It seems like there is a new distraction popping up every day. The latest Twitter Beef between two celebrities. The new personality quiz on Buzzfeed. That new series that was just uploaded to Netflix. All of these forms of digital escape are perfectly fine in moderation, but it is becoming even easier for our society to fall into the void of complacency. In this age of constant bombardment of information and entertainment, sometimes it takes a bold voice to gain clarity within this consumer culture. That voice is of Crystal MC Gaines and his latest release Reanimation.
Looking back upon the much deserved success from his previous EP Night Crawler: Reloaded and working alongside artists such as Toki Wright and Chance the Rapper; everything seemed to be falling into place for the Free Minds front man. Yet all of this excitement only made way for the concept of Reanimation through a period of rejuvenation.
“The concept has many levels,” said Gaines. “People use the word ‘reanimation’ for something like the Walking Dead, a reanimated corpse. Something that is dead and brought back to life. For me, I had taken a mental break from music and although I was making a name, I felt like I was losing the love. So I took a break to do some reading and studying and I felt new life, a new energy when it came to the music.”
After studying books such as Nedagotchi the Oppressed and The Miseducation of the Negro, Gaines took this newly acquired knowledge as he and his team began work on the album shortly after the “Livin Right” video. By calling upon Lazy Thunda to produce and oversee the recording process, Gaines tapped into his frustrations and sardonic flair to create the fitting first song for Reanimation “Zombie.”
“I wanted to make a song for idiots, but I wanted to force my message too. I actually co-produced the beat. I wanted to make a banger, something that they could play in the club and I wanted people to be so taken away by the beat and the hook that I could speak on what I wanted to say and how I felt society was. I was being sarcastic and I wanted to make something for people to nod their heads to.”
As the creativity began to return, it became apparent that the album needed to be set within the dark side of the psyche without sacrificing the bounce. In order to accomplish this, the crew reached out to up incoming production phenom, TheCrxsh to help lay down half of the trap based ambiance for Gaines to effortlessly flip flows about his inner most thoughts. One of those moments became the first single off of Reanimation “The Fallen,” as Shinobi unsheathed his katana and spazzed over the explicit pleas within TheCrxsh’s ominous creation. Yet with the attention that the song created on its own, its video divided fans as it tested the waters of controversy by detailing the dark dealings with the den of domestic terrorists including the burning of an American flag. Although some of these images became disturbing to some, Gaines maintained that the video was meant to exercise his freedom of expression.
“I really wanted have a clear conscious message to say ‘fuck branding, commercialism and symbolism.’ I seriously think that these are things that are wrong in this country. I also had to include the ‘cool things’ in there to make it appealing. By bringing that together, I wanted to make sure that people knew that I’m not fucking around out here. I am a serious artists and I’m going to say and speak freely on whatever I want because this is America.”
While Gaines enjoys playing the villain, Reanimation is not spared from sentiment as he laid down his sword and armor to reveal unflinching vulnerability within songs like “Descendants” and “My Flesh.” One song in particular that revealed such turmoil was the post-party anthem “Hangover” where Gaines struggles to regain his stability after the long night out over TheCrxsh’s soothing snares.
“I was going to use that beat for something else, but I was partying hard. And because of this, I was getting terrible hangovers every weekend. Like I wanted to die it was that bad. So I wanted to play something for the next time I was hungover to make myself feel better and cheer up.”
After two years of grit and grinding, the Reanimation party keeps rolling as the Free Minds team will be celebrating its official release at the Nethers Bar in Mill City Nights on Saturday, April 25th alongside notable MCs Finding Novyon & C-Free as well as DJ Drippin Ice on the 1s and 2s. While Gaines made is Nethers Bar debut alongside the pre-Acid Rap Chance the Rapper, he will be making his first headlining show memorable with the help of Aaron Willey to make it bang on the drums.
With his next album already in the planning stages, Gaines has his sights set on the place that he calls home as he continues to make Minnesota’s already sterling Hip Hop scene shine. Although not without frustration, there is an unwavering optimism as he takes account of the similarities between the talent within the Twin Cities and Chicago’s recent rise in popularity.
“There are people that have the keys that aren’t doing the best for new up incoming talent. They’re basically saying ‘do you and we’ll fuck with you when you get up there.’ And I understand that and you have to make your own way out here. Minnesota is definitely one of the most challenging places to come up and out of, especially since it hasn’t happened yet on a mainstream level… But in spite of that, we have great talent and we have some of the more free thinkers in Hip Hop. Minnesota does have a certain sound that is known on a national level, but I don’t think it gets respected. Nobody respects free thinkers. We need more outlets. We need more people working hard and working together. All we need is one big moment like how Chief Keef’s movement revealed some light for Chance the Rapper to blow up.”
As the clouds continue to shift, Gaines is ready for the shine with samurai like patience. Until that day, Reanimation is proof that he will be moving through the macabre in order to rejuvenate the truth within a society obsessed within escape.
Gaines will be releasing his 4th album “Reanimation” Tuesday, April 28th and physicals will be available at the Release Party at the Nethers Bar in Mill City Nights on Saturday, April 25th at 8pm with Finding Novyon, C-Free and DJ Drippin Ice. Be sure to keep up with Gaines on his website, Twitter, Soundcloud, Instagram and Youtube channels here.