Winnipeg State of Mind :: Mooki

Photo by Adam Dawda

by Nigel Webber

“My heart preaches what my mind knows, sense over emotion” – Meyhem Lauren

On the mic and on the dancefloor, Mooki has been carving out a space of his own in Winnipeg’s hip-hop scene for over a dozen years. Adamantly attesting that he’s always loved hip-hop culture as a whole, Mooki elaborates that, “because of breaking, I was able to look at music a little differently.” That unique angle has benefitted Mooki  in his relatively short time rapping.  With a few assists from the homies along the way, Mooki is now well-established within the local music community and eager to continue pursuing a distinct path in the art form he finds expresses himself the best. 

Long before Mooki had ever released any music, he was well known and connected within the breakdancing community locally, saying, “most people don’t spend 11 years in hip-hop culture before they start making music.” But it was through breakdancing that Mooki was able to initially connect to the hip-hop culture that he so loved and admired. Dancing also afforded Mooki the opportunity to travel around North America entering breakdance competitions, which in turn opened his eyes to the vastness of the culture both locally and abroad. Mooki explains that, “the breakdancing scene is a lot bigger than me,” but that, “I met a lot of really dope individuals through breaking.” But there was something more Mooki had to say, things he could not express simply through dance any longer. 

Growing up in the city’s West End, Mooki’s older brother was already making hip-hop music, rapping and producing, including collaborating with local heavyweight Fresh IE.  West End living also provided Mooki a number of other connections in the sizable centre circle of the Venn diagram that is Winnipeg’s West Indian community and the local hip-hop community, in particular one Dill the Giant of 3Peat fame. Mooki describes Dill as encouraging him, with Mooki frequently sending out voice notes of rhymes or little song ideas. It was Dill and fellow rapper Ed Riley who were the recipients one night of a Mooki voice note, a rough version of what would end up becoming the song “Chop” off of “Mooki Tape.” That same night Mooki attended the Fourth Quarter Records studio for the first time and recorded with BBS Steve the track “Dutty Forces,” also off that first EP. A short, 14 minute jaunt through the West End as seen through the prism of Mooki’s childhood and adolescence, “Mooki Tape” is an extremely cohesive seven song EP. The brief, perfunctory tracks blend together giving a calming feeling, a feeling of being home again. Although he switches it up a bit to more of a singing rap, Mooki’s flow and cadence are generally coming from the school of Roc Marciano, usually a bit slower paced but with the immaculate wordplay and more of a story-based style. Mooki explains that, “Realistically, I’m not looking to tell a specific story; I’m trying to create worlds through my music that people can find their favourite characters and hold them dearest to their hearts.” A task perhaps best compared to that of Atlas, but one Mooki seems entirely confident in. 

“Blue River” the lead single and video off of “Mooki Tape” dropped a week before the pandemic hit in March of 2020, with the full tape dropping online a few weeks later at the beginning of April. But far from dismayed or disrupted by the COVID chaos, Mooki has soldiered on. In fact, the stay at home orders of the past year and change has allowed Mooki to go for it on his own. Embodying the independent as fuck ethos, Mooki’s focus right now is on what works best for him, and how can he express himself the best through his music, saying, “I’m really just focused on working by myself as much as possible.”

Keeping consistent, Mooki has dropped a number of videos since fall of 2020, most notably the stunningly beautiful yet simple “Jamaican Honey,” produced by Mooki’s homie, St.ill. Recorded at 4:00 a.m. on Mooki’s birthday, the song follows that smoky vibe; close your eyes and you can picture their Exchange District studio early that morning. The run of singles was in the lead up to Mooki’s second EP, “Ma Jolie,” which dropped in May of 2021. The 4 song EP was produced entirely by Tee8, a producer whose beats Mooki selected off YouTube. The project was also mixed and mastered by Mooki himself, admittedly very poorly but intentionally so, to give it that immediacy of the late night bedroom sessions that produced the tracks. 

Hinting at much on the horizon, including a particularly special project to be titled “Black Sheep,” Mooki is content to forge on and continue exploring the depths of his musical soul. For those fortunate enough to be on board with Mooki so early in his musical journey, stick around, it only goes up from here. 

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