Issues have modified for Canadian rapper Keynes Woods since he broke out a number of years in the past with a hair-raising, lyrically deadly COLORS efficiency of his tune “Menace.” For one factor, the Congo-born, Ottawa-raised MC has caught many extra ears because of the much-praised clip (which racked up over 700,000 views), touchdown on Artists to Watch lists and producing buzz together with his 2020 debut EP Kongo Kane. For an additional, the 25-year-old not sees the surface world as, nicely, a risk.
“Once I was beginning off, I had a unique sort of starvation as a result of I used to be all the time like, ‘I must show individuals improper.’ Even in that COLORS session, that ‘Menace’ tune was all about attempting to show motherf**kers improper,’” Woods explains to Advanced. “However I hear that now and I’m like, ‘Yo, individuals do f**okay with me!’ So I would like to modify that vitality. I’m not attempting to show individuals improper anymore; now it’s like, I gotta show everybody proper.”
Properly, he actually does loads of corroborating in his new single “Allo,” the music video for which we’re premiering in the present day. In a primary for Woods, he raps confidently in French over a nasty, trunk-thumping beat he produced all by his lonesome (one other first). When you don’t occur to be bilingual, the lyrics can roughly be boiled down thusly: speak is reasonable.
“The monitor is actually about, ‘Yo, depart me alone,’” Woods laughs. “I imply, I’m at some extent proper now the place I’m taking this factor much more severely. And I’ll be sincere, I would like to start out making a living, you understand what I imply? I wish to make a dwelling off of this. In order harsh as it’s, it’s similar to, I must largely reply cash calls now. I can’t do free reveals anymore. If it’s not about enterprise, I gotta go. I’ve executed a number of favours.”
Woods, a lyrical acrobat with a proclivity for bending kinds, says he feels “strain, however good strain.” He’s itching to level-up his profession and comply with by means of on the hype that’s surrounding him. And but, he’s additionally completely happy to indulge left-field concepts and subvert expectations completely. Therefore, the choice to document a monitor in French. For his subsequent album, he plans to depart from the shadowy, skull-rattling lure sound he established on Kongo Kane in favour of what he calls “fairly music.” He describes it as a mixture of early 2000s pop-leaning R&B, dance music, and introspective rap cuts.
“While you see there’s two completely different sides of the world, I really feel such as you dwell life in another way.”
“I’m keen to shoot pictures that lots of people aren’t keen to shoot,” he says when requested what units him aside from different Canadian rappers. “I’m all the time always attempting to push myself to do uncomfortable issues. I believe lots of people get caught up in sure bins, and I genuinely need each undertaking I come out with to be completely different than the final one…. I’m not afraid to strive issues out in entrance of individuals. It’s good once you don’t know what to anticipate out of your favourite artist, and it’s not formulaic or something. It’s similar to, this man felt it and he tried it.”
After a summer season that noticed T-Pain and Dr. Dre overtly gripe in regards to the repetitiveness and lack of originality in rap in the present day (“Do some completely different music! Now we have all of the sh*t that you just’re doing!” T-Pain screamed on a Twitch stream that went viral), Woods’ inventive curiosity is a breath of purified air. Particularly amid a Canadian hip-hop scene that may usually really feel congested with the identical gauzy, hazy sound.
Keynes’ willingness to chuck the rapper tutorial guide might be traced again, a minimum of partly, to his distinctive upbringing. He immigrated to Canada from Kinshasa, Congo at eight, an expertise that was, to understate issues, jarring. “I keep in mind my first time on an escalator. I used to be form of shook. Like, yo, how do I get on this factor?” he recounts. “While you see there’s two completely different sides of the world, I really feel such as you dwell life in another way. It provides you a unique perspective. I don’t suppose it’s intentional however I do positively suppose it’s opened me as much as extra issues.”
“I wish to have my very own world, man. I like artists who construct their very own world round what they do.”
At the moment, Woods bounces forwards and backwards between Ottawa and Toronto. However he reps Canada’s capital onerous. The “Allo” visuals, directed by video manufacturing crew Heirmanos, showcase numerous components of the town, from lush forests to basketball courts. He credit fellow rappers Night Lovell and City Fidelia as being key architects of Ottawa’s rap scene, although he admits it’s nowhere close to as huge as Toronto’s. Nonetheless, he notes that with regards to artist help, even the 6ix has its limits. “It’s humorous, in Ottawa, I used to be form of like, ‘There’s nothing right here.’ So I moved to Toronto, after which a number of artists out listed below are speaking about, ‘Yo, I can’t be right here, we gotta transfer to L.A.’ There’s only a main distinction between dwelling right here and dwelling within the States. By way of [music] infrastructure, there’s simply much less right here, however the increasingly stars we get, we’ll get there.”
Fortunately, applications like First Up with RBCxMusic are doing their half to assist artists get there. Launched to help Canadian expertise through the pandemic, the initiative offers musicians with mentorship, in addition to funding and publicity alternatives with the likes of Grammy-winning R&B artist H.E.R., who Woods seems alongside in a splashy new promo spot.
Stacked as the percentages could also be towards artists right here, watching a Canadian climb to the highest of the hip-hop hierarchy is loads motivation for Woods. Not solely as a result of Drake is a Canuck, however as a result of he’s such a completely different Canuck. “It’s insane: a half-Black, half-Jewish dude from Toronto, kinda suburban trying, is the most important rap star on this planet,” he says. “I don’t suppose there’s ever going to be that once more, however it’s inspiring to know you could be your self and construct your individual factor, and also you don’t want to suit right into a sure sort of mould to make it. It provides you hope that, ‘OK, I can have my very own model of that.’”
So, Woods is seeking to construct not only a profession, however a whole-ass empire off his idiosyncrasies. “I wish to have my very own world, man. I like artists who construct their very own world round what they do. Individuals who know me know I kinda dwell in my very own world already. That is Keynes’ world, for higher or for worse. However I need [to get to a point] the place individuals have purchased into this massive model and perceive it. And that’s what I’m working in direction of. And it’s not simply on the music aspect of issues, it’s every thing.”
And when he says every thing, he means every thing. Alongside the brand new album, Woods has additionally been onerous at work on Rarefruits, a line of fashion dolls (that’s proper) he plans to sometime launch. “I wished to create the style doll for boys,” he says. “The way in which I have a look at it, Barbie has the Ken doll, however the Ken doll will not be essentially for boys, it’s simply an adjunct of Barbie. I simply noticed there was a niche out there.”
He says he’s created a number of prototype dolls and a few packaging, and is now seeking to safe funding for the undertaking. The concept happened whereas spit balling concepts for distinctive merch. “I simply went down a rabbit gap of like, ‘OK, clothes, perhaps I might do one thing completely different, like socks or one thing.’ After which for some motive I simply thought style dolls. You are able to do a lot with them, even when it comes to the clothes. You are able to do model collabs, for instance. And I used to be like, oh, that’d be fascinating.”
Woods already is aware of that folks mess with him and all his eccentricity. Now he’s seeking to see simply how far down the rabbit gap they’ll comply with him.
“Like I mentioned, I’m taking pictures pictures, man. I’m taking pictures pictures.”