The local hip-hop duo, Buck-N-Nice, are back and have been teasing us with pieces off their upcoming sophomore album EMAG since the beginning of the year.
They recently dropped a video for the first single, “Care Less,” off of the album. They hosted a video release party a few weeks back at Bar Robo, which also featured a performance from another rising hip hop group in Ottawa called Tapas. The video is simple, no gimmicks, and really lets the words shine through. That being said, the video is far from boring. I can’t help but feel that Buck-N-Nice are interrogating the viewer as the light bulb hanging from the ceiling in the small room swings back an forth. I can’t really tell who is the good cop and who is the bad cop—or maybe they’re both here to verbally rough you up.
The entire piece has a certain underground edge to it. The small room could be in someone’s cellar or damp shed in the woods. The setting creates this sense of isolation and voyeurism all at once. The song also clocks in closer to a punk song at under three minutes than the prototypical hip-hop track.
Director Patrick Lozinski did a really good job with the whole video. I especially love how epic DJ So Nice looks at the end standing over his decks scratching out the final piece of the track.
Check out the video below and keep your eyes peeled for more content from Buck-N-Nice over the coming months leading up to the release of EMAG.
Tapas is the name of a new hip hop trio in Ottawa, but they’re anything but rookies. The group consists of two of Ottawa’s finest MC’s—G.Grand, and Hyf—along with locally-renowned producer Jeepz behind the beats. Together they are a force to be reckoned with.
What’s so special about a hip hop crew like this getting together?
I would argue that good chemistry is more crucial in hip hop than more than any other type of music. Not only do the styles and flow need to weave together well, but each MC also needs to offer something different to the music. Think of Wu Tang Clan, El-P and Killer Mike, Talib Kweli and Mos Def, Andre 3000 and Big Boi, Q-Tip and Phife—all the great groups have a push-pull dynamic, working off each other’s style while contributing to the larger work. While each MC is undoubtedly extraordinary in their own right, in the case of hip hop, the sum is greater than the parts.
This is the case with Tapas. Individually, G.Grand and Hyf are well-respected in the music community and considered examples of intelligent, talented MC’s in Ottawa. Hyf is the stage name of Sergio Guerra, an accomplished Salvadorian-born MC, poet, and producer who is also part of the slam poetry/hip hop ensemble called Missing Linx, along with well-known artists Just Jamaal, Cannon2x, PrufRock Shadowrunner. He is also the co-founder of the local avant-garde label, Nationaless Mind Records, which has an impressive roster of artists and continues to push traditional boundaries in the music industry with a progressive agenda and mission. Hyf is also a two-time Canadian Festival of Spoken Word finalist, and has garnered local praise over the years for his broad lyrical vocabulary and sharp phrasing and flow.
G.Grand grew up in London, ON, listening to soul, R&B, and rap as well as a diverse group of musicians with whom his father worked as a manager in the 1990’s. He moved to Ottawa for university and started cutting his teeth as an MC recording tracks throughout his undergrad at UofO. While exploring his new path as a musician, in 2010 Grand was introduced to producer and future collaborator, Jean-Paul Tyo—better known in the Ottawa/Gatineau music community as Jeepz.
Jeepz is, by far, one of the most proficient and versatile producers in the Ottawa area. His style is informed by the smooth, groovy beats from the golden era of hip hop in the 1980’s. Drawing on the methods of game-changing producers from this time–notably the late J Dilla–Jeepz has constructed a sonic bridge for us to experience hip hop in the same way that listeners of A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, and The Pharcyde might have in the past.
His tracks give off an air of perfectionism, in the sense that each layer and each tone is intricately fine-tuned to create a truly “vintage boom-bap” sound. As a multi-instrumentalist, Jeepz started working on beats with his first drum set in grade seven, learning the ins and outs of rhythm while continuously trying his hand at new technologies by which he could make music. Over the years, he continually pushed himself to be better, and now he is two-time Ottawa Beat League champion.
Call it fate, or luck, but this chance meeting of ingenuitive minds was the start of a partnership that truly unlocked the skills and potential of Grand, Hyf, and Jeepz.
“The things that never change are an appreciation for quality and craftsmanship in the music and the understanding that hip-hop culture is always evolving,” explains Grand. “Making sure that we stay open-minded to new elements of the culture while still being able to call out aspects that we think are less positive has become more important as we’ve grown up with hip-hop.”
The trio that is Tapas is therefore a well-oiled hip hop machine, with plenty of years of experience behind them. Their self-titled album transcends any specific style and flow of hip hop, dipping into the vintage-era sounds and samples on tracks like “Loop it Up,” but also tracks like “Gotta Love It” that touch on modern-era methods that favour sub-divided hi-hats, heavy kicks, and layered synthesizers.
“The sound is just a natural extension of making the music we want to hear right now,” says Grand. “We didn’t force anything, but we wanted to make sure that we were pushing our sound forward and challenging ourselves to try new things.”
“I hope people recognize the work that we put into this in terms of pushing ourselves lyrically and especially on production side to make a quality project. We also hope that people see that we’re proudly representing the Ottawa hip-hop community because our scene doesn’t get enough credit for producing some very dope artists.”
Local Francophone hip-hop artist Squerl Noir recently dropped a new video for his track “Calypso.”
The black and white video is centered on Squerl Noir as he raps his way through the track focused on duality and introspection within the chaos of the world. Directed by Antoine Simard-Legault of Lonely Fire Productions, who has worked with other local artists like Flying Hórses, the video features some very cool camera work shifting and blurring Squerl Noir’s faces around as he repeats the lines about drowning in the chaos. It really amplifies the message.
There is also a nice subtle touch of water overlay during certain sections of the video which I can only assume is a homage to Calypso, who in Greek mythology was a nymph who captured the Greek hero Odysseus for many years and is often represented by the sea.
Check out the video for “Calypso” below and keep your ears peeled for Squerl Noir’s next single due to be released in early 2018.
The band may only be a couple years old, but Slack Bridges already feels like a well-seasoned veteran of the music scene here in Ottawa. Even though the band is fresh off the release of its debut full-length Joy of Joys, it has already sent shock waves throughout the capital.
This is what happens when musical masterminds from all corners of Ottawa’s music community come together to present something altogether original, breaking new ground by fusing hip hop, soul, and jazz fusion influences into tracks that burst at the seams with ear-pleasing tones. After only a few shows and the release of their first EP in 2016, Slack Bridges quickly caught the year of large-scale festival organizers as they got included on lineups at RBC Ottawa Bluesfest, TD Ottawa Jazz Festival, House of PainT, Ottawa Race Weekend. They also were the main attraction at last year’s independent festival called Bangers & Mash, a soul-focused weekend-long party co-organized by band member Garett Bass himself.
Slack Bridges performed at this year’s House of PainT Urban Art Fest this past August. Photo by Kelly Morrissey.
Joy of Joys is indeed a full album. It is a front-to-back trip that explores different soundscapes and textures, pleasing listeners with dance-inducing bangers like “In The Drought” as well as teasing us with down-tempo ballads such as “Smile.” Guitarist Chris Elms puts his dexterous guitar work on full display throughout the ten-track journey that is Joy of Joys, from providing grimy and emotive riffs that explode off the record in “Jungle” to sultry tones that seduce the listener deeper into tracks like “Apologies.”
Vocalist Matt Gilmour’s infectious deep vocal prowess is an undeniable x-factor in this band, and without detracting from the group’s talents, his voice and persona are front and centre on the record and the stage. You wouldn’t first think of him as a former member of bands in Ottawa’s punk and hardcore scenes, but his influences are many. His appreciation for R&B and hip hop rhythm come across immediately, and his unique vocal tones and style lend perfectly to the rest of the band’s impressive instrumental chemistry. Not to mention his subtle moves on stage give crowds even more to scream for (see video below—just wait for it).
All in all, Joy of Joys is the record Ottawa needs, wants, and will cherish. The band spent a lot of time and energy into crafting their identity, sound, and style—and it shows. It really feels as though they took a “why stop here?” approach to this record, and the seamless inclusion of brass parts from local visionaries Ed Lister and Julian Selody exemplifies the level of musicianship this band is operating at. And this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Be sure to pick up Joy of Joys on vinyl at local record shops around town now, which they recently released on November 11th at a sold-out show at The Rainbow. It is also available digitally here.
Watch their Shot in the Dark performance and stream Joy of Joys below.
This year’s CityFolk Festival got off to a good start at Lansdowne Park with some stellar performances by Ruth B, Post Malone, Allan Rayman, and more. Our photographer Els Durnford got in nice and close to get some shots throughout the night. Check out the gallery below.
House of PainT celebrated its 14th year this past week with another outstanding edition of the festival that highlights the five pillars of hip-hop: MCs, break dancers, graffiti artists, DJs, and culture.
House of PainT is kind of a hidden gem. It is one of the most innovative and interactive festivals in the capital region and most of it takes place under the Dunbar Bridge across from Carleton University, right next to Brewer Park. This year I took in the weekend portion of the festival, which was a fun-filled time to say the least.
Saturday was dedicated to the dancers, the breakers, the b-boys and b-girls. The day included twelve hours of programming from 11 am to 11 pm and incorporated everything from introductory dance classes to break dance crews battling to live music. I arrived under the bridge mid-afternoon and the art was already covering the walls and the DJ had the crowd pumped up. One of the coolest parts of House of Paint truly is the paint. The festival paints all the walls underneath the bridge a neutral colour and then sets up scaffolding for the artists to do their thing.
Slack Bridges with Aspects getting soulful and funky at House of PainT.
After staring at the colourful walls and ceiling for a bit in amazement, it came time for some dancing. I watched crews battle it out in a round robin-style format while three judges had the tough challenge of picking who moved on. Once the prelims finished Ottawa’s funky soul band Slack Bridges took to the stage. The dance floor stayed full as dancers practiced future moves and stayed limber ahead of the semis and finals.
Slack Bridges set kept the party going and was tight as always, but it also featured a couple of new things. First of all, they had a new saxophonist Zac Sedlar playing his first show with the band since their previous saxman was recruited by The Lemon Bucket Orkestra. Secondly, they wove in snippets of hip-hop classics throughout the set, like Notorious B. I. G.’s “Big Poppa” which flowed out of their cover of “Between the Sheets” (which is the song B. I. G. sampled). And lastly, they invited local rapper Aspects on stage to join them for “Doin’ This Thing,” off their upcoming album, and he not only provided backing vocals but delivered some sweet free-styling as the band jammed out. It was magic.
Up next was a popping competition that took over the dance floor which was followed by the semi-finals crew battles featuring Canada’s very own DJ Skratch Bastid providing the beats. While the judges deliberated, Ottawa ex-pat rapper Dynamic hit the stage to entertain. He had some sweet flow and had another MC join him on a track and rap from the crowd. We were then treated to a pretty solid popping finals (you can check out a little taste of it here) which then set the stage for the finals.
The packed crowd around the Breakin Crew final with Souljazz Orchestra on stage at House of PainT.
Not only did the finals feature the two best crews battling it out, but they did so to the sounds of one of Ottawa’s best bands—Souljazz Orchestra—playing live on stage. No disrespect to the DJs, but there is something special about watching people competing to the sound of live music. And if you have never seen break dance crews battle, you’re truly missing it out. The flow, the back and forth, the team work, and collaboration really takes the dance to a whole other level.
This year’s champions Groundwork Sessions Crew hail from Whitehorse, Yukon, and blew me (and everyone in attendance) away with how synchronized they were with the live jams and athletic moves. And as if the night couldn’t get any better, we were treated to a full Souljazz Orchestra set to cap off the night.
Where Saturday focused more on the breakers and the DJs, Sunday was for the rappers and MCs. I was running late but was lucky enough to catch the tail end of the Knowledge Conference (think Ted Talks for Hip Hop Heads) where a panel discussed career development and the importance of the team you build and surround yourself with.
Cody Coyote joined on stage by a B-Boy and a traditional indigenous dancer at House of PainT.
As the panel wrapped up, the main stage got going once again. There were acts all day long, but unfortunately the crowd didn’t really show up in numbers until much later. This didn’t really seem to affect the artists who all still brought energy to the stage and did their thing.
Cody Coyote from Ottawa, with Ojibwe roots and ancestry from Matachewan First Nation located in Northern Ontario, performed a song where he was accompanied by a B-Boy and a traditional male indigenous dancer. Watching both dance so differently to the same track was a treat.
Cashtro Crosby, accompanied by DJ Mes, brought it to the stage as if he was performing to a packed house. He had one of my favourite flows of the day and showed off why he was a perfect pick for this festival, as well as the stage at Bluesfest.
Rita Carter was my favourite performance while the sun was still shining. I can’t believe she is an Ottawa artist that hadn’t been on my radar. The group began as a four-piece with Rita on guitar and vocals, accompanied by a bass player, drummer, and another singer. Her song “Shot Anotha Down” was a very powerful song about the ever growing gun violence in the city. As the set continued, she was joined on stage by Aspects sporting a guitar, and then they were joined by a violinist for another song. Check Rita Carter out as soon as you can, and don’t sleep on her talent.
As soon as The Sorority from Toronto hit the stage you knew it was going to be hype. With four MCs (Haviah Mighty, Keysha Freshh, Lex Leosis and pHoenix Pagliacci) who all sported some yellow and a DJ keeping the beats, the ladies delivered. What really makes them interesting is that each one of them brings such a different style and delivery that it is almost like watching four different acts all at once. It certainly takes the entertainment to another level.
With the day time acts all wrapped up and some tasty supper from the food truck consumed, the anticipation was killing me for Dubmatique. As a French-Canadian growing up in a mostly anglophone community, I wasn’t exposed to much French music. But Dubmatique were one of the exceptions—not only was I introduced to them through school, but I actually liked their music. And I wasn’t alone, the band has gone platinum with sales and has won countless awards. The band formed 25 years ago, so when I saw that they were playing House of PainT, I was ecstatic.
Dubmatique bringing some old school French Canadian hip-hop to House of PainT.
The two MCs, Disoul (Jérôme-Philippe Bélinga) and OTMC (Ousmane Traoré), were on fire. They certainly didn’t look slowed down by the passage of time, nor did they seem rusty having not released any new music for close to a decade. Dubmatique songs are really a full experience, as their rapping flows so well with the music it becomes an instrument. The beats don’t overpower, and it’s all topped-off by several vocal sections breaking up the verses and adding that extra element.
Watching them perform these songs live just made me feel like both MCs really think about the totality of the track and its delivery, not just their lines. It makes Dubmatique very special and that separates them from so many other acts. This was especially present in tracks like “Soul Pleurer,” “La force de comprendre” and “La vibe.” The only way their set could have been any better was if it was longer. Thank you to House of PainT for helping me check one of the list.
It’s likely that you may have heard about Bluesfest’s seventh day—it was mired by chaos, violence and overindulgence, around 200 people were seen by paramedics and some sent off to the hospital. While it was mayhem off the stage, on the stage it was bumping with hip-hop acts Migos and Lil Yachty, as well as R&B artist Maurice Moore. Our photographer Els Durnford focused on the music while dodging and sometimes catching concertgoers surfing over the security railing, check out the photos in the gallery below.
The first Saturday of Bluesfest brought healthy crowds to see a diverse collection of musicians.
The first group I caught were Too Slim and the Taildraggers. I was initially apprehensive when each member of the band walked onstage wearing a cowboy hat, but my assumptions quickly turned out to be unfounded when the group launched into some riff-heavy blues rock. Their guitar player certainly knew his way around the instrument, and the vocals rarely strayed into the realm of twang. There were a couple tracks featuring a harmonica as well – which I personally love. With frequent solos and instrumental break, Too Slim and the Taildraggers put on a great show; the only thing more impressive than the guitarist’s riffs was his sideburns.
Also in the early evening was Tegan & Sara, bringing their brand of queer bubblegum indie. I’ve seen T&S several times at Bluesfest over the years, and it’s been interesting to watch them grow up. With every album their music has become more mainstream, and with a growing fan base they now play one of the main stages. With giant inflatable letters spelling “T & S” as their stage décor, there was no mistaking who was playing. The crowd was mostly young adults, happy to oblige in synchronized arm waving when requested. T&S played their hits and told a couple stories, including one of their first times they playing the region – at a summer camp in Hull. In summary, the camp wasn’t the best experience, but they seemed to hold no grudges and sent a humorous shout-out to our sister city.
Next up was local group Flight Distance, which can be described as hip-hop with the DJ bringing the occasional EDM track. This was their third time playing Bluesfest, and in my opinion, they were the July 8 highlight. Flight Distance worked hard to energize the crowd, which isn’t an easy feat at an outdoor festival before sunset. A particularly memorable interaction was when one of the vocalists encouraged everyone in the audience to “make a weird noise”. From the moment they took the stage to their closing track which remixed ACDC’s “Thunderstruck”, they brought their A-Game. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for future shows by these guys.
The last artist I saw was 50 Cent—about which I was cautiously optimistic—given the fairly high attendance and the nostalgic potential. Many in the crowd were dancing like they were in da club, and there was a tight crush of people close to the stage. I was a little further back, which was a good vantage point to watch the action. 50 Cent accurately busted out hits like 2005’s “Candy Shop,” and the show felt appropriately old-school. Still, I was unimpressed when he left the stage for about 5 minutes halfway through his set. I suppose the purpose was to build hype or stretch out his admittedly limited scope of material, but it came across as arrogant. Still, it was an entertaining set – if shorter than the majority of the festival’s headliners.
Looking for an alternative to congested big-box dance clubs? Well, tonight there’s an all-new dance party coming to Chinatown’s infamous afterhours resto, Shanghai (651 Somerset St W) which features 90sOrBust DJs PJ & Palm D’or on the decks. They’ll be digging into new and classic r&b and hiphop, promising a blockparty vibe, with jams played out in full. It is aptly titled A Night Called Best (ANCB).
Inspired by South-east Ottawa’s legendary all-ages dance clubs and basement parties of the early 1990’s, the ANCB crew aim to bring a positive and inclusive hiphop and r&b event to Ottawa partygoers looking for the real deal. The night brings together a huge mix of hiphop supporters including House of Paint Urban Arts Festival, Arboretum Festival, CHUO 89.1 FM, and notable hiphop artists and DJs.
“We’re hoping to offer a more intimate alternative to the club scene, in the tradition of TimeKode, Feels, Ceremony, and Open Air Social Club,” explains co-organizer and DJ Palm D’Or. “If it’s a success, our hope is to start showcasing emerging hiphop before the party every month.”
Future editions of ANCB are what will set it apart from regular club nights – They aim to feature pre-party warm-ups showcasing curated local hiphop artists and producers, presented by CHUO FM r&b host Nicky Jean, 613 hiphop artist/manager David Sackey.
Artists interested in showcasing at upcoming editions can reach the crew at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via facebook.
A Night Called Best
– r&b + hiphop party –
w/ PJ + Palm D’or
651 Somerset Street W (at Bronson)
10pm / $7 door / no one turned away for lack of funds
19+ / all ages
Cody Purcell, a.k.a. Cody Coyote has reached new heights in his musical evolution as an aboriginal hip hop artist in Ottawa. Coming from the depths of Ottawa’s east side, Purcell was exposed to drugs, alcohol, and crime at an early age. He’s also been vocal about his struggle with depression and attempted suicide before the age of 20. However, entering his third decade of life opened his eyes up to a new world – hip hop. Turning towards music changed Purcell’s life, and he refocused himself to inspire others and use his voice as a force for change. Since he started his journey as a hip hop artist less than five years ago, he has chosen a life of sobriety. Moreover, he has been nominated for a few 2015 Indigenous Music Awards and has been named a Top 10 finalist in a national talent search hosted by imagineNATIVE and Slaight Music.
We spoke with Purcell on the eve of the release of his new video for “Northern Lights” at Club SAW. More info here. Read our interview with him and check out the video below.
As an aboriginal artist, you’ve been vocal about using hip hop as a force for positivity and change. How did you get into hip hop and what made you realize that your skills could help others?
Originally I started writing poetry and lyrics as an outlet for many life experiences that I endured as a youth. Growing up I was always listening to various kinds of music but Hip Hop was something that really appealed to me because of the lyricism that was found within conscious Hip Hop. When I was first introduced to a studio that was built at my old high school, I found myself in a safe and creative atmosphere where I could escape to work on my art form.
My friends and I used to go into that studio to jam with live instruments which eventually lead to us experimenting with beat making programs. After making instrumentals in the studio we began recording our vocals and putting our lyrics over the instrumentals we made. This was the beginning of my journey with Hip Hop.
After being a nominee at the 2015 Indigenous Music Awards for the “Best Rap/Hip Hop CD” and “Single of the year” categories my music career really took off. I was getting booked for shows a lot more and I was invited to be a guest speaker/performer for various events in numerous communities. While guest speaking about my journey with music, my sobriety and other topics I was able to inspire my audiences to follow a positive lifestyle. I remember getting emails and messages on my social media from people telling me that I helped change their lives for the better. This is when I began to truly realize how much I wanted to continue to help others and that it was possible with the skills that I had with music, storytelling and walking in a good way.
The release party for your new video Northern Lights is coming up this Saturday at Club SAW. What can we expect from the video, and the night as a whole?
During the production of the Northern Lights music video we really wanted to capture the environment that we were in and display the beauty of the Northern Lights. The locations where the music video was filmed were in various parts of the Yukon Territory and Alaska. As far as expectations go, we really wanted to reach our audience with a positive and inspirational message. Many Indigenous people believe that the Northern Lights are the spirits of our ancestors dancing in the sky. This was something that really embodied the overall message that we wanted to reach our audience with.
We want to lift our audiences spirits, in particular youth, to overcome any doubt that they may face in their lives, to chase their dreams and aspirations, to shine like the northern lights, to shine like our ancestors.
A portion of the proceeds from the release party will be going to Shawenjeagamik Aboriginal Drop In Centre operated by The Odawa Native Friendship Centre. Can you talk about the importance of their work?
I really wanted to ensure that a portion of the proceeds and that all donations would go to the Shawenjeagamik Aboriginal Drop In Centre because I strongly feel the work that they do is crucial for the homeless population of Indigenous people here in Ottawa. After volunteering for the Bannoc Bus program that was operated by the Shawenjeagamik Aboriginal Drop In Centre I saw first hand how important their work was for my community.
We drove around the streets of downtown Ottawa on multiple occasions handing out soup, Bannoc and warm clothing to those who needed it. I feel that the Shawenjeagamik Aboriginal Drop In Centre needs to stay open because they offer a safe space for homeless Indigenous people to learn about their traditions, food to eat, access to various kinds of programs, warm clothing and much more. With the centre running solely off of donations now, I hope to raise enough money and donations to help those in need.
You have overcome many obstacles growing up, many of which – like racism, drugs, and alcohol – are difficult to speak about. If you could send a message to young people struggling with similar issues today, what would it be?
If I could send a message to young people struggling with similar issues today it would be to move through life like a river. Overcoming those obstacles that are in their way, helping everything around them grow. My message to the youth of today is to never doubt yourselves, to focus on your dreams, aspirations, a positive lifestyle and walking in a good way. Focus on self love, love for others, love for the land and helping each other grow in a positive way.
Walk through life with an open mind and an open heart. Don’t ever stop learning and thriving to understand. You are the future generations of this world, remember to ask yourselves how do you want the future to be?
If you could collaborate with any artist or group alive today, who would it be?
Litefoot, The Roots, or Common.
You’ve been selected to play at Megaphono this year, an up and coming industry-focused festival that brings in representatives from across the continent. What is the next step for you in the evolution of your music career?
The next step for me in the evolution of my music career is to rock the stage at Megaphono this year and put on an amazing show for my audience! Then it’s back to the studio to work on my new EP entitled “Máámawi” (All Together) and have it ready for release in March, 2017!