The Grinch Who Stole Pipmas

The holidays are a two-sided coin.

On the one hand, there’s the fact that winter is still kind of a nice novelty. We still have a little bit of reverence for the beauty of the snow and ice, and a feeling of playfulness that makes the cold much more bearable.  It’s a small window of appreciation before January hits and we swear we’ll never live another year in this stupid city.

There’s also family. For many of us, the season is a chance to re-unite with our loved ones, in cozy living rooms, sharing old jokes and stories with the familiar faces that we may not get a chance to see as often as we age. Of course, some of us hate our families, and this only makes the holidays more stressful. In that case, hopefully there’s at least some good food kicking around.

Finally, the holidays offer parties – and more to the point, booze. You could almost say that no one is an alcoholic in December, because everyone’s an alcoholic in December!

So, there is some good to the holidays. But then, of course, there’s the down side.

It’s begins with the music: an endless loop of those same inane, insidious songs over and over, sung to the glory of God and Jesus Christ. And every year they start earlier and earlier with it. This year they tried to start playing Christmas music the day after Halloween, those conniving, market-pyschologists. After all, the music is just a Pavlovian mechanism to get your proverbial mouth watering, and your actual wallet opening, in the anticipation of the pagan tradition turned capitalist ritual.

And the closer you get to Christmas, the more it intensifies. People become more and more primal, reverting to an almost savage all-against-all mentality, in a quest to get their shopping done before that dreadful moment when all the stores close. And then it’s over with, and we get to breathe for a few days, and get back to what the holidays should really be about: family, food and alcohol.

But then comes the biggest sham of them all: New Year’s Eve! The supposed biggest party of the year, where all the hope and potential of the new year culminate in a feeling of euphoria and common gregariousness.

The reality is that you over-pay to go to a club where some Dj is playing the same ol’ bullshit, and it’s too crowded to use the washroom, but that doesn’t matter too much since it’s too busy to get a drink anyways. And you couldn’t organize all your friends to go to the same place, so you end up talking to the same people that you went to high-school with that you see once a year, every year, on New Year’s, and you have the same boring conversation that you have with them every time.

And the coat-check loses your parka. And it’s minus 40 outside.

Oh all the unnecessary stress that comes with the holidays! What we need is a way out! We need a way to forget about Jesus, to forget about shopping malls, and forget about New Year’s parties! We need a rap-punk show extravaganza!

We need the Grinch Who Stole Pipmas!

 

 

Post to Twitter

Astronautalis, Busdriver and JEL with Rob Crooks

On Sunday, December 2nd at the Pyramid Cabaret in Winnipeg, I get to open for the Astronautalis with Busdriver and JEL tour. So, put on your backpacks, your hoodies and white sneakers, and let’s hop in the time machine back to 2002 and watch some serious underground rap!

Astronautalis is not a house-hold name yet, but in a year from now, who knows. He’s come a long way since battle-rapping at Scribble Jam. With all the mainstream press, sold-out shows in Europe and endorsements from people like Tegan and Sara, it shouldn’t be long before he’s playing bigger venues than the Pyramid.

Back in 2010, when Magnum KI played Pop Montreal, we got the chance to share the stage with Astronautalis. You could tell by the atmosphere in the place at that time that this guy was onto something. A sold-out, albeit small-ish venue was teeming with excitement over his specific brand of inide-rock meets underground hip-hop. That show had an energy that I hadn’t experienced many times before, and maybe haven’t since.

Astrontautalis would be a good enough reason to get out of the house and stop getting drunk by yourself; but add to it Busdriver and JEL and you have something pretty special. Last time Busdriver was in town it was criminally under-attended. For someone with such talent and experience it seems strange that Winnipeg didn’t take more notice. Mixing top-notch technical emcee skills along the lines of Myka 9, or even Tech Nine, with art-school sensibilities, Busdriver is an artist that any rap fan would appreciate, no matter how deep their crates are. (Note: I have no idea whether or not Busdriver went to art-school. But his dad did write the movie ​Krush Groove.)

But what I am personally most excited for is JEL. I have been a pretty avid fan of JEL since I first heard Deep Puddle Dynamics over ten years ago. Since then the Themselves albums he’s made with Dose One are some of my favorite pieces of music ever. A beat-smith and sometimes rapper, you could easily call JEL one of my favorite producers. But the term “producer” seems limited considering all the things that I admire JEL for. Sure his beats are incredible; but the fact that he plays them live on his MPC makes it even more exciting. I haven’t had the chance to see Themselves live yet (although I have seen Subtle); but lately their sets seem to be things of legend. The fact that one-half of this duo will be at the Pyramid gives me goosebumps a little bit.

So, I don’t know. What are you gonna do? Not go to this show? Stay home and watch Football? Don’t be dumb.

 

 

 

Post to Twitter

Reviewed in Uptown Magazine

Earlier this month, we learned of another heavy blow coming down on Winnipeg’s music scene. On top of venues closing down at an alarming rate (Negative Space now?), the free arts and entertainment weekly Uptown Magazine published it’s final issue last Thursday. It will apparently re-surface as an insert in the Winnipeg Free Press, replacing the Tab.

As with anything that is meant to represent a scene, we all had our problems with Uptown at one time or another. Sometimes things that were important to us were being overlooked, while things that were important to others were getting all the attention; we’d disagree with the reader’s poll to no end; we’d sometimes question the reviews, and the motivations of the people writing them. But at least there was always something to talk about.

I can’t remember the last time I didn’t make a point of picking up the latest issue of the Uptown from the LC, or from Into the Music or wherever else. I could read about people in my city who were doing things that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise; I could read about almost all of the shows that were happening in town; I could read movie reviews and arts reviews; and of course the haiku horoscope always had me checking out the last page.

And everyone else read it too. It served as a sort of reference point for us to have conversations about our city. And the reason we all read it was because it was there. It was a tangible piece of media that we looked through while waiting for the bus, or waiting for a friend, or to avoid eye contact with some creep. It was written by people in our city about our city, for us. You could always say to someone “did you read that article in the Uptown?” What can we say now: “Did you read that blog article”? Which blog? Which of the 5 billion blogs are you referring to? No, I didn’t read that.

Don’t get me wrong: It’s good that some people have taken the initiative to continue writing about our city online, like Nigel Eggnog at Concerted Trash, Sam Z. Thompson at Witchpolice, or the fine writers at the Spectator Tribune. But the Uptown, in the form it existed for so many years, will be missed.

On a bitter-sweet note, here’s a review of my EP “Hearts” from the last issue of Uptown:

“Hearts, the latest solo EP from Magnum K.I. member/veteran rapper Rob Crooks, is an inspired amalgam of indie rock, hip hop and lo-fi electro that buzzes with urgent, nervous energy. Whether he’s rapping or singing, Crooks’ lyrics are raw, personal and bitingly blunt (see: Knows How To, about a girl who “knows how to fuck but doesn’t know much about love,” or the aggressive Not Cool, which calls out posers). Recorded by Greg Arcade, the EP has a cool, cassette-tape indie rock feel; there’s definitely an emphasis on the high end, which sets it apart from traditional hip hop albums. Crooks’ sound is fresh, and Hearts has a strong pulse.”

– Jen Zoratti, Uptown Magazine.

Here’s the link to the review. Check out Jenn Zoratti and some other ex-Uptown people at the Spectator Tribune’s website http://spectatortribune.com/city/winnipeg/. See you in the funny pages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post to Twitter

A Fond Farewell…The Dope Joints Last Episode

 

       Last week I posted about the future; sadly, this week I am forced to post about the past. Tonight, Wednesday, July 25th 2012 will be the final episode of “The Dope Joints” show, which has aired on UMFM (the University of Manitoba’s campus radio station) since 1998. The ever-changing landscape of hip-hop will never be the same after tonight.

Like many, many other listeners, I’ve learned a lot from these guys over the years. You could always count on the Dope Joints crew to bring you the newest jams from anywhere and everywhere in the world of hip-hop. Just a bunch of real motherfuckers, who will be sorely missed. It hurts to think of what the next generation of hip-hop heads will look like without guys like these holding it down for the community. I will definitely pour out a little for these guys tonight.

Here’s what they had to say on their Facebook event page:

“Kinetik, @Large and DJ Stress will break you off proper one last time after spinning Hip Hop on UMFM CJUM 101.5 FM since 1998. Kinetik will continue on with his Psychedelic Soul Shack Saturday nights at 11 PM on UMFM (http://www.umfm.com/programming/programgrid/358), @Large will podcast here and there (http://dopespot.podomatic.com/) but it’s now up to you to make yourself dope mixes of the newest and freshest Hip Hop joints each week. Good luck with that.”

Also, check out their group page from Facebook, which includes a bunch of great links to old episodes, old mixes and other great moments from Winnipeg hip-hop history. There really is some great stuff up on there right now. So get it quick, because who knows how long it will be up there for.

Here’s a recording of Mikel Rondeau on I performing live on the Dope Joints show 2 years ago.

To Dj Kinetik, @Large and Dj Stress: We love you! Thank you for everything you’ve given us over the years!

Tune in tonight to 101.5 UMFM or stream live online @ http://www.umfm.com/listen_online.shtml or listen to Channel 718 on MTS.

Post to Twitter

Buck 65 at the Pyramid Cabaret in Winnipeg with Rob Crooks

       In less than 2 weeks I will be opening up for one of my all-time favorite artists, Buck 65 at the Pyramid Cabaret in Winnipeg. When I first heard Buck 65, around ten years ago, he really changed the way I thought about not only music, but so many other things as well (for example what it meant to be a hip-hop artist/fan). This show was originally supposed to happen in May, but due to unforseen circumstances had to be rescheduled to July 13th. Here’s an excerpt from a post I wrote about the show that was originally supposed to happen a couple of months ago:

“This show means a lot to me for a number of reasons. Buck 65 has been a huge influence on my musical outlook since I first heard his album Vertex over ten years ago. At the time, I was just getting out of high school and was a major “backpacker”; I listened exclusively to New York underground rap, from Black Star to Mobb Deep, Thirstin Howell III to Gang Starr etc. But with the opening up of the Wax Museum (a now defunct) record shop in Osborne Village, hip-hop fans in Winnipeg like me didn’t have to rely on what HMV had in stock anymore. Thanks to the dedicated people at the Wax Museum our eyes were opened up to a whole other contemporary movement in hip-hop that was happening all over Canada and the States at the time. With the guidance of the people who ran the record shop, all of whom were active in the local scene themselves, I was introduced to so many mind-blowing acts, from locals like Fermented Reptile and Frek Sho, to Canadian artists like Soso and the Goods, to American crews like Living Legends and Anticon.

But out of all of these acts, Buck 65 made an impression on me that was unique and particularly influential. The music he creates is undeniably hip-hop, but unlike any other hip-hop I’d ever heard before. His album Vertex was my first glimpse into a relatively uncharted territory, a completely novel way of thinking about breaks, cuts and rhymes. It wasn’t long after I heard Vertex that I picked up his earlier release Language Arts and the Sebutones album 50/50 Where It Counts (Sixtoo, the other member of the Sebutones has also been a great influence on me). These three albums, along with Man Overboard are without question masterpieces of modern hip-hop music. Their influence on me is still unfolding, even a decade after my first contact with them.”

For the Facebook event page you can click here.

For those of you who only know of Buck 65 through his later videos on Much Music or as Rich Terfry from the CBC radio show The Drive, here are some of my favorite earlier Buck 65 songs from the late 90’s early 00’s, just to give you an idea of how much an influence he had on indie/underground hip-hop culture:

 

Buck 65 – Eye Make-Up Excuses (Language Arts)

Buck 65 – Slow Drama (Vertex)

Sebutones (Buck 65 & Sixtoo) – Tranquilized Tones (50/50 Where It Counts)

Buck 65 – Untitled (Man Overboard)

 

I hope to see you at the show!!!

 

Post to Twitter

Buck 65 at the Pyramid Cabaret, May 11th, with Colleen Brown and Rob Crooks

        Things are starting to pick up for me as summer starts to roll around. I have a few big shows coming up that I am really excited for, including this one: opening up for Buck 65 at the Pyramid Cabaret in Winnipeg, this Friday, May11th, with Colleen Brown.

This show means a lot to me for a number of reasons. Buck 65 has been a huge influence on my musical outlook since I first heard his album Vertex over ten years ago. At the time, I was just getting out of high school and was a major “backpacker”; I listened exclusively to New York underground rap, from Black Star to Mobb Deep, Thirstin Howell to Gang Starr etc. But with the opening up of the Wax Museum (a now defunct) record shop in Osborne Village, hip-hop fans in Winnipeg like me didn’t have to rely on what HMV had in stock anymore. Thanks to the dedicated people at the Wax Museum our eyes were opened up to a whole other contemporary movement in hip-hop that was happening all over Canada and the States at the time. With the guidance of the people who ran the record shop, all of whom were active in the local scene themselves, I was introduced to so many mind-blowing acts, from locals like Fermented Reptile and Frek Sho, to Canadian artists like Epic and the Goods, to American crews like Living Legends and Anticon.

But out of all of these acts, Buck 65 made an impression on me that was unique and particularly influential. The music he creates is undeniably hip-hop, but unlike any other hip-hop I’d ever heard before. His album Vertex was my first glimpse into a relatively uncharted territory, a completely novel way of thinking about breaks, cuts and rhymes. It wasn’t long after I heard Vertex that I picked up is earlier release Language Arts and the Sebutones album 50/50 Where It Counts (Sixtoo was also a huge influence). These three albums, along with Man Overboard are without question masterpieces of modern hip-hop music. Their influence on me is still unfolding, even a decade after my first contact with them.

You can check out the Facebook event page for this show here.

Buck 65 – Eye Make-Up Excuses (Language Arts)

Buck 65 – Slow Drama (Vertex)

Sebutones (Buck 65 & Sixtoo) – Tranquilized Tones (50/50 Where It Counts)

Buck 65 – Untitled (Man Overboard)

 

 

 

 

 

Post to Twitter

The Foultone Crew on The Dope Joints

        On December 21st, 2o11, the Foultone Crew (Dj Kutdown, Ismaila Alfa, Influence, Mikel Rondeau and myself, Rob Crooks) took to the University of Manitoba’s campus radio airwaves as guests of Winnipeg’s longest running hip-hop mix show, the Dope Joints. A huge thank you goes out to Dj Kinteik, Dj @Large and Dj Stress for their hospitality and good humour. It was the second Foultone Christmas special that we’ve done in three years, and I for one, would like it to become an annual tradition. So hopefully next December we’ll be back on the air at 101.5 fm, to wish everybody a happy holidays. Just like the 2009 edition, the 2011 Foultone Christmas special included live on-air performances and freestyles by all the emcees, and mixing and scratching from Dj Kutdown. Download or stream the podcast here and tune in to the Dope Joints every Wednesday night, 10pm-12am, 101.5 UMFM.

 

 

Post to Twitter

Crooks and Bird

Over the weekend, Canadian hip-hop legend Birdapres and (not so legendary) I finished writing the EP that we’ve been working on! The next stage, which will take place over the next few weeks, will involve recording, mixing and mastering, and all the other fine-tuning that must be done before a music collection is released.

I’m really excited about this project. Not only because the EP is a concept album (you can see how much I love concept albums here), but also because I get to hear Birdapres rap with me over my own beats! So, that’s pretty awesome. It seems so long ago that I first heard Birdapres and Moves’ album Alleged Legends; it was probably ten years ago, come to think of it. Wow. That was such a great album (check out a sample of it here).

Anyways, the EP should be out early in the new year. We both have other projects that we have to focus our time and effort into for the spring, so we’re shooting for a February-or-so release for this EP. It will most likely be available for free (or cheap, but probably free) download, with a limited edition cassette run, courtesy of Witchpolice.  I’ll keep ya posted.

 

 

Post to Twitter