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.


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.