Downtown ’09 Now Available for Free Download

Downtown 09My 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?”

 

 

Coming Soon: Downtown ’09

Downtown 09 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!

 

 

 

End the War on the Holiday Rap Convention

dec18postersmallerThere is a War on the Holiday Rap Convention and we are sick of it. That’s why I have banded together with John Smith, Nestor Wynrush, Lonnie Ce, 3Peat and Cvlt Wvffle to end the insanity.

Every year when we report Haters assaults on the traditions of the Holiday Rap Convention, the crazy loons begin a vitriolic campaign to diminish me and this event. There is a reason why they are doing that. And it has nothing to do with Iggy Azalea.

Let’s take it step-by-step. No one tells you a person could possibly see a Holiday Rap Convention as an imposition of hip-hop. When the City Hall Holiday Rap tree here in Winnipeg was lighted no one threw themselves to the ground screaming about Dj Kool Herc. That did not happen. Winnipeg police did not round up the onlookers and force them into the Good Will a few blocks away. Nothing like that happened at the tree lighting. It was just a fun occasion.

Also you heard a hater on this program last night say the Holiday Rap Convention imposes hip-hop on him. But hip-hop is not an organized culture that can be imposed. There are many different styles of hip-hop that promote rap in many different ways.

Does the hater think the Holiday Rap Convention is promoting NWA? Three 6 Mafia? Wu-Tang Clan? What? After that interview the crazy Web site People emerged screaming that I’m wrong. Hip-hop is indeed being imposed. These people are so stupid it’s painful.

Hip-hop is a philosophy. You don’t have to believe Afrika Bambaataa is God in order to admire his breaks.

Millions of hipster kids admire Bambaataa as a great selector. In fact today’s pop culture was founded on hip-hop philosophy, that’s what shaped our music and slang. Again if you are stone-cold dumb and don’t understand the difference between hip-hop and rap, I cannot help you.

In 1987, President Eric B. made my point when he sent this Holiday Rap message to the American people, quote, “the Holiday Rap Convention is not just at the Good Will on December 18th, it’s a state of mind. To cherish Holiday Rap and the Good Will, to be plenteous in freshness is to have the real spirit of the Holiday Rap Convention. If we think on these things there will be born in us a Dj and over us will shine an emcee sending their dope lyrics and ill flows to the world.”

That’s from my private collection, by the way. Is Eric B. imposing hip-hop in that Holiday Rap greeting? Of course not. He is promoting a fun time at the Good Will, December 18th. Now the more intelligent haters realize that what I’m telling you is absolutely correct. Historically and scientifically but many of them don’t care, they want any hint of freshness out of the public square.

The haters want a new Winnipeg and the Holiday Rap Convention isn’t a part of it.

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.

Check out the Facebook event page.

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.

 

New Magnum KI Album

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.

 

 

 

 

 

I AM THE PICKLE JAR

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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