In the October/November 2020 issue of Stylus, “Winnipeg State of Mind” brought you the Top 100 Winnipeg Rap Songs, part of my attempts to document Winnipeg rap history in my forthcoming book “Gritty City.” In 2021, the focus of “Winnipeg State of Mind” will be to examine the current slate of young, up and coming rappers and artists that populate the landscape of Winnipeg hip-hop. Some of the artists that will be featured are already reaching huge numbers of people, some are just finding their feet artistically. But all of them are talented, driven, and dedicated to making Winnipeg hip-hop the best it can be in 2021 and beyond.
I wasn’t prepared for Ben Varian’s new album One Hundred Breakfasts With The Book. A preliminary listen reveals a downtempo pop album with a range of instrumentals, some pronounced dreamy elements, a nod to early 60’s jazz-pop, and soothing vocals to round out the sound. Upon subsequent listens, and with some cursory investigation, the album becomes much more than that.
Ryan Hockey’s debut EP Again channels everything from an indie piano ballad to space driven sound distortions that evoke a sense of escapism and a dream-like universe. It starts with the melancholic yet increasingly powerful “Again at 4 a.m.,” featuring a galactic backing track that makes the song an absolute ride right from the beginning.
As one half of the electronic-dance duo Prince Innocence, Prince Josh released his debut solo LP The Joy back in March of 2020. Darkness and desolation are intrinsic qualities of this down-tempo House album, but hidden with the moments of despair are glimpses of hope, sanity, and of course, joy.
Yawn Care is the second project released by the Winnipeg-based artist of the same name. The influence of this city is more than apparent throughout the album. It offers all the entrancing wonder that an ambient record should bring, but does so in a surprisingly concise manner.
Julien’s Daughter burst onto the local music scene with unfortunate timing. In the absence of playing local stages, and surely a slew of festival gigs, they took the time to release their debut album The Static That Carries Over. The album captures the effortlessness of their collaboration and the dynamism of their live performances.
Ming + Zhizhi is the most recent venture from musical collective China Club, who started out as a duo from Dallas, Texas before expanding. Their internationally-influenced sound is put on display on this short but powerful gem that is the culmination of group efforts spanning from 2015 to 2019.
Gulfer make an enthralling blend of math-entwined emo-punk. From the stance of 2018’s well-received Dog Bless, the Montréal band have hit a sweet spot between complexity and catharsis that they’ve continued with their new self-titled LP.
When Stun, an Indigenous hip-hop artist, posed the statement and question to me, “Don’t let anyone tell you how old you are, it’s never too late to chase your dreams … if you feel like you have the passion, go and chase it, if you want to be happy, well it’s there, and you have to go grab it right?” I was curious to learn more about this interesting comment.