Breaking Bread with Peanuts & Corn
"Peanuts & Corn Records is the tangible piece of a movement that I couldn't begin to summarise," says John Smith of the independent, Vancouver, BC-based hip hop label to which he belongs. "Mcenroe runs the business aspects," he continues, "but I feel every release is a product of our collective. It's also my favourite record label and I fiend for all of its releases just like any of the other few dozen rabid P&C devotees." As praise for the label, it's pretty understated. Peanuts & Corn have released such a flurry of albums, EPs and twelve-inches in the last year-and-a-half that they can claim far more than just a "few dozen" devoted fans.
In 2001, Peanuts & Corn is composed of the Break Bread crew and a few select friends, but in the beginning, P&C was just about a small, Brandon, Manitoba hip-hop trio called Farm Fresh. "P&C was started by Farm Fresh as a whole," explains resident producer Mcenroe. "We had some money from doing shows and wanted to release a cassette." At the time, Mcenroe was using the name Roddy Rod, which he would continue to use as a production alias for a short while after adopting Mcenroe as his MC name. The other two members of Farm Fresh were Wicked Nut and Boba Fatt, both of whom would later change their names to Pip Skid and DJ Hunnicut, respectively.
"We released the Space EP cassette in December of 1994," Mcenroe continues. "At the time it just seemed natural to start a label — what band wouldn't put some kind of a label on there?" The tape was typical Farm Fresh fare for the time. "Our early songs were very funny," explains Mcenroe, "songs about Matlock and Celine Dion, endless inside jokes and references to Brandon."
An "inside joke" also happened to be how Farm Fresh came across the name for their label. "This kid we knew would be running around yelling ‘peanuts and corn' and we adopted it," says Mcenroe, whose lone dissenting voice against the name was outvoted. "In hindsight, it's better than what I likely would have come up with on my own," he says diplomatically. Of course the name would work as a constant reminder of their small town roots after they made the move to Winnipeg and started taking the label more seriously with their second release, Mood Ruff's Maxim cassette.
And rather than conform to the new way of living in Winnipeg, Farm Fresh set about making changes. "I was the first to move to Winnipeg from Brandon and be exposed to the hip-hop scene," Mcenroe begins. "The thing about Farm Fresh, we wanted to play to anyone, so we had contacts in the punk and indie rock scene, as well as the hip-hop scene. After I went to a few shows featuring local Winnipeg groups in 1994, I was astounded by how short everyone played and how basically unprepared they were. As Farm Fresh we were accustomed to playing at least 30 minutes. After we had established ourselves in Winnipeg, people became more accustomed to a hip-hop act playing a full set."
Of course, establishing themselves meant contacts with other Winnipeg artists; along the way they released Maxim and parted ways with Mood Ruff, did some battling with Frek Sho, and connected with John Smith, another small town MC, who proclaims this small town isolation is what sets Peanuts & Corn apart from the rappers you see and hear in the mainstream. "Being from Winnipeg — and before that Churchill, Manitoba — afforded me the luxury of observing hip-hop culture from the outside," claims John Smith. Unable to witness the hip-hop acts the big cities took for granted, Farm Fresh, John Smith, and other acts like them were forced to create their own blueprint. "Back then there were very few people doing this," Pip Skid sweetly reminisces. "Now there's a shitload of the little buggers. Having to create our own thing definitely helped to develop our own styles."
Cases similar to this have been (and still are) occurring all over Canada, giving this nation a high density of wacko hip-hop artists like the Sebutones, Governor Bolts, DJ Moves, and much of the Peanuts & Corn roster. "We're all pretty weird," John Smith reveals. "I find people that aren't crazy to be suspect. I also think that at different time periods all of us have felt like the outsider." Mcenroe approaches it from a different angle but with the same results: "We are ordinary guys in extraordinary times," he says. "What makes us unique is how ordinary we really are." Or, as Pip explains it: "We're all such nerds."
Over time, Winnipeg affected the Farm Fresh group as much as they affected it. The confines of a group situation made the dissolution of Farm Fresh a necessary move, as each artist went on to new projects. Mcenroe went on to release his Ethics EP, DJ Hunnicut went on to work with live funk unit Hummers, and Pip Skid (still using Wicked Nut) got down to some serious politicking with an old nemesis, Gruf the Druid of now-defunct Frek Sho.
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