If And Only If

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.

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2013 Year in Review

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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