By Fly On The Waltz
May 22nd Ottawa rap trio Poetic Elements held the release party for their debut EP Diamond Life at The Daily Grind art café on Somerset. A group consisting of rapper/spoken word artist Apollo the Child, rapper/producer Masai The Nasa Kid, and producer Prophet One, the trio played alongside local artists Nakiem The God, Hyfidelik, and Atherton.
The show started off with Nakiem The God, who I had never seen live before. The thing about Nakiem, is that if you played him next to many of rap’s modern artists, you’d be hard pressed to point out which one came from Ottawa, Ontario, CA. I remember hearing the beat to his last song and thinking, “Well that’s the instrumental benchmark for the night”. I highly suggest checking out his The Most High album on Bandcamp available for free download. He’s also working on a new project due for release this summer.
Second on the bill was Hyfidelik of local rap/spoken word collective Missing LinX. It’s always a pleasure seeing Hyf perform and that night was no different. I always feel like I’m going on a trip through every era of rap when Hyfidelik is performing. The crowd paid very close attention to every word Hyf delivered, as did I. Highest points of his set included a chilled out, guitar-driven track featuring rapper G. Grand from London by way of Ottawa, and one of my favourite bars of the night, “Kill Goliath with a stone of kindness”. Be sure to check out Missing LinX’s album R.I.P. Charlie on Bandcamp if you haven’t already.
The penultimate performer of the night was Ottawa vet Atherton. Now the thing that is immediately apparent when seeing Atherton perform is how quickly he’s able to command a crowd. It’s always clear how well honed his performance skills are. Performing mostly songs off his album No Threat (available on Bandcamp), much of the crowd was familiar with his material. Whether you’ve seen Atherton a dozen times or never before, you should catch his set at Bluesfest July 12th alongside Action Bronson, Deltron 3030, and Childish Gambino.
And last but certainly not least, Poetic Elements. If you’ve never seen Poetic Elements live, let me explain what happens to you. Apollo the Child and Masai the Nasa Kid grace the mic, while producer Prophet-One plays the Maschine live. Something that’s becoming more and more of a rarity in live hip-hop, Prophet-One not only plays the Maschine with finesse, but the Poetic Elements instrumental crate is a fine one. Production of the Diamond Life EP was predominately handled by Masai, with Prophet co-producing the song 100 Miles with Masai and producing the track Crimes himself. The lyrics of the Diamond Life EP cover every aspect of life, with references to all kinds of art and pop culture (Recess for the win). Apollo and Masai do a great job of letting you know who they are and what is important to them. The EP also features guest vocals by poet Ali Alikhani and singer-songwriter Katie Bourque. Poetic Elements’ performance on the 22nd was easily their best performance I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. The peak of the night in terms of crowd participation happened during their anthem Valley Music. You can find their Diamond Life EP at http://poeticelements.bandcamp.com/releases. I’m looking very forward to whatever Poetic Elements decide to do next, together and individually.
The Diamond Life release party was important for the Ottawa hip-hop scene for a few reasons. The bill included a mix of generations that in a city like Ottawa is incredibly important for keeping a scene healthy. There’s a lot of new and young hip-hop acts in the city, and they need the support of the older generations to properly grow in the context of Cap City. And with so many new and young fans coming into the scene alongside these acts, they need to be aware of the acts that came before and are still very much a part of the Cap City rap ecosystem. It’s very important to have the new wave of artists and the old guard working together and on the same page if we want our hip-hop scene to continue thriving as it has in recent times.
The release party also marks the continuation of a new trend of hip-hop at smaller and less conventional venues. There was a point in the city’s history where rap was confined to only a handful of venues. It’s nice to see hip-hop not only accepted in all manner of venues and spaces, but to see the scene open to those locations as well.
At the end of the day, the Diamond Life EP release party was exactly what I thought it would be, a good time, with good people, playing good music. You can put 100 on that.