Right now, Sydney’s hip-hop scene is having a moment. Between the likes of international breakouts in OneFour and The Kid LAROI and local titans Hooligan Hefs, Triple One, Tasman Keith and Kwame, there’s no shortage of talent stemming up from the NSW capital, and no artist exemplifies this quite like Manu Crooks.
At 27, Crooks might be a bit too young to claim the title of OG, but his impact on putting Sydney rap on the map is certainly commendable. Spurred by the success of breakout single ‘Everyday’ and establishing a fervent local following, Manu Crooks released his debut EP Mood Forever in 2017.
Resonating with listeners both at home and around the globe, Mood Forever helped to push the Ghanian-born rapper further into the mainstream, netting major tour supports with heavyweights like Stormzy and A$AP Ferg and landing him slots on coveted international festivals such as Rolling Loud and the UK’s The Great Escape.
As he prepares to release the follow-up to Mood Forever and continues to work on a myriad of other projects, we link up with Manu Crooks to chat about the year that’s been and what else to expect from one of Sydney’s finest in the new year.
Tell us about how 2020 was for Manu Crooks – how’d you spend the year with the absence of touring?
Just reflecting and chilling with the fam, in the studio, doing music videos.
It’s the longest I’ve been in Sydney for a while. Previous years we were touring the world, all around Europe, UK, US and Canada. The year’s been different, but the main positive is spending time with the fam.
You’re currently working on the follow-up to your 2017 EP Mood Forever. Tell us about that project: what producers are you working with, what sounds are you gravitating towards, and what influences are you drawing upon throughout the recording process?
I’ve been working on different ideas for a minute. It’s looking solid.
Currently I’m working with producers around the world in the US/Canada/France mostly, plus some local guys from down under like Klapback, Colcci, Blessed and Liam Thomas. There’s some dope producers coming up out here.
The sound is just whatever mood I am in. We don’t plan it, it just happens. That’s how we like to create.
From an outsider’s perspective, it feels like Sydney’s hip-hop scene is flourishing on the world stage right now. What’s the scene like there as an artist? Who are some of the city’s most exciting emerging acts right now?
It’s still growing, which is good to see. There wasn’t much when we started and now there’s a whole lot more, and hopefully it keeps growing.
Upcoming, there’s heaps, but definitely some local guys repping the area like Skenzo and 6ix – cats like Baby Prince, Mason and Asher should make some noise real soon. Shout out Hefs, OneFour and a few guys who been carrying the wave pretty much over the side.
You recently linked up with 1800 Tequila for their Essential Artists campaign and designed a limited edition bucket hat inspired by Mood Forever. Can you tell us about the 1800 Essentials Artists campaign, and what influences you drew upon to design your piece in the collection?
Yeah, it was a vibe. They reached out and we started cooking up, the inspiration is just the mood.
We went with all black because that’s what we wear on the daily, usually our whole crew is wearing all black. We don’t even plan for it. It’s just the mood forever.
Mood Forever tends to be a recurring motif throughout your work. How does this phrase apply to your artistic process?
It’s just whatever mood I am in. Let’s get it down, let’s record it.
Despite everything that’s gone down, this year’s been pretty massive for hip-hop releases. What were your favourite rap releases from 2020 – were there any projects that really resonated with you or inspired your output?
It was good for me to get music back out. I think that’s my highlight musically, just to get the ball rolling and get momentum back.
2021 is just gonna be dropping dropping dropping. I have been holding onto too many songs and ideas, and it’s time to get them out!
Finally – what can we expect from Manu Crooks in 2021? Are you planning on hitting the road again soon?
Definitely keen to do more shows. We gonna fuck it up once we back on stage!
Stay up to date with Manu Crooks here.