Video for “Saturday”

by robcrooks ~ June 12th, 2014

Last year I was lucky enough to have the experience of a lifetime: touring across Europe with my friends from Zucchini Drive. I’ve been on many tours before, but never like that one. Twenty-one cities in just under a month’s time. We drove all over Europe from Spain to Germany and (almost) everywhere in between. It was refreshing to play in front of different crowds that I’m used to. They really seemed to get what I was going for over there. Not to say that I haven’t played many great shows in Canada. But sometimes back home people don’t know what to make of me: am I a rapper or a singer of strange indie-pop? In Europe they just didn’t seem to care. If they liked it, they danced.

This video was shot entirely during the European tour. The guy who you keep see popping up in the video is my good friend Tom aka Speed Dial 7 from the aforementioned group Zucchini Drive. Marcus Graap, also of Zucchini Drive, filmed most of the footage. Oh how I miss my European friends! The song from this video is called “Saturday.” It’s called that because its about how everyday is Saturday, which by default means no day is Saturday. This could be interpreted in many different ways. One way you could interpret it is that everyday is Saturday because you are still very young and your lack of responsibilities makes it easy to party every night. The other interpretation is that it’s never Saturday because you work so hard that there are never any days off. This song is about that duality.

This song is from my maxi-single Me and All of My Friends, which is free to download.

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Nomad Covers “Me and All of My Friends”

by robcrooks ~ May 30th, 2014

Nomad covered my latest single and I’m so impressed. He turned my upbeat indie-pop song into the sort of death-folk that I can only dream of making. Check it out:

When you ask one of your favourite contemporary artists to cover one of your songs, you risk the possibility that their cover version will completely eclipse your original. When I asked Nomad to cover “Me and All of My Friends,” this possibility was certainly on my mind. But the chance to have someone I admire so much re-imagine a song I wrote was too much of an intriguing prospect to cower from. I’m happy I asked and I’m even happier he accepted. The result is one of the coolest things I’ve ever been apart of.

Download the whole “Me and All of My Friends” maxi-single here.

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Me And All of My Friends Remix by Speed Dial 7

by robcrooks ~ April 8th, 2014

When I was putting together this maxi-single, I wanted to include some remixes. Plus, I wanted my friends to be involved in this project with me. Speed Dial 7 was the first one to return his remix.

I like this remix. The original song is sort of a dancey/indie-pop song. This version slows down the whole feel of it and makes it a little more like a rap song. (It’s the hi–hats.) It makes me feel like I’m in the club with all of my best friends; it’s the end of the night and we’re all drinking Champagne or something, and we’re celebrating because we just accomplished something super huge.”We did it guys! Who woulda thought we’d pull it off? But we really did it!”

This remix makes me feel like we’re all really successful people, the type who set goals for themselves and follow through on them. It’s like we work for ourselves, and we get up really early, at like 5am. Around 7pm we have a scotch and stare out over the city from our skyscraper offices. Then we do some cocaine to keep us working through out the night. Now all that sacrifice has paid off, and we’re sitting in a private room at a fancy Manhattan restaurant. “This was a huge quarter for us, people. We just couldn’t have done it without all your hard work and hours of dedication. Here’s to us and our continued success!”

It makes me feel like I’m in Goodfellas after the big plane heist. Or like I’m in Jay-Z’s “Roc Boy” video or something. We’re all like: “We did it guys! We made it to the top! They’re never going to bring us down now!”

It feels good. Way to  go Speed Dial 7.

 

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The Me and All of My Friends EP is Here!

by robcrooks ~ March 25th, 2014

 

FriendsCoverMy new EP is here for your downloading pleasure. Yay! Here’s some more information about it:

“After releasing three collaborative albums in 2013 (with Birdapres, Sugar Pill Gang and Magnum KI), Rob Crooks returns with his first solo release since 2012’s Hearts. This EP is a continuation of Rob’s exploration into the territory of post-rap and indie-pop, manifesting in two brand new songs that are as equally heartfelt as they are danceable. “Me and All of My Friends” is an ode to Rob’s peers, who just like him, are getting older and are starting to fear that they’ve wasted too much of their youth on quixotic pursuits. But instead of dwelling on what is lost, this song is an uplifting and life-affirming call to re-awaken the potential in each of us. As the final verse says: “it’s not too late.”

“Saturday” is an anthem for a generation whose weekends are vanishing, in one way or another. The vagueness of the lyrics, which refer to each day of the week as another day to “get down,” lends to a pluralistic interpretation of what getting down may actually mean. Some of us are in the twilight of our youth, where every day is a new day to have fun and experience everything we can, while attempting to hold off the realities of adulthood until a never-quite-present tomorrow. For others, every day is another day that we get down to work, grinding through the week towards a weekend that just never seems to come. Either way you interpret it, Saturday has become meaningless. Every day is Saturday, and no day is Saturday. “Saturday is just not real.”

To fill out the EP, Rob has invited some of his friends and contemporaries to remix his songs. Speed Dial 7 offers a remix of “Me and All of My Friends” that slows down the original, which manages to stir up the feeling of giving a toast to all of your friends from the head of a dinner table that you know may never be full again. Nomad’s folky cover of the same song emphasizes an almost painful concern for those same friends to truly find freedom again, freedom from whatever it may be that has come to oppress them. Finally, Winnipeg-based techno producer The Medicine remixes “Saturday” into a song that is ready for those of us who may finally have a weekend free to dance away.

The result of all this is an EP with many different textures, all of which reveal Rob Crooks as an artist who is maturing into something special.”

By the way, the beautiful art work was done by Patrick Skene. Isn’t it gorgeous?

 

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Me and All of My Friends

by robcrooks ~ March 18th, 2014

Next Tuesday, Match 25th, I’m going to be making a new EP available called Me and All of My Friends. The EP is kind of like a digital 12″, in that there are two original songs, two remixes and a cover version of one of the songs. I’m pretty excited to let people hear it. To help promote this EP, Me and Some of My Friends made a video for the title track, “Me and All of My Friends.” I hope you like it:

 

 

“The year is 1987. Our hero, Rob Crooks, has just gotten out of the Selkirk Mental Health Centre, where he has been convalescing for the past 18 months. To celebrate his return home, he has decided to throw a party and invite all of his friends. There will be snacks and drinks and cards and dancing and everything else you would expect at a welcome home gathering.

But as the party drags on, you begin to wonder: are these friends of Rob real, or are they narcissistic figments of his fragile and over-active imagination? Maybe Rob left Selkirk a little too soon. Or maybe he never left at all….

Thanks to Damian Ferland, Ryan Simmons and Amanda Linden for their help with this video.”

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Anyone Who’s Anyone (Will Die)

by robcrooks ~ March 7th, 2014

Last spring I played a show with a group from Winnipeg called Ghost Twin. The two members and I developed a mutual respect for each other, and ended up becoming friends. Ghost Twin are made up of a married couple, both of whom work in film in Winnipeg. Their dancy goth electronica (for lack of a better explanation) was really unique for this city. And I really value originality over everything.

(NOTE: It’s strange how many film makers I’ve made friends with over the past few years.I hang out with more film people these days than I do musicians. I guess it’s because I really wish I was a film maker. I think film is the supreme art form of our age. It combines visual art, poetry, music and storytelling like nothing else. Although I think film might be dead now too. But what isn’t dead these days? Nothing, that’s what. Everything is dead. And that’s probably why our culture is obsessed with zombies.)

When Jaimz from Ghost Twin asked me to collaborate with him for his solo project, VVINTER RAINBOVV, I thought it would be a cool opportunity to try something different. His goth aesthetic was something I had little experience with; but getting to know him as a person and a musician, I didn’t hesitate to agree to the collaboration. The result came back better than I ever could’ve hoped.

 

 

The only direction Jaimz gave me was to write something dark. Well, I’m no stranger to writing songs about death; so I figured I would write about that. No problem there. But I didn’t want it to be too heavy or depressing. So in the second verse, I rap from the perspective of being dead. After all, the worst part about death is the nothingness of it all, the absolute non-being of it. But if you think of death as a different form of being, then it’s easier to talk about. That’s why I think writing from the perspective of being dead lightens it up a little. I’m basically a rapping zombie on this song. And what else are zombies if not a way to deal with our fear of death.

Anyways, I hope you enjoy it.

 

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If And Only If

by robcrooks ~ January 12th, 2014

1557565_657200494323851_330777280_aThere’s a lot of interesting hip-hop being made in Winnipeg right now. Some of the artists who have been around for a while are returning to form after a lull and are starting to put out music again. Additionally, some younger artists are starting to prove themselves, putting out music that speaks to the new generation of hip-hop fans. It’s an exciting time in that sense: there’s a lot of different styles of rap being represented in our city. Despite this, I can’t help but feel as though something is missing.

When I started attending rap shows and performing around the city, there were a number of groups who were well established. Crews like Peanuts & Corn, Frek Sho, Mood Ruff and Shadez Ov Blac were doing things on a level that younger guys who were coming up at the time (like me) could aspire to. And what added to the excitement was that the scene wasn’t just a scene, but a community. It seemed like every hip-hop fan in the city converged at local rap shows. There were gangsters, want-to-be gangsters, backpackers, gear heads, nerds, outsider weirdos, purists, etc all coming together to see what was happening in our bourgeoning scene. And it was ok if you liked Shadez more than P&C, or if you liked Frek Sho more than Mood Ruff, or vice versa. We still all supported and took part in the scene.

I can speculate on what deflated the bubble, but this is not the time for that. All I can say is that eventually the scene dwindled, and the hip-hop scene in Winnipeg became limp. This lasted for a few years, with interesting releases being few and far between. But fast-forward to today, and it seems as though every week there’s a new video, new single or new release by a hip-hop artist in the city who is doing something of quality, or at least of some interest. It’s great to see. But still, that feeling of a community is not there like it used to be. You may not see a fan of the Lytics at a Winnipeg Boys show; you may not see a fan of the Winnipeg Boys at a Pip Skid show.

In reality, the whole atmosphere of music has changed. Hip-hop is just a microcosm of a larger cultural shift. There was a time when rap was a specialty form of music, the output of a specific counter-culture. You either lived hip-hop or you didn’t. But these days, any scene you choose is full of dabblers, fringe fans and weekend warriors. It is what it is. I don’t want to be one of the guys dwelling on the past too much. After all, what really made hip-hop great was innovation, so you either keep up with it or get left behind.

K.I.M.

On Sunday, January 19th Birdapres and Grey Jay will be releasing their album at Union Sound Hall. For a lot of us, like me, this is going to be like stepping back into the past. I expect to see a lot of the old homies there. Playing a show with Birdapres, Nestor Wynrush, Kinetik and Steve St. Louis will bring me back to the old days of the Collective or the Braemar. But instead of Hunnicutt and Co-op simply promoting the show, this time around they own the club. Things change, and sometimes they get better.

Check out the Facebook event page.

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2013 Year in Review

by robcrooks ~ January 1st, 2014

Let’s travel back in time to a place far, far away from here. Let’s go all the way back to the end of January 2013. A much younger and handsomer Rob Crooks is getting ready to board an aeroplane in Winnipeg which will fly him away to a far-off land across an entire ocean. There he will meet up with Zucchini Drive for a month long romp across the European continent.

From Speed Dial 7′s home in Kortrijk, Belgium, I drove us to our first show in Hamburg, Germany, learning how to drive manual transmission along the way. It was one of the most stressful and exciting experiences of my life. We almost died several times. And if you haven’t almost died yet, I can’t say I recommend it. But it’s something. That’s for sure.

We spent all of February hitting up cities in Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, France and Spain. It was the coolest thing I’ve ever done and I can’t wait to go back.

After returning home from Europe it wasn’t long before I headed on another jet plane. This time I flew to Montreal for the One Man Band Festival. There I was lucky enough to perform with a group of people from all over the world who are crazy just like me. But that wasn’t the only great show I got to play in 2013. From playing with Cadence Weapon to Greg MacPherson’s CD release party, I had some pretty exciting performances over the year. One day I’ll hit the stage on Broadway. And then you’ll all see.

The year was also a busy time for releases. It all started in May when Birdapres and I released our school-themed album Argyle. Rapping with Birdapres was a really a big deal for me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to the Alleged Legends record Bird did with Dj Moves. When I think of how Canadian hip-hop helped shape who I am today, he is one of the artists who stands out in my mind.

In September, Speed Dial 7, Pip Skid and I released a self-titled album under the name Sugar Pill Gang. When Speed Dial 7 came to Canada in the summer of 2012 to tour with Pip Skid, Dj Co-op and I, we decided it would be a good idea to put our time off into something useful. We wrote and recorded our verses within a couple of weeks, and after a few months of sitting on it, and a little bit of tweeking, the album was complete. This collection of music really captures our collective mental state at that time. We were all crazy.

And finally, Ismaila Alfa, Rhonda “Fenom” Thompson, Dj Kutdown and I re-united to celebrate our second full length album. Magnum KI released Select in December at a show in Winnipeg’s West End Cultural Centre. I’m very proud of this album. And although it will be a long time before Magnum KI works together again, I think we left some pretty good music behind us.

So, that was my 2013 in a nutshell. Sitting here at my desk, it sometimes feels like I didn’t do much over the past 12 months. But looking back and actually taking account of it all, I guess I did some pretty cool stuff. In 2014 you can expect to see me continuing along this path, with more of a focus on some solo music.

Thanks for listening.

Happy new year.

 

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New Magnum KI Album

by robcrooks ~ December 6th, 2013

Front LinkMagnum KI has a brand new album. And to celebrate we’re having a party on December 19th at the West End Cultural Centre in Winnipeg!

Select is very different than the first Magnum KI record. Although the foundation of Ismaila’s rap and raggae vocals over Kutdown’s boom-bap beats remains intact, there’s also plenty of new elements to these songs. For one we’ve added a new vocalist, Rhonda “Fenom” Thompson; and secondly, yours truly is featured much more prominently on these recordings. We also really branched out from our comfort zone on this one in terms of subject matter and song structure. The result is an album with more layers and diverse textures than anything else Magnum KI has done previously.

Admittedly, the self-titled Magnum KI record, released way back in 2010 was an attempt by attention starved hip-hop artists to get some love from their own city. Back then Ismaila, Kutdown and I were already well established in what we did. But outside of our poorly attended underground rap shows, no one seemed to notice.

We wanted to do more with our music. We wanted to perform at bigger venues, get played more on the radio and be recognized for our talent. We wanted Winnipeg to know that we were as good at making music as any band in the city was. This was difficult to do as solo artists though, so we teamed up as Magnum KI to help elevate each other to the level of notoriety that we felt we deserved.

Maybe that sounds crazy. But the craziest part about it is that it worked. After releasing the Magnum KI self-titled album we were finally being asked to play high profile shows, in and outside of Winnipeg; we were getting paid more money than ever before; and we even got nominated for an award. People were finally paying attention to us. Our plan was working.

This so-called plan had two phases though. Phase one was to create a pop-heavy hip-hop album that would get us some attention outside of the city’s rap circles, a scene that at the time was lethargic and dwindling. Phase two, however, was to make a second album, this time one that our artistic sides could truly be proud of; an album that would make people realize that we had something special to offer.

First thing we did as part of phase two was ask Rhonda Thompson aka Fenom to join our group. Her feminine sensibilities worked well against our testosterone-laden studio sessions. Not to mention her soft, melodic voice complimented Ismaila’s deep commanding tones in a way that added a much wider depth to the sonic landscape of our tracks.

The next step was to start picking beats from Kutdown’s catalogue of hundreds (and hundreds). We wanted to keep the tempo up on this record, just like we did on the first one. We still wanted to make music that could move a live audience, but this time around we also wanted beats that evoked the edgier, sometimes darker side of our personalities. We wanted to make songs with more substance, songs that reflected our ambition to connect with people in a truly authentic way.

We spent hours upon hours in the studio, fuelled by a desire to make the album we always dreamt of making (and whatever else we could get our hands on). We often started our sessions as the sun was going down, and ended them as the sun was coming up. Our time in the studio, which was above a night club, outlasted dance parties and nights out at the bar. All the elements were at our disposal, and we were obsessed with finding the arrangement that would make them all hum together at just the right frequency.

The record has been done for over two years now. But somewhere near the end of the process we just got burnt out. The constant ups-and-downs were exhausting. One moment we felt like we were doing something bigger and better than anything we had ever done before; the next moment we didn’t know if what we were doing made any sense at all. We needed to take a break and get some distance from it.

We planned a brief hiatus and went our separate ways. But as often happens, our solo endeavours, day jobs and families swallowed up time so quickly. But all the while, the record we made still pulsed and glowed in our mind’s ear. A little time away from what we had done made us realize how proud we actually were of our work. Maybe the timing isn’t perfect on this release, but we can’t sit on this album any longer.

I don’t know if there will be another Magnum KI record after this one. Maybe, maybe not. We never made any real money with it. And with no real plan, no management and no label, it’s hard to convince four grown-ups to all get in the same boat that may or may not make it to the island. But I hope this new record does well enough to convince us all to try. We’ll see.

Come check out our dual CD release party with Neil Wattson at WECC December 19th.

 

 

 

 

 

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I AM THE PICKLE JAR

by robcrooks ~ November 5th, 2013

I

A few weeks ago I went out drinking and brought my travel mug with me. I filled it with a mix of vodka, mango juice and sparkling water and headed out into some rollicking adventures. But at some point between the last drop being drank and my stumbling feet carrying me home, my empty travel mug became too cumbersome for me to carry and it was sacrificed to the night.

Since then I’ve been bringing my coffee to work in an old, washed-out pickle jar. Apparently, people at my work are very confused by a container containing a liquid that it wasn’t originally meant to contain. “What is that? What’s in there? What are you drinking?” Oh, you mean what is this brownish, milky-substance that I’m drinking at nine-thirty in the morning? Well, it’s in an old pickle jar SO IT MUST BE PICKLE JUICE!

II

I was a teenager when I began playing shows. By the time I was 20 years old I was well known in Winnipeg’s hip-hop circles as a rapper and, to a lesser degree, a producer. I played a lot of hip-hop shows, put out hip-hop albums and immersed myself in the hip-hop scene of Winnipeg and Western Canada. But as I get older and more experienced, my influences continue to broaden.

When I put out Hearts, it was meant to be a statement that I did not want to be pigeonholed. I only rapped on one of 8 songs. Yet still, people would say things to me like: “You rap kind of strange on that album. It’s not even really rapping. But you’re a rapper, so it must be rapping.” Yes, you’re right! I rap and therefore all I can do is rap. And even when I’m not rapping, I’m still rapping.

III

I AM THE PICKLE JAR

IV

Nov 10, 2013

KRANG vs. CHEERING FOR THE BAD GUY vs. SURPRISE PARTY vs. ROB CROOKS

@ dead lobster

$7

doors 8:30
show 9:30

followed by weird dj stuff
going till morning
no school / work the next day :)

don’t be afraid to ask for directions;
look both ways before crossing the road

facebook event page

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