With their baggy jeans and diamond-studded earring bling, Karif Knox and Jermaine Simon look more like aging B-boys than businessmen. Between bites of baked chicken and sips of lemonade at Mimi’s Café in the northwest Valley, the Bronx-born childhood friends dish about how their group, Power Move, has sold hundreds of thousands of CDs.
For starters, Knox says, they make good music•from thug manifestos, club bangers and love songs to inspirational songs and, yes, hip-hop-laced gospel. But they say most of their success comes from a hustling spirit derived from years of selling cars in LA and honed by pushing CDs on Sunset Boulevard. The proof: They say they’ve sold more than 300,000 CDs in seven years, nearly a third of that since moving here from Los Angeles in 2007.
- Beyond the Weekly
Do those numbers sound too good to be true? That kind of success would make them either the most financially successful local hip-hop group in history or the most debt-ridden. Let’s say the former is correct; that also makes them the most successful local hip-hop group no one has ever heard of. Asked about Power Move, several local rappers and deejays said they were unfamiliar with them, or that their talent is negligible.
But Barbara Lynch is a believer. A customer-service rep at Now Disc’s Henderson-based CD and DVD manufacturing plant, she works directly with Power Move and says the group has ordered 15,000 CDs since July—that eight-month tally is higher than some established local acts have pressed in eight years.
“Sometimes they order a thousand every single week. They’re amazing,” Lynch says. “They’re definitely our biggest success story. Nobody on a local level is even close in terms of pressing CDs. I can’t think of who’s second. They’re nice guys and the hardest workers. I have no idea how they even sell them all.”
Most of their sales occur on the Strip. “We can talk to anyone,” Simon says, mimicking a yuppie. “We can talk to old white people and be nonthreatening. We rap for people. We let them hear our music on an iPhone. We don’t sell our music, per se. We accept donations. Sometimes people give us $10. Other times, they’ve given us $100.”
Eager to escape the Bronx, Knox and Simon moved to Los Angeles in 2003. Each had rhymed since junior high, at talent shows or for their boys on the block, so completing an album seemed logical. They burned CDs on their laptops and hit Sunset Boulevard. “We made rent in one night.”
Small successes followed: The Tyra Banks Show, touring with ’90s R&B singer Shanice. Knox and Simon moved to Vegas after they made three times as much in one night on the Strip as in one week in Hollywood.
But local acclaim has been slow in coming. Attempts to ingratiate themselves into the local scene—performing at First Friday and at several Downtown bars, befriending people like N.W.A. founder Murray Alexander and veteran scenester Iceberg Slick•have yet to pay off.
Still, there are signs of progress—a recent distribution deal with a Universal Records imprint, upcoming solo albums and Power Move’s fourth group project. “We want to bring the talent that is here to the forefront,” Simon says. “We’re doing something positive.”