CunninLynguists is an American hip hop trio from Lexington, Kentucky[1] and Atlanta, Georgia. The group currently consists of Deacon the Villain, Kno, and Natti.[2] The group's discography includes multiple mixtapes and studio albums, which have been subject to widespread critical acclaim for their production and lyrics.

Performing live in 2009
Background information
OriginLexington, Kentucky, US
GenresHip hop, alternative hip hop
Occupation(s)Rapping, production
Years active2000—present
  • Freshchest (2001–2005)
  • LA Underground (2005–2006)
  • APOS Music (2006—present)
  • QN5 Music (2006—present)
Associated acts
Deacon the Villain
Past membersMr. SOS

CunninLynguists have been covered in various media outlets including The Source, URB, Spin, XLR8R, Import Tuner, and The Onion.

Early beginnings

In 1999, Deacon the Villain and Kno met at Club Kaya in Atlanta, Georgia at an event for the now defunct Blaze Magazine that included various members of Atlanta's own Dungeon Family.[3] They had talked online previously through an emcee named Jugga the Bully, who hosted an open mic called Underground Live at the Moorehouse college campus, which they both frequented.[4] At the time, Kno was in the group The Continuum, and Deacon was in the group ILLSTAR.[5] Deacon soon returned to his home state of Kentucky and Kno eventually followed. Following several conversations of working together, the two first planned an EP where Kno was only producing and Deacon was rhyming, but soon Kno contributed as an emcee as well.[6]

Musical career

2001–2005: Will Rap for Food, SouthernUnderground and Sloppy Seconds

The group's debut LP, Will Rap for Food, was released in October 2001, and was described by Pitchfork Media as "a solid, accessible debut, filled with clever rhymes and tremendously consistent production".[7][8]

In April 2003, Mr. SOS joined the group on the album SouthernUnderground, which was independently released on Freshchest Records. The album featured guests including Masta Ace, Supastition and others, alongside production from Domingo and RJD2, but again mostly Kno.[7] M.F. DiBella of Allmusic commented on "a lyrical deftness and genuine feel for the music rarely seen in the bling-conscious rap of the latter-day era".[9]

The group landed a distribution contract with Caroline Distribution in 2004, and SouthernUnderground was the first project re-released after inking the deal with Will Rap For Food being re-released shortly thereafter in 2005.[7]

Throughout 2003–2005, the group throughout the U.S. and Canada, appearing onstage alongside notable acts such as Nappy Roots, Cee-Lo Green of Goodie Mob and touring extensively with People Under the Stairs, Raekwon of Wu-Tang Clan and Brand Nubian.

The group also released the mixtapes Sloppy Seconds Vol. 1 in 2003 and Sloppy Seconds Vol. 2 in 2005.[10]

2006–2008: Mr. SOS leaves, Natti joins, A Piece of Strange and Dirty Acres

Following SouthernUnderground, Mr. SOS left the group on peaceful terms.[11][7] Soon after, the two remaining members met Natti, a fellow Kentucky emcee. Deacon and Kno describe his joining as a casual process, with Natti already being featured on Sloppy Seconds Vol. 2 and being involved in Deacon's side group Kynfolk.[12] Natti would be the final member to join the group and end its formation.[13][14]

CunninLynguists released their third LP, A Piece of Strange, worldwide on January 24, 2006 via Caroline Records and Groove Attack Distribution. It features guest spots included Cee-Lo Green, Immortal Technique and Tonedeff, among others, and is entirely produced by Kno.[15] The album marked a significant turning point in the group's musical career, with the members turning their lyrics and music into more passionate material, and minimizing their "silliness". Hype gave the album a five star review describing it as "the best album of the last 12 months".[16] URB gave the album four stars, describing it as "a piece of beauty, a soulful and sweeping assemblage of cuts that ride a steady wave of infectious momentum",[17] and The A.V. Club commented on Kno's "masterful, adventurous production".[18]

The release of A Piece of Strange also saw their profile rise and cultivating a bigger and dedicated fanbase, as they toured abroad multiple times[19] in support of the release, appearing live alongside notable acts such as Kanye West,[20] Pharrell Williams,[19] The Strokes[19] and more.

CunninLynguists released their fourth LP, Dirty Acres on November 27, 2007 through a joint venture between their own label APOS Music and Swedish-based label Bad Taste Records.[21] Produced entirely by Kno, it features artists such as Devin the Dude, Phonte of Little Brother and Witchdoctor,[22] and was described by CMJ New Music Monthly as "a defiant album that questions everything, even the assumed standards of hip hop".[23] It was lauded by Michael Kabran of PopMatters as "easily one of the best hip-hop albums of 2007 and arguably one of the best albums of the past decade".[24] CunninLynguists made their way across the United States, Europe and Canada in support of the album, headlining the Dirty Acres Tour in 3 parts over the course of 2008.[25]

2009–2013: Oneirology and Strange Journey Volumes One and Two

On December 21, 2010 the group released the artwork and announcement of the March 22 release date of their fifth album Oneirology on their Facebook page. In 2011, they released Oneirology to critical acclaim. HipHopDX said about the album: "This project combines creative sounds with inventive rhymes and stands as an example of how a great group can come together to craft a well-made album worthy of praise."[26] Its concept revolves around Oneirology, the scientific study of dreams.[27]

The group released two mixtapes in 2009, Strange Journey Volume One and Strange Journey Volume Two.[28]

2014–present: Strange Journey Volume Three

In 2014, CunninLynguists released their sixth LP, Strange Journey Volume Three, to critical acclaim. The LP was curated entirely by the group's fans who gave feedback on and suggested ideas for song concepts, features, packaging, and artwork. It features artists such as Aesop Rock, Del the Funky Homosapien and Murs, among many more.[29]

The same year, CunninLynguists' lexicon was also found to be one of the richest among rappers who perform in English.[30]

Deacon The Villain and Natti were featured on the title track on Swedish rap group Looptroop Rockers album Naked Swedes.[31]


The name CunninLynguists is a play on the terms "cunnilingus" and "linguistics", an oral sex act performed on a woman and the study of language, respectively. When the group was first forming, Deacon and Kno casually came up with the name, not intending for it to be permanent nor serious,[5] instead only wanting listeners to not take their music as seriously as their music sounded.[32]

In 2009, XXL included the group as having one of the worst names in hip hop.[33]


At the group's beginning, members Kno and Deacon focused more on energetic wordplay and outlandish rhymes, but at times deep and passionate material, such as "Mic Like a Memory" or "Family Ties" from Will Rap For Food.[34] This continued up until their critically acclaimed album A Piece of Strange, which reversed their output of certain material, with more serious songs, such as "Brain Cell", and less playful ones, such as "Beautiful Girl".[12] The group has been applauded of their ability to craft poetic songs yet still make enjoyable music.[35]

Throughout CunninLynguists' career, they have collaborated with a wide array of other notable artists, such as Anna Wise,[36] Aesop Rock,[37] Big K.R.I.T,[38] Cee-Lo Green,[39] Celph Titled,[40] Del the Funky Homosapien,[41] Devin the Dude,[42] E-40,[43] Hilltop Hoods,[44] Immortal Technique,[12] Killer Mike,[45] Macklemore,[46] Masta Ace,[47] Murs[48] and Sean Price,[49] among many more.


Kno and Deacon the Villain are the founding and current members of CunninLynguists and have been found on every CunninLynguists album thus far since the group's inception in March 2000. CunninLynguists would later go on to work with various Dungeon Family members such as Cee-Lo Green,[50] Big Rube,[50] Khujo Goodie,[51] EJ The Witchdoctor[50] and Killer Mike,[51] with the latter comparing CunninLynguists' sound to Dungeon Family "in its heyday".[51]

Kentucky-based emcee Natti has been involved in the group from November 2004 until the present (appearing on all material since Sloppy Seconds Volume 2). Natti has released his first solo album, Still Motion, on September 24 (September 30 in CD form).[52]

As of January 2006, the duo of Kno and Deacon have begun work as a production duo under the banner A Piece of Strange Music. Together, they began producing for artists such as Devin the Dude and Immortal Technique, among others.

Florida-based emcee Mr. SOS was a part of CunninLynguists from July 2002 to October 2004 (appearing mainly on SouthernUnderground and Sloppy Seconds Volume 1).


Studio albums
  • Will Rap for Food
    • Released: October 20, 2001
    • Label: Urban Acres Entertainment
    • Re-Released: January 25, 2005
    • Label: Freshchest Records
  • SouthernUnderground
    • Released: April 1, 2003
    • Re-Released: April 20, 2004
    • Label: Freshchest Records
  • A Piece of Strange
    • Released: January 24, 2006
    • Label: QN5 Music, L.A. Underground
  • Dirty Acres
  • Oneirology
    • Release Date: March 22, 2011
    • Label: APOS Music, Bad Taste Records
  • Rose Azura Njano
    • Release Date: October 6, 2017
    • Label: APOS Music, Bad Taste Records
  • The WinterFire EP
    • Release Date: November 8, 2014
    • Label: Knolan Ryan Productions
  • The Rose EP
    • Release Date: March 31, 2017
  • The Azura EP
    • Release Date: July 28, 2017
  • Sloppy Seconds Volume One
    • Released: July 29, 2003
    • Label: Freshchest Records
  • Sloppy Seconds Volume Two
    • Released: May 23, 2005
    • Label: QN5 Music, L.A. Underground
  • Strange Journey Volume One
    • Pre-Release Date: March 24, 2009
    • Release Date: May 26, 2009
    • Label: APOS Music
  • Strange Journey Volume Two
    • Release Date: November 3, 2009
    • Label: APOS Music
  • Strange Journey Volume Three
    • Release Date: April 1, 2014
    • Label: APOS Music, Bad Taste Records
  • "So Live!"/"Thugged Out Since Cub Scouts" b/w "616 Rewind"
  • "Seasons" b/w "Sunrise, Sunset"
  • "Dirtay" b/w "Smoke Out" (Cashmere the Pro)
  • "Yellow Lines"
  • "Mexico" b/w "Wonderful"
  • "Never Come Down (The Brownie Song)"
  • "Cocaine"
  • "Don't Leave (When Winter Comes)" b/w "Nothing But Strangeness"
  • "Running Wild"
  • "To Be for Real"
  • "Imperial"
  • "Stars Shine Brightest (In The Darkest Of Night)"
  • "Hard As They Come (Act I)"
  • "Darkness (Dream On)"


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