects in Harlem got his nickname from his mother.
“I got that from being clumsy” says Knocka. He started rapping seriously at the age of 16 after seeing and hearing people in his neighborhood rapping and that is where he says his passion for it grew. “People I looked up to were doing it” says Knocka.
“So I started working on my lyrics and getting into ciphers.” Knocka inherited some money around this time and quickly made a name for himself dropping music and doing songs with Max B, Nicki Minaj, Brisco, Fred Da Godson, French Montana, Trav, Mann, Ron Browz, and YG. While making his way in the rap world, he started a group called Million Dollar Babies and one of the members of that group was ASAP Rocky, hip hop’s newest star on the rise. The two he says grew up together and he describes their relationship as a brother type of bond. He says of ASAP Rocky
“I kind of helped create everything he is now” says Knocka. “He was down with MDB (MDB Mafia), I helped motivate him and push him towards a lot of what he does now” says Knocka. “That’s my right hand man, I helped guide him, we were really close together almost every day” says Knocka. “Anybody that knew Rocky before the fame was because of Knocka, after he lost his brother, I became his big brother” says Knocka. “He definitely offered to help me with my rap career, but I declined” says Knocka. “We have 2 different lanes, I didn’t want to join someone else’s movement, I want to start one of my own with my own beliefs” says Knocka. “There is no beef, no static between us that is still my right hand until one of us dies says Knocka.
Harlem has been a breeding ground for a lot of new music lately with Teyana Taylor, ASAP Rocky, Vado, A-Mafia DipSet and Byrdgang still making their presence felt Knocka says he is very happy about it but sees a different path for his music. I’m proud of everybody doing their thing, they have created a path for themselves but for my music I feel like if a label grabbed me, they have to take what I stand for. That according to Knocka is the Black Flag movement (not to be confused with Maino’s Black Flag movement) and Y.N.T.O. (Young Nation Taking Over). For Knocka, the Black Flag stands for peace, poverty, wisdom, knowledge, unity and being real.
“I make my music for 99% of the world, I rap about subjects more people can relate to cheating girlfriends, poverty, what’s going on in the streets, basically real life situations” says Knocka. I don’t want to be another artist rapping about Maybachs and G4s, I’m a fan of those guys but I want to make my own lane for being real and being a lyricist says Knocka.
There has definitely been an evolution in Knocka from the brash teenager who showed stunted blatantly in the streets of Harlem to the conscious rapper he has become. He attributes that to a change in attitude. For the main part, I changed my attitude and flashy ways.
“I inherited some money and I didn’t know how to act says Knocka. “Any person in that situation is going to change for better/worse and as I got older, I came to my senses and saw the reality of what was going on and I expressed my feelings about it. I still get hate but now with my new movement its 90% love and 10% hate where before it would be the reverse says Knocka.
Knocka says when people see him in person; they tell him how much love and respect they have for him. The “new” Knocka has shied away from his flashy past and is focused on putting his movement on the proper footing. He has cut down on the collaborations because according to him he helped a lot of artists from Harlem reach the next level and he didn’t get the proper respect.
“I never asked anybody for money just a thank you so now, if they have something going on already I will help but if not I decline them” says Knocka. The “new” Knocka has even done a video tribute to Cheyanne Baez, a young female dancer tragically killed in Harlem. On that situation he says he felt it needed to be addressed was asked by her mother to do it. “I felt their pain and shot the video, it was kind of my Stop The Violence video” says Knocka.
According to him his focus now is his supporters and his first mixtape Black Flag.
“My mixtape from the artwork to the tracks is about everything, everyone can relate to in some form” says Knocka. “I’m just giving information to people who don’t know the hood.” “It’s like my Basquiat painting” says Knocka. He has already shot 4 videos from the mixtape and plans to shoot 1 more video for it.
He has also started working on his next mixtape Still Black Flagging scheduled to drop in April. For Knocka the future for him is to keep motivating every young person out there. My job is to tell people that dreams are limitless and that pertains to every aspect of life. Don’t be satisfied with where you are at.
Shout Outs: I want to shout 2 Dope Boyz, World Star Hip Hop, and every other blog and website that supports me. Of course The Source Magazine and Live Mixtapes, thanks for the support.
Reporter’s Note: Knocka talks on two of his biggest collaborations Max B and Nicki Minaj on the song Million Dollar Baby remix. “I always feel like I owe Nicki Minaj and Max B because they hopped on the track says Knocka. They were on a different level and showed me love. I flew Nicki Minaj to the city and we just chilled. We used to just talk on the phone at five, six in the morning about music. Max B was like a big brother and always ask his people about him” says Knocka.