Witty lyrics and edgy productions have made CunninLynguists underground rap favorites. Before the progressive Southern group took shape, Deacon the Villain from Kentucky and Kno from Georgia were individually known for their skills on the mike and in the producer's chair. The duo's debut, Will Rap for Food, appeared on the small Urban Aces label in 2001 and soon went out of print. Rave reviews and Internet message boards helped make the album a collector's item until it was reissued by the Caroline-associated FreshChest label. FreshChest was also responsible for CunninLynguists' sophomore effort, 2003's Southernunderground, which found Mr. SOS joining the group, allowing Kno to focus on production. The album featured guest appearances by Masta Ace and RJD2, as well as some political material in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Two loose mixtapes featuring a parade of guest stars, Sloppy Seconds, Vol. 1 and Sloppy Seconds, Vol. 2, preceded the group's third album, as did the departure of Mr. SOS. A Piece of Strange, released by The LA Underground/QN5 Music in early 2006, featured newly recruited member Natti and appearances by Cee Lo Green and Immortal Technique. The group toured extensively for the release, scoring high-profile opening slots for Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, the Strokes. Fourth album Dirty Acres appeared on Bad Taste in 2007 with Devin the Dude, Phonte, and Witchdoctor contributing guest verses. Two mixtapes followed in 2009. Kno released his debut solo album, Death Is Silent, in 2010.
CunninLynguists returned in 2011 with their fifth proper studio album, Oneirology, which featured Big K.R.I.T. and Freddie Gibbs and became their first release to hit Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The group then took a short break, with Natti releasing solo album Still Motion in 2013, and Kno forming trip-hop group Built to Fade, who released To Dust the same year. Strange Journey, Vol. 3 appeared in 2014, and was created with input from fans, who provided ideas for musical concepts as well as artwork. Later in the year, the group collaborated with the Grouch and Eligh for the tour-only release The WinterFire EP. The Rose EP and The Azure EP, issued four months apart in 2017, led to the album Rose Azura Njano that October. ~ David Jeffries