Exclusive Interview: Keynes Woods – “It doesn’t make me less cool or less black because I grew up in the suburbs”

Canadian rapper Keynes Woods talks about growing up in Ottawa, making his breakthrough on COLORS and gives us a track by track breakdown of his 'Kongo Kane' EP

Denzil Bell

5 months ago

By Denzil Bell

Canada has become a hot bed for rap talent, with the likes of Drake, Tory Lanez and SAFE flying the flag for the atmospheric style that brewed out of the 6.

Now residing in Toronto, Keynes Woods, is the latest rapper to come through correctly armed with these chilly sonics. The Ottawa raised artist has been working at his craft for the last three years, getting his breakthrough moment in 2018 when he featured on COLORS with his track ‘Threat’. This was the moment when he realised he could do something impactful in music and his latest tape, Kongo Kane, is an example of this quest for greatness.

The five track tape is filled with ethereal trap productions which Keynes layers with lyrics concerned with doubt, growth and spiritual healing. Luckily whilst the musician was in London, I had the chance to breakdown the project track by track with him and learn more about his come up. Check out the interview below!

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What was it like growing up in Ottawa for you?

Well growing up, I’ve been called white for a black dude and I think that came from growing up in that environment. I remember being very self-conscious about this when I was younger, but I grew to have an acceptance for it as I matured in my thinking. It doesn’t make me any less cool or any less black, just because I grew up in the suburbs. I ain’t gotta try and play up my blackness to suit certain people.

Was it while you were in Ottawa that you found a passion for music?

Yeah, I started in Ottawa, then I moved to Toronto probably a few months after that. So I started the summer in Ottawa after I finished college, around three years ago.

When would you say you first had that breakthrough moment in music?

That was when I went on COLORS and did ‘Threat’. That was big for me. That was the moment when I realised I could perform at a high level.

How did ‘Threat’ come to be the chosen song?

I was originally supposed to perform another track on COLORS, ‘Threat’ was actually a track I recorded three days before I flew out to Berlin, as I felt that I needed to perform something harder than the original song I had in mind.

What is your five year plan for music?

I’m not sure yet. I’ve gotten a lot of good looks, but I think my main focus is on solidifying my core fanbase. So to find them, I want to do a lot more shows and perfect my live set.

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Project breakdown: track by track

What was the whole idea behind naming the tape Kongo Kane?

Firstly, the Kane part comes from my name, as that’s actually how it’s pronounced, but a lot of people say it wrong and secondly, the name also represents my culture as I feel that has been suppressed for a little while. When I moved to Canada, I grew up in a lot of white neighbourhoods and when you bring through fufu for lunch, people would look at you weird. So the Kongo part is meant to represent my Congo nationality.

Track one: ‘Oh Lord!’

That one is a banger. The two verses were written separately and they were for two different songs. But when I put them together, it sounded harder and they matched together nicely.

Track two: ‘Spiritual Healing (feat. Just John & So Loki)’

My management brought Just John to my attention and said that he would be a good feature. As for the video, I didn’t want to be in the video, I kind of wanted to show more in terms of the director side of things, so that’s how I came up with the concept and the actor really did her thing.

Track three: ‘Tim Burt’

So one day, I was in the studio and the producer played me the beat for that song, from there the rest was history. The other thing I’d like to say about this project, is that I’ve experienced so much growth over the course of creating it. I’ve had some of these tracks for three years and ‘Tim Burt’ was the first track I did, where I was able to write the verses in studio. ‘Tim Burt’ is special, as that was when I first started getting comfortable in a studio session and when the producer played the instrumental, it was one of the fastest songs I’ve written; the words just came to my head with ease.

Track four: ‘Wanted (feat. Patrik)’

This was another song that came about in an integral part of my life. Like I said in the track, “f*ck this thing, I’m finished”. At that stage, I didn’t really know what people wanted, I didn’t really know where I was going musically and that track came about from all the frustration I was going through at the time.

Track five: ‘On a Wave (feat. Deelo Avery)’

‘On a Wave’ really feels like a closer, especially with Deelo’s vocals. With this one, my focus was mainly on the melodic side of things and it came out wavey in the end!

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Follow the artist’s journey: Keynes Woods

Interview by Denzil Bell