Video for “We Are Not Famous” from my upcoming album The Nothing From Which Nothing Comes out soon on Disintegration Records and Marathon of Dope. The video is directed by the incomparable Mike Marynuik. It was filmed on location at the abandoned Target store in Winnipeg.
I am happy to announce that on Saturday, April 14th, I will be joining my good friend and sometimes collaborator Speed Dial 7 on stage at the Pand.A club in Kortrijk, Belgium. I am very excited to travel back to Europe, and I look forward to seeing some of the friends that I was lucky to have made the last time I visited. Although my stay will be short and jam-packed, I hope to experience all that I possibly can while I am there.
Unfortunately, my time in Europe will only include one performance. However, for those of you who are fans of film, I will also be participating in another event that may interest you. Back a couple years ago, I played the lead role in a film called The Goose. On Saturday, April 7th, that film will be playing at Lichter Filmfest in Frankfurt. Not only will I be in attendance during that screening, but I will also be introducing the film to those in attendance. If you are a fan of psychedelic coming of age stories, or you think you might be, please come and say hi.
This past summer, Pip Skid and I participated in an artist residency put on by Synonym Art Consultation at The Tallest Poppy in Winnipeg. We spent a whole weekend in one of the booths at the diner making beats, writing lyrics and recording songs while dining customers stared at us in bewilderment. We had a few friends stop by to help us out, and the result is the Poppycock mixtape. The mixtape features guest artists Birdapres, Greg MacPherson, Charlie Fettah, Nestor Wynrush, Watg Steve of 3peat and Mic Holden. Currently the only place in the universe to hear it is at the Tallest Poppy. It is on constant loop, playing out of a jukebox that was crafted by Pip Skid himself (pictured below). If you happen to be in Winnipeg, head down and grab a spot close to the earphones!
Disintegration Records and The Windsor Hotel Presents:
Rob Crooks – Releasing new single
Figure Walking (Rob Gardiner + Greg MacPherson) – releasing new single
Johnny Phantom (members of Haunter)
DJ No Contact
All proceeds going to Bar None Prison Ride Share
Friday December 23
The Windsor Hotel
Tickets $10.00 advance/$12.00 at the door
There is a new Marathon of Dope compilation complete with all new and exclusive songs by some of the great artists I’m proud to be associated with, such as Pip Skid, Bazooka Joe, Nestor Wynrush, Birdapres, Zucchini Drive, Nomad, Mike Ladd and more. Download the whole thing here for free.
Listen to the brand new song I did exlcusively for the compilation:
“Marathon Of Dope is proud to present our second compilation. We have drawn from this community’s diverse pool of talent, and built a collection of new and unreleased tracks as a special thanks for all of your support. Please enjoy this free smorgasbord of M.O.D. exclusives. Whether you’re searching for an old favorite flavor, a glimpse of a secret side-project, a nostalgic melody, an intricately wound instrumental, or just something to dance to, this compilation has something just for you.”
The meaning of a word depends on how it is used. This is to say that language is essentially contextual, and that a word only has an identity through its relation to its other. A cliché example of this is when one word, in different contexts, holds opposite meanings, as in when “bad” is used to mean “good.” However, it’s not simply that the word means its opposite, as if it’s a case of simple reversal. Rather, the meaning of the word depends entirely on its use, in the context of the system as a whole. “Bad” does not simply mean “good,” but rather signifies a subversive act against the convoluted history of an oppressive language system.
As specialized languages develop, such as the technical languages of the sciences, or the idiosyncratic vernaculars of sport, for example, words take on a multi-layered etymological history. This rich etymological history of a specialized language can often make it difficult for an outsider to penetrate the particular culture that the language belongs to. On the other hand, when said culture, despite its technical language, becomes popularized, through enticing ideas or images, it is often the specialized language that is the first to be appropriated and watered-down. This is because an outsider, who may not understand the etymological history of a certain term, will take it at face value. It is this superficial appropriation of terminology that helps spread the popularity of the culture. Eventually, the outsiders outnumber the specialists, and the culture itself is reduced to its superficialities.
To the people who consume hip-hop on the largest scale, and who have therefore appropriated it’s signifiers, Iggy Azalea is a more definitive representation of what hip-hop is than someone like, say, Marley Marl, to name one example. This type of watering-down of a culture is inevitable. Once a culture comes to be dominated by outsiders, in other words, once the consumers of a culture outnumber its participants, its meaning shifts from the technical usage to the superficial usage. This is an inevitable result of a culture’s “success.” Hip-hop is one of the most “successful” cultural movements in recent history. As a result, hip-hop has become fashion, a costume you wear on the weekends; hip-hop is something you buy at the mall.
But this is all too cynical. In some corners of the world, hip-hop is still controlled by its participants. In these cases, hip-hop continues to develop in a way that confounds the outsider. Thursday, April 23rd at the Cavern in Winnipeg, there will be a showcase of artists who continue to interpret hip-hop in just such a way. I am proud to be performing with soso, Nestor Wynrush and Lonnie Ce. The occasion for this show is soso’s new album Not for Nothing. soso, who will be traveling from his home in Saskatoon for this show, is one of the bravest and most authentic hip-hop artists I have ever encountered. He is a musical hero of mine and I hope you will all come down to watch his performance.
There are three concert memories I have in my mind at all times. One is the memory of some fool in the front row of a Public Enemy concert refusing an offer from Flava Flav to swap his Florida Panthers jersey for the latter’s clock necklace. All these years later, I still ponder from time to time where that shitty Panthers jersey ended up. Gathering dust in some elderly parents’ basement somewhere? Value Village? The landfill? Either way, that guy definitely did not know the time.
The second memory that I always keep with me is the memory of the entire crowd at First Avenue rapping the words to “Shimmy Shimmy Ya,” during the Minneapolis stop of the first Wu-Tang tour after the passing of Ol Dirty Bastard. I’ve seen this happen a few times since, at various Wu-Tang affiliated shows. But the fact that, on this particular occasion, every remaining member of the Clan was there (including Cappadonna, Killah Priest and Buddha Monk), along with the proximity in time to the demise of ODB, made this one a little more memorable.
And finally, there was this one time at the Collective in Osborne Village, when I saw Gruf the Druid commanding a room full of people.
Riding the wave of the Druidry album, the Frek Sho Papercuts EP, and a growing reputation in Winnipeg’s slam poetry scene, Gruf the Druid joined with Dj Brace to release the Sound Barriers album in 2005. Although the album had more than a few mind-bending bangers on it, such as “You Ain’t Folk” and “The 464th Lesson,” to me, the most memorable Sound Barriers song has always been “Withdrawal.” As honest a meditation on money and the effect it has on a person’s psyche as you’ll ever hear, the song ends with a simple statement of a universal truth, that through the act of repetition, becomes transformed into the fevered appeal of anyone at the end of their tether: “I want money, I want money, so much money. I want money, I want money, so much money…”
It was the last song of their set. Gruf had the whole crowd, a packed audience at the once go-to venue, chanting along with him: “I want money…” After all, who could deny it? Sure, it may be a little gauche for the bourgeoisie to admit that they want money. But for anyone in that crowd who didn’t know how they were gonna pay their rent that month; or for anyone who had chosen beer over dinner that night; or for anyone who had walked to the village with holes in their shoes just to see that show, it was a low down, dirty truth. And as Dj Brace lowered the volume of the beat on the turntables, and Gruf gently laid the mic down on the stage floor, and facing forward, backed away towards the stage exit, the crowd continued to chant: “I want money, I want money, so much money.” It was a powerful moment, in a movement of many, for a hip-hop scene that once shared a self-same identity with the city’s downtrodden.
On April 4th, at the Good Will in Winnipeg, Gruf the Druid is celebrating the release of a brand new album, Surface Area, produced entirely by the Gumshoe Strut. The party will feature performances from Bazooka Joe (aka John Smith), myself and, of course, Gruf the Druid. Bazooka Joe will be performing some songs off the new record that I am producing for him, so get their early to check that out. Anchoring the night will be the one and only Dj Hunnicutt. Check out the Facebook event page for more details. And download Surface Area for free from Marathon of Dope.
My new EP Downtown ’09 is now officially available for free download from Marathon of Dope! Please download, listen and pass it around! If you’d like a preview, listen to the song “Stab Somebody.” And please don’t forget, for those of you in Winnipeg, I will be performing every song, plus some others, next Thursday at the Good Will.
Here’s a little more about the EP:
“Winnipeg is a cold and isolated city, dirty and dilapidated. It is a city divided between the South and the North, by race and by class. It is surrounded, like most cities in the Western World, by cookie-cutter suburban homes, box stores and fast food chains. But in the gut of the city, in downtown Winnipeg, the very real divisions that make up its essence intersect in an anarchic clash of hedonism and despair.
It is this image of Winnipeg that serves as the backdrop for Rob Crooks’ new EP Downtown ’09. The iconic punk clubs and temporary speak-easies, the dive bars and late-night beer vendors, the dark alleys where drugs are bought, sold and consumed all make up the setting for Crooks’ story telling. The loosely connected coming-of-age narrative stitched together in these six songs guides the listener through the progressive stages of young adulthood, all in the span of a single weekend. From the earliest encounter with “City Sounds,” and the immature and not-so-innocent trysts with “Friday Night Girls,” to the moral hangover of “Monday Morning,” Downtown ‘09 is an often dark depiction of dysfunctional scenesters in a dysfunctional city.
Sonically, Downtown ’09 matches Crooks’ raw and rapid vocal delivery with the gritty punk aesthetic predominant in Winnipeg’s counter-cultures. The upbeat tempos and catchy hooks give the EP the feel of an illegal dance party, in an abandoned warehouse, ready to be shut down by the police at any moment. Guest appearances by Winnipeg hip-hop legends Pip Skid and John Smith help to round out this short, but detailed vision of the dark side of Winnipeg’s edgy and unpredictable nightlife. So why not spend the weekend in downtown Winnipeg, with Rob Crooks as your guide?”
So, here is a song from my new EP, Downtown ’09. The song is called “Stab Somebody.” Although, the EP doesn’t officially come out until tomorrow, it is available for free download now. So please check it out, and share if you like it!
“Stab Somebody” is about a guy who has developed a drug dependency, and has gotten into debt trouble with his dealer. The story takes place at a dance party, where he is freely using drugs, dancing and trying to have a good time. While he makes his way through the party, from smoking a cigarette outside, to getting a drink at the bar, he keeps overhearing people spreading a rumour that someone is going to be stabbed at the party. However, he’s too concerned about having fun that he doesn’t realize, or maybe wants to ignore the fact that, the person who is in danger of getting stabbed is himself.
Up in a loft, in the spot, the bass is bumping heavy / Have a taste to your face, if you ain’t done already / We in the place, in the space, dancing and getting sweaty / Until that powder that I parachute rush out to get me / I need to chill just for a minute, let me get outside / To smooth it out, to cool it down and then I’ll feel alright / Who’s got a smoke, what’s the quote, fifty or twenty-five? / A quarter or two is affordable, who’s got a light? / A social ceiling of smoke and dealings makes it feel cloudy / Rumble like thunder, like lightning striking up all around me / I hear some phrases from conversations floating around me / Tiny quips from their lips, they let slip and here they found me / “He says he’s gonna get it, that’s kid’s really in trouble” / “He’s disrespectful, in debt to him, never on the humble” / “Can’t let the kid forget it, I guaranteed the drugs will” / “Last time I saw him he had the look upon him like the devil” /
They say that he might even stab somebody / They say that he might even stab somebody, a druggie / They say that he might even stab somebody / They say that he might even stab somebody, for money
The side walk talks and talks, meantime the music’s calling / There ain’t the time in this life for the ties you get involved in / I head inside just to vibe and get live and try to ignore it / My mouth is pasty so maybe I’ll pour some alcohol in / Blathering at the bar gets louder and mad and insaner / I’m on Saturn enamoured, I’m seeing neon tracers / The bar tender is wondering what drink he can make me / But all I hear is atmosphere chatter, I’m acting spacey / “He says he’s coming tonight, I guess that kind better hide” / “He say he’s bringing a knife, he won’t be coming to fight” / I have a drink, then I think maybe another capsule / Maybe a line just this time, I’m looking for the bathroom / “I heard that somebody saw him, he’s in here and looking for him” / “That kid has got real problems, let’s go before all the cops come” / I’m in the stall with a ball in my pocket, break out a key / Until he kicks in the partition and he’s looking at me /
He looks like he could even stab somebody / He looks like he could even stab somebody, he’s thrusting / He looks like he could even stab somebody / He looks like he could even stab somebody, I’m bloody
I don’t see their moves moving, just their eyes all shifty / A whole crowd has gathered to me, looking down and worried / Stare at the ceiling, a warm feeling in the light above me / “This guy just got stabbed by somebody!”
Later this week I’m going to be dropping a new EP entitled Downtown ’09. It’s a collection of 6 songs that depict the sometimes dark side of Winnipeg’s nightlife. The songs form a narrative arc through the immature hedonism of one night stands and self-destructive drug use, leading up to a violent stabbing that brings the consequences out of the moral realm into the material world. Finally the album culminates in the epic hangover that makes one question everything.
The title Downtown ’09 is a reference to the film Downtown 81, in which a broke artist (Basquiat) roams downtown Manhattan going in and out of dingy, underground clubs, encountering a who’s who of New York’s new wave musicians and artists. I decided to reference this title because the journey embarked upon by the artist in the film reflects the journey that the narrator takes in this album: an aimless wondering through downtown streets, from party to party looking for something that is always just a few steps ahead. Of course, in Downtown 09 what is being sought after is never found. And instead of the grand streets of New York City, this album takes place in the despair-paved streets of downtown Winnipeg, the dark heart of the continent.
The reference to Downtown 81 also seemed appropriate because of the intersection of punk and hip-hop culture that is prevalent in both the film and the album. Although the album is a rap album, the punk influence can’t be denied (from the sometimes aggressive vocal delivery and catchy hooks to the Black Flag sample and the Bad Brains cover art rip-off).
Ultimately, however, Downtown ’09 is meant to be fun. But how can I show the fun side without the edgier dark side of fun? After all, the edgy dark side is what makes fun so fun, am I right? So, the beats are high tempo and the raps match them. I hope you like it. It will be available for download this week!