Breaking Bread with Peanuts & Corn
Published Nov 01, 2001"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.
"We used to have a mild beef but all that's been long done and maturity takes over," Pip Skid explains of the history between Winnipeg competitors Farm Fresh and Frek Sho. "[Frek Sho member] Sunil and I had a slapping contest while wearing batting gloves," he says. "He proved worthy and since then we've combined forces." Gruf and Pip found they both had similar interests and started to work together, resulting in the politically-charged Fermented Reptile. At around the same time, Mcenroe and DJ Hunnicut started working with John Smith as the conceptual Park-Like Setting. Together, these two groups form the Break Bread collective that is the core of the Peanuts & Corn label.
From a small-town label started out of a simple DIY approach, Peanuts & Corn is spreading across Canada like a virus, infecting whole cities of hip-hop artists. "Farm Fresh started in Brandon and moved to Winnipeg," Mcenroe explains clinically. "From Winnipeg, Pip moved to Halifax and [I] moved to Vancouver. That leaves Gruf, John Smith and Hunnicutt in Winnipeg. Then you got Birdapres who is from Vancouver, but then went to Toronto for a while, but then is returning to Vancouver."
Birdapres was one of the first of a growing number of artists from outside of Break Bread that has released work with Peanuts & Corn. His Alleged Legends album with Halifax, NS pioneer and rather recent Vancouver resident DJ Moves, has the distinction of being the first Peanuts & Corn release with production supplied by someone other than Mcenroe. "I just liked the album and wanted to get it out there," explains Mcenroe of the departure from the Peanuts & Corn norm. "At the time Moves and Bird were talking about making a few tapes of it so I just offered to put it out on my label. I'm glad I did."
Mcenroe's nearly concurrent move to Vancity meant not only a change of address for the label but also more collaborations with Vancouver heads like Josh Martinez (another Halifax transplant) and the 5 Headed R-Tard (a national super-group with a home base in Vancouver).
On the other side of the country, in another of Canada's unacknowledged hotbed's of hip-hop talent, lives a relocated Pip Skid, spreading the Peanuts & Corn love. "[I] live in Halifax," he says, "and it bites." It's there where he recorded his first solo affair, Friends4Ever, using the name Pip Skid rather than the Wicked Nut moniker he used for both Farm Fresh and Fermented Reptile. On Friends4Ever, Pip worked with a number of MCs and producers outside of the Break Bread collective, many of them associates of DJ Moves: Recyclone, Knowself, Kunga219, Gordski, and Unleavened. Aside from these Halifax artists, the album also featured appearances by Saskatoon, SK's Epic, and Winnipeg MCs the Gumshoe Strut (from My Brother In Your Back Pack, a group that also features John Smith) and Shazzam (from Frek Sho).
"I think there used to be a mentality that we were all competing for the same record deal or something," Mcenroe relates, "and that helping someone else would decrease your own chances. Now it has shifted to where everyone is doing things for themselves and that inspires people to help each other. And it pays off, too. When you put someone up for the night when they tour through your town, they will do the same for you and then some." And that is why Peanuts & Corn will continue to grow, since there will always be small town nerds willing to help each other out over the music they love and respect.
Top 5 Peanuts & Corn Platters
Pip Skid, Gruf the Druid, John Smith and Mcenroe submitted their five favourite P&C releases with a few comments on each.
Let's Just Call You "Quits"
When Farm Fresh's Pip Skid and Frek Sho's Gruf the Druid joined forces, the result was the potent Fermented Reptile. The two socially conscious MCs released arguably the best of the P&C albums. "Gruf and I had both been unsatisfied in the old group situations," says Pip Skid, "and we had a great connection. It was my rebirth of sorts." According to Mcenroe, the album "put us on the map."
School Day 2, Garbage Day 4
The Park-Like Setting album from Mcenroe, John Smith and DJ Hunnicut is a "concept album that works," according to Mcenroe. Taking their name from a sign at a retirement home, the trio have built their album around a college curriculum based on song titles like "Music Appreciation," "Political Science" and "Physics," with a few bonus tracks included as "Extracurricular Activities." Plus, it was a fine step up in production for Mcenroe.
Gruf the Druid
"The first fusion of real death metal (not that nu-metal cheez) and hip-hop starts with Gruf the Druid," says John Smith. Although Gruf's debut hasn't been released yet, Pip says "This album will last forever. I'm still trying to get over the shock of how dope this LP is." If the two tracks included on Factory Seconds are any indication, this album should be fine indeed.
John Smith's Blunderbus or, "In Transit"
John Smith attempts to return with another concept album to follow his PLS group effort. Originally conceived to be about travel, In Transit expanded and lost its concept, thus the new title. John Smith's stories and flow suit some of Mcenroe's best production to date, creating the most accessible of the P&C releases.
"I needed this kind of release," says Pip of his solo debut. "It was made in a totally new part of Canada with new people." Including guests like Halifax's Recyclone, Kunga219, Knowself and Unleavened, and Saskatoon's Epic, Friends4Ever (along with Alleged Legends) was a new era of Peanuts & Corn working with others outside of the Break Bread gang. "It is the calm before the storm of Pip Skid," he says, "and it's set in stone, or CD, or whatever you call those things."