Don’t expect to know every song when rapper Crook the Kid, also known as Dylan Jones, takes the stage Saturday.
That’s because his Northern Arts and Cultural Centre performance is split between his signature hip hop and music no one’s heard – another body of work plucking guitar strings as a singer songwriter.
Jones – who garnered attention and praise opening for rapper Logic at Ottawa Bluesfest this summer – wanted the freedom of another genre. He doesn’t claim to be an expert guitarist, but he likes the new set of lyrics and wanted a venue.
This isn’t new. Studying for an environment and natural resources technology development program at Aurora College and helping raise four children, he’s learned to make space for his music.
In a recent roughly 20 show swing through Yukon, he was simultaneously knocking out a technical project, a literature review, and a water resource management program – all as he took the stage to spit out verses.
That could involve multiple shows per day, or travelling to two different places in one day. Once, he recalls, he was performing three different shows at two different communities in a single day while handling school.
“If you want to do it bad enough, you’re going to make the time and a way to do it,” he said.
Making time and music despite a lack of resources is a theme for him.
Regardless of the size of the stage, the songs performed on it were likely recorded on an inexpensive laptop with USB mic from Staples in someone’s basement. “It’s not a fancy thing,” he said.
Put simply, a Northern music career heavily involves mastering a network of grants and managing opportunities, he said. When he was performing at Ottawa Bluesfest, for example, he was also up until 2 a.m. recording new music.
Logistics, exposure, finances all figure in as well.
They make it difficult to leave for musicians leaving their hometowns, and potentially spending thousands on travel.
Despite all that, Jones enjoys a responsive audience. The challenge is simply steadily releasing music, he said.
Jones, meanwhile, doesn’t listen to much contemporary hip hop. He was turned off by lyrics detailing excessive lifestyles he couldn’t relate to, and the genre’s derogatory content about women.
In his music, however, Jones kept the genre’s emphasis on social issues. His lyrics appear autobiographical and owe a debt to growing up in Fort Good Hope, a community which largely remains his music’s intended audience.
As he performs in southern Canada, like his summer spot opening for Logic in Ottawa, he said he hopes he can help clarify misconceptions those audiences have of the north.
“It’s not that they don’t care what’s going on up here. It’s that they absolutely don’t know. There’s no connection between this part of Canada and theirs. There’s two Canadas: the one they all live in Ottawa, and it’s this happy place. It’s the first world version, good for you,” he said.
But the other side that we don’t hear about is the third world version of Canada. It takes up a lot more space than that little happy Hollywood world there,” Jones continued.
That isn’t to say there’s no talent out there, just barriers. For him, the best musicians are working away in relative obscurity, without the resources to show the world their music.
“There’s a million other people just like me outside the doors waiting,” he said.