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.
Hip hop is like any other genre in the music industry. There are some real artists that work hard and pay their dues to bring listeners and fans material that is impactful in one way or another. But there are a lot of people out there that find shortcuts, step on others in their community, and rip off material to get ahead, too. That’s the music industry, in any genre—it can be a dark, dark place.
Buck n’ Nice is a group that consists of two entities. On one side there is producer, beatmaker, Cypher radio host, and DJ—DJ So Nice, who has been cutting his teeth in the art of hip hop beats since he was 13 years old. He’s a huge grassroots community supporter who throws some of the best parties in town, not least of which is the monthly Hip Hop Karaoke at Elmdale Tavern. On the other side, there is Sawbuck—a proven MC who came from difficult circumstances and worked his way to where he is now. His honesty and untethered lyricism fist in seamlessly with his masterful delivery, digging deep into his hip hop influences such as Mobb Deep, EPMD, Wu Tang, and Gang Starr.
That’s the subject of Ottawa hip hop duo Buck n’ Nice’s new album EMAG. Good hip hop is clever with words (obviously), and it took me a second to realize what “EMAG” actually meant.
“After getting our feet wet with our debut album, we learned from the inside out how backwards the industry is,” they say. “It’s a machine filled with appropriation, shortcuts to success and all-around deception. This is the theme of EMAG, an album titled so because the GAME is backwards.”
With the duo’s sophomore release, they aren’t mincing words or beating around the bush. Having gained momentum in Canada’s hip hop landscape with multiple releases since 2014, Buck n’ Nice have taken from their real life experiences in the music industry and applied them to their new record. It doesn’t take long for them to sink their teeth into the subject, as they dive right into it on the second track, also called “EMAG.”
It’s important to mention that although this concept may sound jaded or negative, I don’t get that sense when listening to the album all the way through. They’re not saying “fuck the music industry” per se—they’re pointing out the problematic parts of it, the deception and fakers, the toxic people and money that drives a lot of the music made in it. To me, what goes part-in-parcel with these criticisms are the things that do matter in music—things like community, real life experiences, people’s everyday struggles, and most of all, valuing more than just money when making art. One of my favourite rhymes from the album is from the track “Leader”, which goes “What’s the difference between me and you? I see the bigger picture, you crop the image just to see the view.”
On EMAG, the duo collaborate with talented artists such as Prufrock Shadowrunner, REKS, Freddy Printz, Whitney Delion, Cheko Salaam (a.k.a. Hyf), as well as Patience and Bender of Flight Distance (RIP Bender), among others. These guys are part of a hip hop community that is stronger and more cohesive as ever. On tracks like “Le Coeur” with Cheko Salaam, both he and Sawbuck bounce words off each other, with rhymes that weave seamlessly and that effectively builds the climactic pillars on the album. In “Ocean or Shallow End” with the guys from Flight Distance, So Nice slows things down and the sample includes strings. Their metaphor of “Ocean or Shallow End” comes across effectively, and hits the listener right in the face. The brilliance with tracks like this is that although the beat is more restrained, the rhymes and lyrics are highlighted to an even greater degree. The same can be said for “Three Sides” close to the end of the album—there’s no letting up here.
After giving EMAG a few listens, any hip hop fan should know that these guys are for real. There’s no filler. There’s no bullshit. Buck n’ Nice had something to say and they did that by packing all of their ideas into an album with a tonne of dynamite and then lighting the fuse. The result is an intelligent, groove-laden record that pays homage to hip hop of old, while keeping true to their own style and modern interpretations of rap. This album will stand the test of time, and will surely make waves across communities in Ottawa and the country as a whole.
Buck n’ Nice are officially releasing EMAG at a party called ANIMAL HOUSE this Saturday, July 28th at The 27 Club (27 York St.), where a triple album release will be taking place. Other releases at the party will be the Feel EP by Freddy Printz, and SpaXe Camels by Missing LinX. Needless to say, if there’s one party you don’t want to miss this weekend, this is it.
Stream EMAG below or click here for full list of streaming links. Check out their full album video on YouTube here.
D’emblée, j’ai toujours ressenti un mélange d’amour et de haine pour le festival de musique et d’arts Osheaga qui se déroule chaque été à Montréal. L’amour, eh bien elle provient de la programmation, qui, année après année, ne cesse de m’impressionner. L’équipe de Nick Farkas, le directeur de la programmation, continue de se surpasser, ce qui a de quoi faire envier certains des plus grands événements de musique au monde, real talk. La haine (bon c’est un peu fort, disons plutôt le mécontentement), j’en ressens pour plusieurs raisons, notamment pour la logistique merdique du site, mais surtout, à cause des festivaliers qui assistent à l’événement pour tout SAUF la musique. Tout ça pour dire que les contres pèsent finalement plus que les bons côtés, et que je n’ai plus envie de me déplacer à Montréal pour y assister, même si ça me fend le cœur chaque fois que la prog est dévoilée.
J’ai donc été agréablement surprise d’apprendre qu’Osheaga débarquait en ville le 21 juillet prochain pour un méga block party extérieur offert à la Place de la Cité de Gatineau (plus d’information ici). Organisé dans le cadre de la série « Osheaga présente », cet événement gratuit et ouvert à tous présentera une belle brochette d’artistes émergents de Montréal, qui, disons-le sont tous francophones. Déjà là, les organisateurs marquent un point. On peut donc s’attendre à des prestations des artistes RapQueb de l’heure Loud (anciennement du groupe Loud Lary Ajust) et FouKi, la nouvelle recrue des Disques 7e Ciel, ainsi que des sets des DJs et producteurs Poirier (Qualité De Luxe) et Shash’U (Fools Gold Recs, Joy Ride Recs), ainsi qu’une performance de la rappeuse et productrice Marie-Gold. OK là Osheaga, c’est bon, c’est dans le sac. Et pourquoi, est-ce que le festival fait ça à Gatineau beach? Évidemment, pour des raisons de promo. Gatineau étant à deux heures de route de la grande métropole, c’est un public facile à attirer. Peu importe, moi j’y serai certainement pour la musique, et pour saluer le homie Shash’U, qui sera sans doute en mode beast mode du début à la fin.
Faque on se donne rendez-vous le 21 juillet à la Place de la Cité. Beurrez-vous solide de crème solaire et restez bien hydraté. Ça promet d’être un gros party d’été!
Elly Laberge est la co-fondatrice de la nouvelle publication en ligne francophone Le Pressoir, où cette pièce a été publiée à l’origine.Le Pressoir plonge dans la scène artistique et culturelle francophone de la région d’Ottawa-Gatineau. Vous pouvez vous abonner à leur infolettre, au lien suivant, pour recevoir leurs recommandations et des nouvelles chaque lundi.
Kim Villagante, better known as Kimmortal is a queer Filipinx visual artist and rapper from Vancouver known for her story like rhymes. She touches upon social and racial injustices, discrimination, and representation. Valuing education, inclusiveness, and liberation, Kimmortal coneys the messages in creative and storybook ways with captivating visuals. Fusing visual art with music, she uses it as an aid to decolonize, teach, and heal.
Kimmortal has played the Queer Women of Colour Festival, Filipino Arts Festival, Junofest, and SXSW. She’s currently working on an album that will be released in August.
Ev: DIY Spring is hosting one of your events, seeing as it’s an intersectional inclusive festival, how did you feel in regards to them hosting it?
Kimmortal: DIY Spring has been consistently supportive and truly DIY which means grassroots and well connected to artists in authentic ways. Bridging the possibilities artists dream up to reach a lot of the QTIBIPOC community in Ottawa, I believe it’s so essential for me to do my thing when I have trustworthy bookers and show producers around me. I’m very grateful for DIY Spring.
Ev: Yes of course! So I heard you studied visual arts and art history, how do you think that knowledge has affected your art or helped it develop?
Kimmortal: I’m inspired by the way I am a visual artist in the world of music. In art school I studied about performance artists like Dana Claxton, Peaches, Coco Fusco, while also listening to poets and emcees like Blue Scholars, Ian Kamau, Gina Loring, Climbing Poetree, and Invincible. My art is influenced by various artists in different mediums. I am working to tap into the same freedom I get when I’m doodling in my music. How I’m planning to do this is to time myself for like 2 hours max to produce tracks, and then write lyrics and record them in another hour.. 1..2..3… And then release the track online. Spontaneous art making is really good for me.
Ev: That being said, and watching your music videos and knowing that you’re a visual artist as well it makes me wonder if you built your own set for “I’M BLUE” and if you animated the video for “Brushing by Heaven’s Shoulder”?
Kimmortal: I animated the entire video for “Brushing by Heaven’s Shoulder.” I’m so proud of that thing. That film came about when I was sick for a good 2 weeks and was bored at home so I decided to film a music video for this song in my living room. It started off as an experiment. The white background is literally a white canvas that I nailed into the wall and filmed myself in front of. The animations are made up of drawings from my sketchbook that I taught myself to animate in After Effects. It was a lot of hours and I lost a lot of files. I wanted to throw my computer against the wall countless times but it turned out swell and has my black and white aesthetic. “I’m Blue” was directed by Entertainment Forever. All the art on the walls are my paintings and the book featured in it is my Visual Arts grad thesis project! The symbols on the trees are my work replicated by the Entertainment Forever team. I am ecstatic when I get my DIY on and pair my art with my music.
Ev: As a queer artist of colour, how did you find the journey to getting to where you are today?
Kimmortal: It’s hard to find other queer artists of colour “out there”. A lot of my friends who are local are queer and/or bipoc and so it’s been a very local journey if that makes sense. I usually meet other queer artists of colour through underground lofi shows I’ve been booked at abroad. I love being a part of punk, hip-hop, experimental, and DIY underground shit because I think that’s where I can cultivate the same intimate feel I get when I’m creating.
Ev: Well that’s certainly a real positive outlook. You have a clear and unique voice for what you do and you tell stories through your art. How did you come about finding that voice?
Kimmortal: I really value education for liberation because it’s where I have found myself and my community and the root to a lot of pain experienced individually and collectively. I am nurtured in conversation and my wisdom is from my ancestors and the people around me. I’m still finding my voice but I try to ground it in honesty. A friend and emcee recently told me that the best way I can stay authentic is by speaking from my experience and from what I know. As I get to know myself deeper, my voice inevitably becomes stronger. I am raised by the bold voices of mainly fierce Filipinx femmes in my life and QTIBIPOC poets, crafters and emcees. I am informed by my friends who are my extended community, who are agitators, healers, teachers, and outspoken voices.
Ev: You clearly address dire issues in our society that seem to be brushed aside, what made you decide to rap and sing about them instead of following the same path others do? Do you think your identity plays into that?
Kimmortal: The late Filipino Canadian youth alliance based in Vancouver was one of the first spaces I witnessed and got connected to radical brown and black emcees and poets. Dagamuffin, a friend, and activist who passed away was an outspoken rapper who was one of many Filipino activists who pushed me to keep repping. I have experienced what it feels like to see someone represent on stage and feel reflected. I want that to continue in this art so that we all feel activated to create. I see how art is not just a tool for activating and educating people, but it is also a wellspring for us to get the energy to keep going.
Ev: That being said, what do you see as the biggest and most important issue you’ve addressed through your music and art and why do you think it’s the most important issue you’ve addressed?
Kimmortal: I think all the issues are really connected. I can’t talk about my relationship to being Filipino without talking about my relationship to being queer and fluid and an artist, etc… I think the power is in the sum of our layers. Sometimes shows are geared towards one aspect of our identities, like a queer show, or like a women of colour show… for the first time, I get to perform on a stage on June 16 that will be featuring Filipinx nonbinary artists based on unceceeded coast Salish territory, aka Vancouver, and put on by Pinoy Pride in Vancouver.
Check out Kimmortal as they headline a DIY Spring show this Wednesday June 13 at The Origin Arts & Community Centre featuring King Kimbit and Throne Seekers, more info here.
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.
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.
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!
Local hip-hop artist Andre Thibault aka DRAE recently dropped his debut album E/SCAPE.
DRAE has been producing and mixing music for artists from the Capital region, Toronto and Montreal for years, but it was now time for him to step out and take center stage himself. The 11 track release blends hip-hop, electronic and has flares of dub steps, his calling card as a producer. The beginning of the album has you thinking this is going to be pretty dark, especially the album’s first single “Nightmare.” The tone begins to shift and isn’t all serious and dark, songs like “Drink Up” and “Wild N Young” will make you want to party all night thanks to the fun beats, party lyrics and sing-a-longs.
E/SCAPE is not short of great cameos by some of our favourite locals such as Yusso, Aron the Alien and Nicholas Poupponeau of Zoo Legacy. Poupponeau features on the second single “First Time” which is an uplifting song with lyrics praising the magic of being in love for the first over a very positive and grooving rhythm, even including finger snaps in the beat. I can picture this song perfectly fitting in on the club scene and having people grinding and swinging their hair around on the dance floor.
Many people have moved on from dubstep, and while DRAE does not focus on it, it creeps in through out the album and then he drops the bass and gives you heart palpitations in “Almost Famous.” I can only imagine how hard that drop with hit you live. BOOM.
Have a listen to E/SCAPE below and if you like what you hear go party with DRAE and his boys Yusso and Aron the Alien for his album release show at Mercury Lounge this Friday November 11. More information on the album release show here.