“Social media, that kind of made me crazy,” spits Keynes Woods on standout track ‘Threat’ but interestingly as I find out, his socials also act as a musical lifeline. “I think Insta is where I do most of my networking” he explains via an afternoon phone call, “I’m pretty much a homebody so I don’t leave the house a lot…”.
For someone who self-admittedly doesn’t leave home often, his music has travelled far beyond the borders of his own room. Keynes’ COLORS performance of ‘Threat’ for example, has racked up a cool 358,000 views. This is a strong start, considering that he only started properly releasing music two years ago.
Interested in his musical roots, I delve into where it all started. Beginning by freestyling in high school, Keynes fell in love with rap, but self-admittedly “wasn’t brave enough” to release anything at the time. “I remember coming out with my first song in high school, putting it out, and then next day just taking it down,” he reminisces. However, it strikes me that this has worked in his favour – this process allowed Keynes to find his musical voice before the pressure of releasing music, which speaks in his distinct, genre-jumping style and tone.
Woods’s sound is immediately identifiable, a testament to his musical talent and potential. When he did first start releasing, debuting with ‘Temporary’ in 2016, Keynes already had a confident, defined sound. Though only two years ago, it feels like a lifetime away for Keynes: “I think that’s going to be worth a lot of money one day, but I don’t think it’s indicative of how good I am. I know I’m a lot better than then, and I’ve come a long way.” Indeed, he has released regularly since then, and is gearing up for even more.
After moving from Kinshasa, Congo, and currently residing in Toronto, Keynes spent most of his youth in Ottawa, which from the way he talks about it, appears to still very much be his spiritual home. “When people ask me where I’m from, I usually say Ottawa, just because it is more relevant, and makes more sense,” Keynes informs me. A five hour drive away from Toronto, and the country’s capital city, Ottawa isn’t particularly known for it’s Hip Hop scene. That may be changing, however, with Keynes plugging the city, citing lo-fi Cloud rap as Ottawa’s primary genre of choice. With rappers such as Night Lovell leaving their mark on Europe in the past few years, it feels like Keynes may be the next up to fly the flag high for his hometown.
Though only having lived in Toronto for two years so far, he is part of a “definitely growing” scene, with recent artists such as KILLY, Lil Berete, ShaqIsDope, BRICK and TWY gaining a keen following via YouTube, casting a spotlight on the city’s homegrown rap community. Though Keynes feigns away from labels, “I don’t really want to be put in a certain box, of “this is what I make”, his sound aligns with the Canadian trap sound of his Toronto rap peers, placing him at ground zero of a thriving musical movement.
Interestingly, though he’s in some ways part of the Toronto scene, most of his tracks are international collaborations, “I also collaborate with different people, who do different things, so if there were to be one word to describe me it would be ‘experimental’”. The aforementioned ‘Threats’ was produced by a Norwegian named Sebastien, who Keynes found via SoundCloud. The pair eventually met up on a trip to London, and continue to share music with each other.
London appears to be somewhat of a centre for Keynes. His creative director Eugene Angelo, for example, is London based, and Keynes enthusiastically talks about the city as I ask him about his previous trips. Similar to his musical creative process, his team is spread internationally, creating a pastiche of styles that make both his music, and his online persona, unique and dynamic. In one video he may be a smartly dressed sketch artist rapping about his ‘Dream Girl’, whilst the next he is sipping from a goblet on a throne, urging you to ‘Shoot Your Shot’.
It is Keynes’s creative enterprise, and attention to detail in his videos, that has led to him becoming hot property, not only in his hometown, but far beyond too. This week he played as a support act for Kweku Collins at Toronto’s Adelaide Hall.
In fact, as we speak, it becomes clear that Keynes Woods’s creative talents reach further than music. “I’ve written a lot of the treatments for my music videos,” Keynes informs me “and am now learning how to screenwrite”. Having self-directed the ‘Shoot Your Shot’ video, he lets me in to the fact that he is also working on a short film to be released in 2019: “It won’t be long, but it will be around ten minutes. That’s one of my creative outlets as well”. This is an exciting prospect, as it looks like we will be seeing much more from this rapper/budding writer across multiple creative formats. With so many digital tools readily available, it is intriguing to see how he will use different creative mediums to express his message.
Keynes’s most recent release comes in the form of ‘Groovy’, comprised of dancy, tempo shifting calming synths and uplifting bongo drum rolls. Featuring past multiple collaborator Deelo, the track is a head-nodding twist on “a bad relationship”. Having already written a treatment for the video, Keynes is now pooling the resources to bring both his track, and his visual artistry, to life.
‘Groovy’ was originally meant to be part of a project (along with the already released ‘Avarice’ and a number of new tracks), but instead, the team forged the idea to release a track monthly, allowing Keynes and his crew to “push each song as its own project”. To give each release weight, and to showcase the multiple talents of Keynes and his affiliates, the tracks will all come with a different physical counterpart: “Every single will have a piece of merch dropped alongside. We’re starting off with our first t-shirt for Avarice, which will come out soon”.
Each release, I’m also told, will come out with a limited edition vinyl. This is a neat touch, adding a physical landmark for each release, whilst most artists (especially early in their career, as Keynes is), stick with the less laboursome approach of a sole digital release. The exciting news is, Keynes tells me, that the money from these releases will all go towards releasing the next project on a more integrated scale. Good news for Keynes fans, so make sure you stream AND buy the physical products. You never know, they may be worth a lot more one day…
As the conversation draws to a close, Keynes opens up more, and lets me in his ideas of where he is headed. “I want to offer more” he says “I want to be a lot more than a musician […] I want to be a multi-platform artist. That’s my ultimate goal”. On his SoundCloud bio, Keynes urges listeners “don’t wait ‘til I’m poppin’”, and we agree. An artist with an exciting future ahead of him, we recommend that, like us, you jump on board and enjoy the ride.