Kevin Bourne is the co-founder and Editor of SHIFTER Magazine, a hub for people with strong ideas, discerning tastes in culture, and an itch to create. Cover photo: City Fidelia.
Ottawa is in the midst of an urban music renaissance. Twenty-six years after the release of Organized Rhymes’ classic Check the O.R. and 16 years after Wassim “SAL” Slaiby and Belly started CP Records, also known as Capital Prophets Records, eventually releasing projects from Belly, Mia Martina and Massari, Ottawa is once again emerging as a hotbed for hip-hop and R&B music and it looks like it’s here to stay.
Night Lovell is racking up tens of millions of streams on Spotify and YouTube, and has been interviewed by top American media outlets like Genius, No Jumper, and Pigeons & Planes. City Fidelia has been featured in Vice’s Noisey. Belly, now based in L.A., was signed to Roc Nation, and in recent years Maurice Moore joined Kehlani’s Tsunami Collective and was featured in Billboard.
I’ve been following Ottawa music for some time now, but Bluesfest 2018 was a turning point for me, when quiet fandom turned into flat out excitement, especially when it comes to hip-hop and R&B. I saw artists going to each other’s shows, cheering each other on. There was a genuine excitement and energy in the air. Although it wasn’t what we planned, our team at SHIFTER magazine ended up covering more local shows than headliners, not out of charity but because the music and shows were that good. Artists like City Fidelia, Black Iri$h, Tapas, Morris Ogbowu, Aspects and Rita Carter put on shows that rivalled any headliner.
One of the knocks on Ottawa is we don’t support talent until they blow up outside of the city. Case in point, Elijah Woods x Jamie Fine.
As a result, we at SHIFTER launched an Ottawa hip-hop and R&B Spotify playlist called Capital Essentials. We believe it’s the most complete urban music playlist in the capital. It includes artists like Night Lovell, Maurice Moore, Vi, Black Iri$h, and lesser known artists like Melvin Elray. It also includes boom bap, R&B and trap, as well as Indigenous, Christian and French hip-hop.
We created this playlist for three reasons. First, so Ottawa can become fans of its own music. Second, so artists can become fans of each other and hopefully collaborate. Lastly, so the world can become fans of Ottawa music. Thanks to our Indigenous and French communities, Ottawa probably has one of the most diverse urban music scenes in Canada. It’s time to celebrate that and share it with the world, but it all starts with becoming fans of ourselves and what’s being created here.
Ottawa and its residents have the ability to decide what poppin’ in Ottawa. No one outside of Ottawa should decide what’s hot in our city. If we decide Drake and Travis Scott are hot in Ottawa that’s cool, but if we also decide that City Fidelia, Vi, and Buck-N-Nice are hot in Ottawa that’s up to us as well (and they should be). Although I salute the success of Elijah Woods x Jamie Fine, what I hate is Ottawa radio stations and fans didn’t support them until they got a co-sign from CTV. In other words, a Toronto media outlet made them hot in Ottawa, not us.
If we’re going to keep our most talented artists and not lose them to greener, and larger, pastures, including Toronto and Montreal, we need to make sure they’re recognized and platformed here before elsewhere. The Beatles were already hot in Liverpool, with people camping outside their homes, before they ventured across the ocean and gave birth to the British Invasion.
I invite you to follow and share SHIFTER’s Capital Essentials playlist and become a fan of the hip-hop and R&B coming of Kanata, Centretown, Orleans, Gloucester, and Hintonburg. As a city, let’s give these artists the push, support and buzz they need to grow and eventually launch onto the national and international stage. After all, it’s well within our power to do so.
For a few years now, CityFolk has included an offshoot “mini festival” of sorts called Marvest. We’ve been lucky enough to help get the initiative off the ground and collaborate with the festival, as well as some kick ass local bands, in presenting Marvest shows over the past few years. This year, festival organizers have done a great job at stacking Marvest lineups to the brim with talent, and the Glebe is going to be overrun with the sounds of some of Ottawa’s finest musicians (whether they like it or not).
We’ve compiled some samples of all the local artists on board for Marvest this year, and included their venues and scheduled set times. We strongly encourage you to go explore the local component of CityFolk this year!
About the Beer: A Rabble Rouser is defined as “a person who speaks with the intention of inflaming the emotions of a crowd of people, typically for political reasons.”
This is one of my new favorite IPA’s in the region. It’s well balanced and not overdone on the bitterness. At 6.8%, it drinks like a crisp Pale Ale. After two, I could tell it would be a great night. Quantity and Quality! Three more and I might have to get on my soap box!!
I decided to make a playlist to get you in the mood to Rabble Rouse with me. Go buy yourself 6 Rabble Rousers, listen to the music, and inflame the emotions of your Facebook friends. (A typical Tuesday for me)
Rabble Rouser Playlist
Billie Holiday “Strange Fruit”
A most haunting song about lynched black men. I know I’m starting off strong with your emotions. But that’s my intention.
TV On the Radio “Dry Drunk Emperor”
“Did you buy the bull they sold you / That the bullets and the bombs / And all the strong arms / Would bring home security?” The George Bush era angst.
Bright Eyes “Road To Joy”
“What history gave modern man / A telephone to talk to strangers / Machine guns and a camera lens / So when you’re asked to fight a war that’s over nothing / It’s best to join the side that’s gonna win … No one’s sure how all of this got started / But we’re gonna make them goddamn certain how its gonna end.”
Neil Young “Revolution Blues”
Bit of a serial killer vibe but love the song.
T.REX “Children of the Revolution”
I hope my children will be children of a revolution.
The Wicked Mercy “Out of Your Head”
#OttBand The Wicket Mercy rock it out with Out of Your Head from their latest record Sundown.
Rage Against the Machine “Killing in the Name”
Want to stir up a crowd? Anything by Rage Against the Machine will do.
Dead Weights “Don’t Talk To Me About Morrissey”
Morrissey is known as a Rabble Rouser but Dead Ends don’t want to hear about it. #OttBand
The Adicts “Viva La Revolution”
Need I say more? VIVA LA REVOLITION!!!
Sex Pistols “Anarchy in the U.K.”
How could I not finish with the Sex Pistols? Arguably the biggest Rabble Rousers in this list.
Well, summer is half over. That doesn’t mean you can’t squeeze every last second out of nice weather and sunshine. Here in Ottawa , we know how important it is to hold onto the warmth, since 8 months out of our year we’re generally freezing our asses off. I’ve always been a huge fan of mixtapes and CDs over the years. You know, making a soundtrack for whatever occasion. I would burn excessive numbers of CD-Rs for road trips, camping trips, barbecuing, cutting the lawn… you get the idea. What better time of year to make a fun, danceable soundtrack for the hot sun and balcony beers. Also, a little shout-out to Ottawa’s A Tribe Called Redfor making it to the Polaris Prize Shortlist this year! We at Showbox are going to start dabbling more and more on Soundcloud to start bringing some fresh tunes your way. And if you’re wondering, the name of this one was inspired from the Young Galaxy song of the same name off of Ultramarine.