Kentucky-bred group Cunninlynguists have been carving a lane uniquely their own in melodic hip-hop since first joining forces in the early aughts. Comprised of Natti (Garrett Bush), Kno (Ryan Wisler) and Deacon the Villian (Willis Pol II), the Southern boom-bap innovators released their debut, Will Rap For Food, in October 2001. The project not only was met with critical acclaim, but also solidified the group as a soon-to-be major player in the underground hip-hop scene. In 2003, Mr. SOS (David Diaz) joined Cunninlynguists for their independently released sophomore album, SouthernUnderground, which led to the group touring extensively and supporting acts such as Nappy Roots, Cee-Lo Green, People Under the Stairs, Raekwon, and Brand Nubian. With their controversial (and equally distinctive) name as a play on the words “cunning” and “linguist” (and of course, the explicit sexual act of cunnilingus), the group set out to revitalize the soul in hip-hop. They added two mixtapes to their discography (2003’s Sloppy Seconds Vol. 1 and 2005’s Sloppy Seconds Vol. 2) prior to releasing their third LP, A Piece of Strange, a polished and adventurous record entirely produced by Kno. Following this record, Mr. SOS left the group on peaceful terms, with emcee Natti filling his place. This album also marked a transition in the Cunninlynguist story, with the group shifting gears to focus more on passionate lyricism and beginning to abandon their reputed folly.
After appearing live alongside Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, and the Strokes, Cunninlynguists released their fourth album Dirty Acres, with the project arriving in 2007 through a joint venture between their own imprint APOS Music and Swedish-based label Bad Taste Records. After a lengthy headlining tour, the group went on to release their fifth studio album, Oneirology (2011), which was a concept record inspired by the scientific study of dreams and was met with rave reviews. With their reputation as top-tier lyricists in tact, Cunninlynguists released two mixtapes in 2009—Strange Journey Volume One and Strange Journey Volume Two—before taking a brief hiatus from the studio. In 2014, the group’s sixth album Strange Journey Volume Three was released, with the project being curated entirely by fans that gave suggestions and feedback throughout the creative process. That same year, it was discovered that the lexicon of Cunninlynguists was one of the most impressive amongst English-speaking rappers. As the group nears two decades in the game, Cunninlynguists remain both an enigma and a fan favorite, celebrated for pushing creative limits and experimenting with their multifaceted sound.