What’s going on man ahead introduce yourself
What’s up everyone, my name is Jake Krez.
How was life growing up?
Growing up was cool for the most part I suppose. I was born in the city, my parents are originally from Roseland and South Holland on the south side and they raised me in the burbs, St. Charles, which I typically see as the absence of culture. It was really nice for sure, something always felt a little weird about the whole experience though.
At what age did you begin to find a passion for writing?
I don’t know if it was a singular age per se. My Dad traveled a lot for work growing up so my Mom would put me in a lot of after-school classes and stuff. The one I liked the most we took blank books and made our own stories and I would do like 2-3 in the time other kids would do one, I just liked the act of telling stories. Past that, I guess the ‘path’ started with writing and editing the school newspaper in high school, doing the same in college and subsequently developing my own style and publications. I’ve just always loved telling other’s stories in my own way.
As creative individuals, we are inspired by other creatives. Who were some of your early influences when it came to writing and journalism?
Writing and Journalism-wise a lot of influence came from the typical choices: Hemingway, Turkel, Thompson, Bukowski, but I also grew up reading a lot of SLAM Magazine; Bobbito and Scoop Jackson who possessed a ton of voice and then of course the Royko’s, Rick Kogan’s, the true Chicago writers that created a tradition here, my goal was always to try and live up to that tradition and be at least a small part of it.
Would you consider writing to be an art form?
Yeah, absolutely. I’m not real pretentious about it in some sort of high-wire way, but it’s something to protect, foster and work on. My art is often reflective of the creations of others. It’s different of course than music or film, but for instance a conversation I used to have with Peter CottonTale a lot was the similarity of producing a beat and writing a story. You have to find a start, hold a theme, often establish a story arc: it’s all creation at the end of the day. We just happen to have different ways of interpreting what we see.
When did you first start getting heavily involved with hip-hop?
I interviewed CyHi The Prynce for an upstart magazine I helped start in Iowa City while at the University of Iowa which named me Music Editor because I knew artists Pitchfork liked or something. I guess I didn’t really ‘get involved’ heavily until I had built some agency through writing and watched and learned a bit. I had to find my role and after writing, helping others develop their story for promotional purposes made sense and became a way I’ve gotten a foot in. It’s a rabbit hole though, I remember Pat Corcoran telling me not to not do anything and since I’ve managed people and bands, done PR, helped executive produce, if you’re moving with good intentions things tend to come around.
What was your first major article that got published?
I think the first was a reprint of an interview I did with Hall & Oates before the Ravinia show in 2012, haha. The first real one though was a full feature on Kids These Days that dropped in September of 2012 with the Chicago Sun-Times. It was the first story I wrote directly for the paper, they doubled the length and ran it as it’s own section with a full-page photo and it served as a huge entrance into a scene and community I still work and live in today.
University of Iowa’s school of Journalism and Mass Communication is listed as one of the best. How was your College experience at a prominent Big-10 school?
It was cool. Iowa City is kind of a weird place, but where isn’t? I was there through the crazy party years where the school was like one or two for such which made things interesting for sure. On the academic side, the writing program probably did change my life more than I realize. I kind of finnessed it so I could do my Journalism major with an English minor, meaning I could take classes in the English department, but not stuff like British Literature etc which I hated. I picked and chose writing classes and learned prose style for the first time alongside the inverted pyramid for the 100th and the result was a sort of what I like to think is a more appealing way of writing that can exist in both spaces.
You have been able to be apart of a ton of internships. How important are internships?
I mean they’re cool, but it depends on what you want to do. Journalism? Music? Creatives things in general? You’re going to work for free at some point early on, it’s just the nature. The thing is, knowing this, you may as well work for free in the best way possible. I only really did one or two “internships” one with Comcast Sportsnet and another honestly with Jugrnaut, haha. Outside of that though I hustled my way across the city literally helping out with anything I could, proving my worth, showing I had something to offer. An internship can be whatever you want it to be honestly.
You currently write for These Days, an outlet based out of Chicago that looks to help push the arts and music scene. How did you link up with the guys at These Days?
Haha well I am TheseDays, my friends are TheseDays, this scene is TheseDays. The project is a longtime brainchild of a cross-section of those who have been here covering the scene for years. Eric Montanez, Brent Butcher, Pat Welby, Westley Parker and I along with NeonPajamas, Ray Mestad and a growing number of contributors have been pushing hard and working our asses off to give the city a publication that aptly covers all sides of the city as we take over on the national scale.
How has it been working with the guys here?
Awesome. They’re all literally my friends. Working the way we do and having all been in one another’s orbits for so long now, it’s the closest thing to a family outside of the one I was born to. We fight, we bicker, we go out together, throw events, whatever. It really is a family, Brent is Dad and we communicate on a minute-to-minute basis helping one another turn this thing into a product we and the city can be proud of and we’re finding success doing so.
What’s your writing process like?
My process has taken on a lot of different appearances over the years. When I had time in my day at all, I used to either do interviews on the phone or in person and then sit down and listen to it back and transcribe it by hand into a notebook to make sure nothings missed and to get a feel for the story within the interview. From there I usually do one or two write throughs to just get out all the surface stuff that may or may not make it into the piece before sketching out an outline and going in. I usually write around quotes and work them in after the fact which sometimes makes editing at the end crazy. Depending on the story I may or may not leave the crib for hours/day, depends what it is and for who.
For a while you’ve been hosting a monthly panel at Soho House called Yung Creatives, explain a bit about Yung Creatives.
A little over a year ago I started making a little foray into playing with radio and other means of broadcast and would go into Vocalo radio, sometimes with guests, to drop off a couple new songs from Chicago artists and talk to Jesse Menendez. I would then use the segment and add a written component which I called ‘No Coast News’ on The Smoking Section. It went pretty well until Jesse’s wife had a baby and to keep the weekly show going I met up with Wes at Kimball House Studios so he could record me doing the show. He ended up doing it with me, we ended up turning it into our own podcast which is still going and I wanted to bring it to a live setting at Soho House where I was a member. I spoke to Alicia Gutierrez who was the Manager there and she proposed doing it like a talk show with her as a co-host. We did that for about 4 months, one of which had a Metro Boomin after party, but I wanted it to resemble a real talk show and made some tweaks over the subsequent 9 months or so to achieve that. Now, it’s me and Wes once again hosting 3-4 of the city’s ‘Yung Creatives’ and we get about 50-100 people every month. We’re approaching a year with it and couldn’t be happier with how it goes each month.
Who are some newer creatives you are looking to get in the next coming months?
We just had Ravyn Lenae, Femdot and Sam Trump on the show this past one and next month I believe we’re looking at Danielle Alston and Odd Couple. There’s a lot though, I actually made a list the other day of those we’ve hosted on the show and it is a pretty crazy list. What’s crazy is there are still so many more people to get on the show. Working on a SaveMoney show, Smino has been to plenty just gotta get him onstage for one, more activists and creatives that maybe people don’t immediately think of as well, there’s a lot going on.
How do you feel when you hear people say that you were able to break artists such as Chance, Vic, Kids These Days, Alex Wiley, and more?
I mean, it’s crazy. It’s not anything I did, though. I tell people everyday, I feel blessed to the end of days to even have had the opportunity to exist here at this point in time. Especially so given the access I was afforded even early on. The Kids These Days team has always been amazing to me, Sima Cunningham, older sister of Liam probably introduced me to more current friends than I realize and used to host these amazing kickbacks at their house where 18/19-year-old Chance, Nico, Vic and all them would be. It offered a really unique opportunity and people like Alex Fruchter, Meg Moore at the Sun Times and probably 100 other people were there to nudge doors aside to be able to execute it, it makes me proud. It’s also a responsibility, though. The story isn’t over by a long shot.
(Jake’s published articles on Chance in The Sun Times)
How do you think Chance The Rapper has been able to bring the most change to Chicago hiphop/hiphop in general?
The first time I met KTD it was at the 2012 Spark In The Park at UIC. Hanging out beforehand I remember vividly seeing this weird kid in a tanktop running around with a squirt gun bothering everyone. The minute I caught eyes with that kid there was something that made you think he was already important. That dude was Chance and in the years since I’ve seen him follow his own truths to the places he’s gone. I think that’s why he’s different. Even the ‘realist’ hip-hop artists have sold out somehow or made decisions that don’t agree with their own agendas. To that end, Chance has stayed true to his own moral compass and in an age when the curtain between artist and fan is so small, I think the immense ingenuity lends itself to him being a timeless star.
In 2016 how do you feel about the current state of journalism?
Goddamn, where do you really start? Things are really sad, there’s less and less appreciation for those who can take events that happen in the world and turn them into a story to be explained to others. Honestly, people don’t seem to care to even read about anyone but themselves. The problem with journalism is the problem with people today, everyone is worried about themselves:selfies, snapchat, twitter, it all speaks to the individual. Books and newspapers are becoming less frequent and diluted with corporate ‘articles’ used to promote a product or person. There’s so much wrong but I try to just focus on doing what I can do to create good stories and be true to what I feel Journalism should be.
How important is it to help push and break new young artists in the city you’re from?
I think it’s really important obviously, I’ve spent the better part of the last five years of my life doing just that. Moreso, I think it’s important to recognize thought leaders and those making changes, regardless of where they’re from or what their medium is. Putting a spotlight on anyone doing something positive, different or out there is always a benefit to all involved in my opinion.
Who have been some of your favorite artists you’ve been able to work with throughout the years?
Man, I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to be surrounded by these talents, these people. I love everyone here, the stories are so thick, even the ones with sad endings. Chicagoans by nature are not typically boring people and the stories I’ve been allowed to tell have been absolutely life changing. Watching Donnie Trumpet and those guys make Surf was amazing, listening to Peter craft the beats for Acid Rap from behind my bedroom wall, getting to write about Saba as he was first breaking out, seeing the meteoric rise of acts like Eryn Allen Kane, Vic and Chance; it’s just all been the coolest thing i could ever have hoped for in life and I just try to make sure I hold up my end of the deal in all of this. It really is something I hold close.
(Donnie Trumpet on making Surf in Jake’s basement)
When it’s all said and done, what do you want people to remember most about Jake Krez?
Legacy, it’s something I definitely think about a lot, to be honest it’s the reason I ever started writing. I looked at jobs my Dad worked or friends Dads or whatever and what always stuck out to me was things that were timeless, that could stand up to passing days and remain important somehow. To me, print bylines have always been the apex of that. Once something runs in print with my name on it, it’s in the world, you can never take that away from me. You’re a lawyer, a businessman, whatever, your money can come and go, things can come and go. I’ve always been adamant about creating something and telling stories that would stand the test of time, something that despite whatever happened to me physically, mentally, emotionally, you couldn’t take away that I wrote that story. As far as what I want people to remember? I want them to know I stood for the right story, I was respectful to the craft and I did things in a way that added to the culture in a positive way. I don’t care about fame or money, my goal has always to earn the right to be mentioned in a breath with the likes of Royko, Turkel, Hemingway or Kogan: the great Chicago writers.