Winnipeg's Caid Jones Embarks on a Triumphant Journey with 'No Distractions Please'
Published Jun 24, 2021Caid Jones is one of Winnipeg's rising young rappers, so it probably surprised some when, before his debut EP No Distractions Please had even come out, he revealed that while his creative passions are true, he doesn't aspire to the life of a musician. To him it's an art form with utility: a way to express, connect, and support himself and his family and communities.
This kind of honesty pervades No Distractions Please, and even though Jones is still early in his career, he's been dedicated to honing his craft. The Cree-Irish rapper cut his teeth at Winnipeg's Studio 393, a hip hop-based program for youth and young adults where he got to learn from experienced talents like Nestor Wynrush, Pip Skid (formerly of Farm Fresh) and Charlie Fettah (formerly of Winnipeg's Most). He's also opened for artists like Swollen Members, Skratch Bastid and Brother Ali, and cofounded Pay Attention, a Winnipeg brand and label focused on hip-hop and R&B, and focused on fostering communities and raising awareness about important issues.
While Jones' personal storytelling touches on a variety of subjects, the most prominent come from his vulnerabilities, insights, and hard looks at Manitoba's (and Canada's) racism and continuing dark realities. He delivers these things with remarkable flair, confidence and palpable intensity — but, more than anything, No Distractions Please is meant to inspire and uplift. Jones is driven by a focused vision with a fierce flow and vocal versatility, and he puts his skills on full display.
Instrumentally, No Distractions Please pays homage to a variety of hip-hop influences, and even includes a strange skit about a Humpty Dumpty conspiracy that leads into the looped strings and bounding energy of "No Distractions." With a constant barrage of heavy beats, there's a progression throughout the EP that almost mirrors Jones' confessions and revelations, and as he opens up, ominous atmospherics evolve into exultance. And while the elements used are nothing new for hip-hop, they're presented in ways that provide a rousing backdrop to the rapper's fiery verses and dips into soulful croon.
On intro "Higher," warped, gloomy figures weave around deep bass and skittering percussion. Jones' lines are remarkably sharp with striking agility in his delivery, like when he kicks into a higher gear at the three-minute mark and rides a onslaught of words to the finish line. Clarity and awareness come through the eerie twinkling, booming bass and clattering beats of "Stay Woke." And in the groovy "Butterfly" he finds perspective on what's important with billowing horns, groaning tones and tinkling keys. "Frozen" features news snippets about Manitoba's nation-leading homicide rates with grim disparities regarding Indigenous peoples and the need for social intervention. Over forceful beats and pulsing synth, Jones raps about staying hopeful and purposeful despite oppressions, and at 21 speaks of the hard reality that "if you want some change, you've got to suffer through."
Jones' earnestness, in tandem with his ambitiously open heart and desire to help and bring about change, gives No Distractions Please a vital energy. He could turn heads with the speed and force of his flow alone, but he couples it with carefully considered lyrics that provide glimpses into his impassioned and honest life. Jubilant EP closer "Could Heaven Sound Like This?" finds Jones backed by gospel vocals as he lays out his intent with words declaring worth in all people: "Hoping for elevation / I know the devil's lazy / I'll be there waiting counting time as I'm meditating / I know sometimes I'm out of line / But I'll demonstrate that lives come in straight from the divine / Even though it's hard to find." It's when he hits the first line that the backing vocals come in for the final time to help lead the song out, and Jones' journey feels triumphant. Here's hoping there's many more to come. (Birthday Cake)