​Keynes Woods Is Ready to Put Himself on the Hip-Hop Map and Bring Ottawa with Him

Photo: Felice Trinidad

BY Riley WallacePublished Mar 13, 2020

After popping up on radars with his must-see COLORS session that amassed over half-a-million views. and since dropping a handful of buzzing singles, Congo-born Ottawa-based MC Keynes Woods is celebrating the release of his new EP, Kongo Kane. Aside from cleverly — and pre-emptively — correcting the pronunciation of his name (Keynes should be read as Kanes), the release is one that both closes a chapter and opens a new one in his career.
"I don't see myself making another trap album," he tells Exclaim! of this collection. "I think I've found a lane that I'm good at ... I can get in that bag pretty easily and just continuously make that. But I'm also scared of becoming one-dimensional. I want to be an artist that surprises his audience."
Part of a cohort that includes acts like City Fidelia, who is also working to put Ottawa on the map, longevity is something he's striving for — making keeping fans on their toes that much more important to him.
"I want to be a pioneer," he says. "I feel like there's going to be a wave of artists in the next five years, and [Ottawa will] have one or two that get pretty big dues. It'd be dope to be one of those artists."
While Kongo Kane is produced entirely by his in-house producer Rekkzone, Woods notes that he's begun to get deeper into the world of production, going as far as having his manager shop his beats to artists. Though he explains that he [currently] doesn't foresee himself becoming a full-scale producer to anyone other than himself.
A limited-edition vinyl release of Kongo Kane will feature two bonus songs that Keynes says are produced by him — including one in French.
"It's hard and it sounds like an American trap track, but in French," he says of the song with an unmistakable tone of excitement. "It's something different. Something new."
No longer limited in the studio, able to materialize any vibe and open to more worldly sounds than most artists in his region, he hints at a new stash of self-produced experimentation — while still balancing commercial viability. It's a juxtaposition he discusses on "Wanted" (one of the EP's three new songs).
"When you're just making shit to make shit, you have a certain freedom," he explains, talking about the personal challenges he's had balancing art and business. "But it's like, how can I be free when I'm supposed to take into consideration what people [and mainstream] want to listen to? If I'm working with that in mind, am I still creating freely?"
Much like the confidence that exudes from his new music, Woods' aura has a calm and collected energy about it as he describes how he sees himself fitting into the tapestry of his city and the industry at large. "Ottawa doesn't have it's own distinctive sound like Toronto does," he says.
"I'm not even sure that I'm the person who will crack that code," he adds with a laugh. "There's probably some young kid in his room who is already figuring that out."
Even if his eclectic, international sound isn't the one that will ultimately define the nation's capital, it's clear that he's poised to continue steering the city's hip-hop vocabulary into exciting new directions.
Kongo Kane is available now.

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