Before beginning their final track of the evening, Shame, Young Fathers’ vocalist G Hastings takes centre stage; for a fleeting moment, it feels like I’ve left the concert hall and entered some kind of mystical protest site—part political and part spiritual.

7-Young Fathers Montreal (8)

With an austere look cast across his face, Hastings delivers the statement: “We are all refugees.” And without allowing much time for those words to fully resonate, the band leaps into a passionate and kinetic final song, the line “Shame on you,” repeating over and over.

In a Young Fathers show, there is a looming sense of heaviness, of burden, of trouble in the world; their regulated hip hop beats and smooth r&b vocal harmonies seem to be constantly under threat of being drowned out by discordant noise.

8-Young Fathers Montreal (4)Implicitly speaking to the world community’s failure to properly address the Syrian Refugee Crisis, Young Fathers place the blame and the “shame” not just upon political leaders, but also upon themselves and upon their audience, too — fun stuff for a casual Thursday night show. But it wasn’t all doom-and-gloom. As much as Young Fathers touch on elements of darkness and despair in their performance, the concert felt like a kind of catharsis, it seemed to channel a clear sense of hope.

Indeed, a Young Fathers show is a multi-leveled, one-of-a-kind spectacle, and a ton of fun, too. I spent most of my time during the 1 hour and 15 minute set dancing, feeding off of the indescribable levels of energy put forth by the band—in particular, the wildly erratic jerks and gyrations of Kayus Bankole and the powerful drum patterns of Steven Morrison, who uses his full body to keep time. The performance was incredibly physical, and the band’s eagerness to move and explore the space onstage had me moving, too (even though my moves were more of the Dad-variety).

When the lights finally went up at the end of the set, I felt as though I was being beamed back down to Earth. For a few minutes, I gazed dreamily around the room, regaining my bearings, incoherently clapping and mumbling “One more song!”

I left the Fairmount on Thursday night feeling as though I had been a part of something spiritual, something important—even though I can’t really articulate what that was.

* photos by Georgia Vatcher

Last Saturday, FTB  went to see the 25 year old Jersey rapper  Cakes da Killa at PHI Center. The show opened with WASIU ft. Dear Lola & KD II Times.

It started off with a small crowd until Cakes took over, dressed in Rad Hourani and ready to turn the heat up. His performance was strong, carefree and intense and featured some of his old tracks such as Serve it up, Goodie Goodies and Truth Tella.

The crowd got the chance to vogue with him. When he finished, the crowd was left wanting more!

Click on the image below to open the gallery:

Cakes Da Killa @ Centre PhiCakes Da Killa @ Centre Phi

*Photos by Bianca Lecompte

Raw and carefree is how we can describe the sound bestowed upon us by Cakes Da Killa. With the release of Hunger Pang in June 2014 (and even with his first releases in 2011), this young Jersey rapper has provided some with more than they would have bargained for or even can handle.

Most importantly, he has given some of us a voice and sound within the rap genre. Vulgar? Cakes Da Killa is only being himself, raw, honest, hard, providing music for LGBT people of color looking for relatable music and homophobes something to choke on.

He has gained a lot of attention over the past few years, making the rounds on blogs and known radio shows and receiving more than honorable mentions from MTV and more. With all this success, don’t expect him to change who he is. The music is still raw and the content is still Queer.

But this does not mean that he wants to be set apart from the rest of the players. Giving us impeccable delivery and spitting scripture within his lyrics, he could go neck to neck with any.

As for his beats, he takes us beyond high hats and basic basslines. A heavy mix of electronic sounds merge more than they clash.

Cakes Da Killa is coming back to us with more of his goodie goodies (with WASIU ft. Dear Lola & KD II Times and Visuals by Jason Voltaire) this Saturday, November 28, 8pm @ Phi Centre, tickets available on the Phi Centre website

People are made up of hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus among many other essential elements. These elements create our world, the planet, the galaxy and the universe. So it’s no wonder why international graffiti artist and hip hop emcee Monk.e is on some next level, out of this world shit.

He released his seventh album earlier this year, Esclavage, Exode et Renaissance. To say the least, it’s a banger for any Hip Hop head.

I caught up to Monk.e for a short building session while he was painting at Mural Fest this past June. We spoke about his album, Coca-Colanisation, Babylon, multi-dimensionality, knowledge as a weapon and more.

Monk.e will be performing at the End Of The Weak emcee world challenge September 4th and with Syme and Reptile Rampant! at Club Soda October 9th

The album is available at: monk-e.bandcamp.com

In our third FTB Podcast, we discuss we discuss the UQAM occupation, anti-austerity protests at other schools and the state of conscious Hip Hop in Montreal. Plus the Montreal Community Calendar.

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau

    Panelists

Niall Ricardo: UQAM student, anti-austerity activist, FTB contributor

Jesse Anger: poet, FTB contributor

Henry Kronk: McGill student, broacaster

Drew Wolfson Bell: sports Editor at the McGill Daily, third-year Education student

UQAM report by Hannah Besseau

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

So yo, we jetted down to Hochelega to catch the filming of Monk.e’s video for the first single of his new album. The track is titled CASHDOWN and is produced by MTL’s own Fred Po, AKA – PSTV –

It was mad cold out that day as we scuttled up grey streets toward Monk.e’s crib to chill while the video was being shot. Halfway up the block we saw some mooked out characters in the alley. Dudes doing wild hand signs in bubble vests, director Carlos Guerra catching the perspective from the other side of his Canon 5D.

This was my introduction to PSTV in person, but to be honest, I was chilling with Monk.e the week before, listening to his new album when I heard the production for CASHDOWN – I immediately remarked that the beat was a really sharp hybridization of trap and EDM flavour. It’s always been my wish that conscious MCs would rap over more futuristic beats – well bang, it was made manifest. I set up an interview with PSTV for the next week, because yo – his beats are on point and I’m not one to be sleeping on the MTL underground. In the meantime I gave his set from the Belmont a spin.

It became apparent rather quickly that PSTV is more than just a hip-hop beat maker. He’s just as comfortable mixing juicy house beats as he is composing trap and trance. Everything in PSTV’s music is measured, and he uses space really well, too. To me, such a range of skills being expressed in equal strength across a wide aesthetic field is the hallmark of an up and coming artist we should keep our eyes on. Plus PSTV is straight out of the Plateau, a real MTL dude.

PSTV has all kinds of other projects on the come up as well. I’ll give you the 411 as I get it. Here’s the link to all places you can catch PSTV – holla @ your boy – ONE.

 

Fred Po

 

There is a new record label anchored in the creative hub around Mont-Royal ready to bolster local talent. Queen Mary Records is the brainchild of Martin Bradstreet, front man of local psychedelic-rock trio Alexei Martov. Bradstreet and the Queen Mary Records team wanted to put something together for those artists whose talent and craft “was slipping through the cracks every day because they couldn’t find their niche, or didn’t have the infrastructure needed to launch into the public eye.”10887295_909987422347219_3365542263252303480_o

One such artist is prolific multi-instrumentalist Greg McLeod,  whose work is the first that Queen Mary Records is showcasing . Queen Mary Records recently released McLeod’s MB-LP, his 7th album since 2011.

Prior to his current base in Vancouver, McLeod spent many years writing and playing music with pals in local bars like Brutopia, Barfly and Inspecteur Épingle. I crossed paths with McLeod years ago when he co-fronted local hootenanny throwing band The Argyles. Around then, McLeod also played with local acts the Pinyin Pals and Parapraxis – members of which are now in the This Many Boyfriends Club.

In 2012, McLeod moved homeward to Vancouver by touring his then latest album Mean Times alongside Alexei Martov. Once in Vancouver, he readied himself and began work on a series of five projected albums.

All the while, McLeod continued exploring different styles and instruments touring with acts like Jordan Klassen and a stint with The Oh Wells. He took some “time off” working on his solo albums to score a musical for the Toronto Fringe Festival. Currently, Greg McLeod plays in Good For Grapes who won the Peak Performance Project in November 2014.

MB-LB is McLeod’s strongest album to date. Like his previous albums, McLeod wrote, performed and produced the whole thing in his bedroom. With his previous (and fifth) album Little Gwaii (2013), McLeod ventured away from the more folk and garage driven rock music he’d been making and dove into more alternative forms of pop rock: the world of live-looping, found sound, and combining spoken word with hip hop.

With MB-LB McLeod explores these new songwriting techniques even further. 11004285_10152725995607194_896755687_nHowever, MB-LP continues building on the common thread present in all of McLeod’s work: an exploration of diverse and differing human experiences.

Indeed, MB-LP is a fun sociological and musical experiment whose songs explore the worlds of distinct personality types (according to the Myer-Briggs test). Each song is a different style or genre based on McLeod’s research on the sixteen Myer-Briggs personality types. Lyrics were written based on McLeod’s observations of about eighty persons he knew and whom he had take the test.

Despite the eclectic nature of these songs, MB-LB is McLeod’s most coherent album in terms of track strength: with half the songs being strong enough to hold the status of single. The flow from one song to the other is rather seamless and the entirety of the album is engaging.

Five of the sixteen tracks on MB-LP are standouts:

5. ISFP (Disappear) is smooth rap-like spoken word track with a fun horn chorus.

4. INFP (Halo) is a catchy pop rock ballad with spoken word delivered confessions.

3. ESTP (Come With Me) is a seductive dance anthem from the perspective of someone who ‘goes hard’ and talks a big game.

2. INFJ (In a Dream) is a softer and simpler melodic track with a poetic charm exploring the mysteries of the subconscious and the perils of having a body.

1. ISFJ (Angels in the Dust) is a darkly sweet end of the world lullaby that is quite fun to harmonize with.

For more information check out Queen Mary Records’ websitetheir Facebook page and Greg McLeod’s Bandcamp

*Featured photo by Braeden Klassen

Run the Jewels is the heavy-hitting, villainous collaboration of rappers El-P and Killer Mike. Independently, both Run the Jewels members have recently released very mature, complex albums, equally lauded by critics and their respective fans. Indeed, New York veteran producer and rapper El-P released his Cancer4Cure album in 2012, and produced Atlanta rapper Killer Mike’s 2012 album R.A.P. Music. The chemistry of the latter release led to a furthering of this partnership: enter Run the Jewels. The duo’s self-titled freshman album garnered them critical acclaim for their brash and cartoonishly-violent lyrics. Just a year after their debut release was made available freely online, the rap group have delivered their second full-length album, also free, via the group’s website.

The first track “Jeopardy” kicks off the album with grimey, menacing verses over eerie synthesizers. Jazzy, quirky saxophones accompany the verse’s climaxing rhymes, and are beautifully utilized by a hungry Killer Mike. The rap duo symbiotically share MC duties and provide a teaser of sorts for the more aggressive and complex sounds to be explored in the coming tracks, making “Jeopardy” an appropriate and poised introduction. Veteran beatmaker El-P, always mindful of mood and momentum, seamlessly joins many of these tracks. “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry” leads into “Blockbuster Night Part 1” and “All Due Respect” segues into “Love Again”, providing congruence and solidifying the album as a single, complete experience. The track sequencing, as a whole, is complementary to the crooks’ storytelling.

The selective, effective use of features on this album support varied, refreshing melodies without compromising any of the hard-hitting, aggressive bars or eerie beats. Drummer Travis Barker of Blink-182 and Transplants fame provides some dynamic, loose, urban-environment percussions on the vicious and sharp-spitting “All Due Respect”. The single “Close Your Eyes” features Zack De La Rocha of Rage Against the Machine on a hook that is looped directly into the song’s beat with some heavy bass. Although De La Rocha also has a concluding verse on this track, his delivery is somewhat stale and his technical delivery is disjointed with the lyrical content. Some slow, distorted, high-pitched vocals are delivered by producer BOOTS on the song “Early”. The vocals feel like a distress or warning signal and are subtly-tweaked to allow for both transitioning and a graded-sound building across this song. On the track “Love Again”, Three 6 Mafia’s Gangsta Boo prominently features over alternating simple and layered beats for some sassy, humorous, raunchy and carnal equal-opportunity gender sexualization and objectification.

Even impudent, violent villains can have a conscience, and Killer Mike and El-P provide a contrasting dimension to their thematics by exploring this on more sullen tracks. For example, the track “Crown” has Killer Mike reflecting, rather soberly and drearily, over his culpability in the role of a dealer providing narcotics to a pregnant woman. The imagery and incorporated dialogue flesh out the saddening and troubling portraits and plights of both the provider and user in a clandestine context maintained by drug use stigmatization. Likewise, “Lie, Cheat, Steal” is a dismal, cynical condoning of the use of thuggish, brutal means by the common man to combat the type of structural violence that is continuously renovated and cemented by big money and crooked politics.

“Angel Duster” plays out like final and definite words of advice for an acknowledged, soon-parting listener. Main themes of government corruption, religion and drug dealing are revisited over a gorgeously-produced beat, exquisitely ornamented with short and soaring vocals, clinking glasses, distorted, grimey bass and bluesy piano for a masterful, elegant album closer.

Laced with raw hooks and verses, Run the Jewels 2 delivers continuous, heavy-hitting and brutish rhymes over beautifully layered beats. The production quality, track segues, conscientious track sequencing and effective use of features make the sophomore release of the Run the Jewels duo, Run the Jewels 2, one of the strongest hip-hop releases this year.

Nameless Ponytail Score: 8.5/10

Favourite Tracks: “Angel Duster”, “Early” (feat. BOOTS), “Crown” (feat. Diane Coffee)

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Run the Jewels will perform Thursday, November 27 with Ratking and Despot at Club Soda. Doors open at 7 p.m., $23.50 in advance or $25 at the door. 

For all of Montreal’s fans of beat-making, hip-hop, R&B, house, and electronic music, it would be unwise to be anywhere but Le Belmont this Friday. The 25-year-old English producer Lapalux will be performing as part of a month-long North American tour, bringing his boundary-pushing yet accessible brand of music to Montreal for a rare appearance that is surely not to be missed.

Born Stuart Howard, the Essex native is riding momentum from his debut album Nostalchic, released earlier this year on Flying LotusBrainfeeder record label. Lapalux’s music defies simple categorization, being all at once somber, soulful, abstract, unsettling, and beautiful.

 

There is an undeniable sense of care and thought that goes into every note in Lapalux’s repertoire, and listening to his music can incite deep self-reflection. Without complex lyrical content, he urges the listeners to look inward and speculate about life, love, and dance.

Lapalux’s atmospheric soundscapes capture the solemnity and heart of every day life and their constant intersections. These themes are put on display in the recent short film Chrysalis by Nick Rutter which is scored by Lapalux.

 

Compared with other artists of similar styles, Lapalux stands alone as one whose music carries a distinct weight. It is not simply party music, though it will make you move. Each song voices a statement, even if it is heard through our subconscious. Simply put, this is music that must be heard.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/74387042″ params=”” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Lapalux will be playing at Le Belmont Friday, September 13, and will be supported by Construct, Bus, and Sibian & Faun.

ModernThunderHiresLife can be unpredictable. As much as we try to plan for every possibility, new curve balls are constantly being thrown at us. Perhaps we should simply embrace the uncertainty of it all and clutch every moment we experience. This is precisely what the Toronto/Winnipeg based Grand Analog does on their forthcoming album Modern Thunder, due out August 20.

There was no overarching plan for the album other than to musically capture different moments in time. As a result, we are treated to a glimpse into the lives of frontman Odario Williams and his comrades, all within the context of the band’s signature heavy dose of deep grooves, catchy hooks, and flowing, spunky rhymes.

The program is diverse by design. Unlike their previous efforts Calligraffiti (2007) and Metropolis is Burning (2009) which had preconceived lyrical themes before the songs were written, for this project Williams had his crew create assorted instrumental soundscapes and based his lyrics on what he heard.

“I wanted to see the song,” he states. “I let the music decide what the song is going to be about.”

The record reflects this organic writing process that Williams describes as “effortless.”

The fact that Grand Analog is a live hip hop band, and one of Canada’s finest at that, plays a large role in the group’s identity. The relationships between Williams and his DJ brother Ofield, bass player Warren Bray, keyboardist Alister Johnson aka Catalist, and drummer TJ Garcia are the foundation that drive the group’s creativity. Williams relies heavily on the varied influences of his band mates who come from very different musical backgrounds.

“If you put all those ingredients in one pot,” he says, “you’ll understand why you have Grand Analog.”

Modern Thunder opens with the triumphant, afrobeat-infused “Lion Head” which is an apt opening and reintroduction to the band after a four year break from recording. Williams jubilantly raps, “It’s been a long time / a toast to a new beginning / I feel good ‘bout the skin I’m in.” The song features punchy horn and vocal lines à la Fela Kuti on top of unrelenting hip hop drums and percussion.

“Modern Day Fool” reveals the precarious nature of every day life in contrast with the opening track. Williams explains that during the production of the album, “any given day could have been any given thing.” On that day, it appears that Williams was feeling a bit more introspective. In the song, he raps, “I’m just a modern day fool, cool, social recluse / just a walkin’ contradiction / mother nature on the loose.” His rhymes float over a syncopated riff played on the guitar and bass and is broken up by Andrina Turenne’s bluesy, soulful hook. Williams’ carefully crafted lines throughout the album demonstrate the complexity and emotional depth of life ranging from total self confidence to self reassurance to loneliness.

Upon hearing the music for “The Great Rhyme Dropper,” Williams envisioned a superhero rapper.

“There’s only one person I had in mind to do that with me,” he said.

That person is Canadian rapper Shad, who trades boastful, effortless verses with Williams on the track. The chemistry between the two is palpable as they organically flow over the propulsive, driving funk beat and afrobeat-style horns.

 

Never to rest on their laurels musically, the band ventures into more somber territory with “Heart The Lonely Hunter” which features a thumping quarter note beat in the bass and drums and a Joni Mitchell-style vocal hook from Amanda Balsys of The Wilderness of Manitoba. Williams describes the song as representing “city life and relationships,” and his verses strike a noticeably different tone from the other songs. He raps about the challenges of finding love, saying, “Decisions are rash when you’re fearin’ attachment / I’m always on the hunt, kinda like an assassin.”

In what is perhaps a coincidence, the following song is a bouncy, trance-inducing club jam “Wild Animal Print” that describes weekend hookups with a woman who is “lookin’ for adventure.” The song is driven by a four-on-the-floor bass drum beat and a relentless syncopated synth bass line. Whether purposely juxtaposed with “Heart The Lonely Hunter” or not, each describe different aspects of love, lust, and relationships.

All the guests on Modern Thunder – and there are many – fit in with ease and contribute to the Grand Analog sound. The guests work so seamlessly because they are all friends of Williams and the band.

“Because they are also friends of mine, I knew what they were capable of and I knew that I can hear having them on this,” he explains.

Additional guests on the album include Saukrates, Len Bowen, Maylee Todd, Saidah Baba Talibah, Dennis Passley (Bedouin Soundclash), Bahia Watson, Mike Olsen (Hidden Cameras), Peter Katz, TALWST, and long time collaborators Damon Mitchell and Oliver Johnson.

tumblr_inline_mqf7qyZwoj1rpmgfuAlthough many would put them somewhere under the umbrella of hip hop, Grand Analog has many sounds and cannot be pigeonholed into any one category. Williams urges people to try to let the music speak for itself.

“People should be open to music in the first place and not judge before listening,” he says.

Whatever one might call it, the sprawling music on Modern Thunder encapsulates the realities of life. In one of his more clever and representative rhymes on the dub-influenced “Unbearable Lightness,” Williams raps, “We get together like memorex and tape decks / we get together like safe sex and latex / we get together, it don’t matter what the weather / I get busy in the summer, I get busy on the syntax.”

Regardless of its genre label, Modern Thunder deserves to be listened to by anybody who can relate to individualism, introspection, partying, city life, midnight munchies, vinyl on the deck, sex for breakfast, relationships, heartbreak, hookups, and sunshine. Did I leave anyone out?

Modern Thunder will be released in stores and online on August 20, 2013. Grand Analog will be hosting album release parties on August 20 at the Drake Underground in Toronto, and on August 22 at Union Sound Hall in Winnipeg.

Tonight mega-star M.I.A. will be playing Metropolis. Supporting her performance will be two of the most exciting artists to come out of the New York City music scene in recent years: Le1f and Venus X.

Le1f ‘s rise to fame began with his work producing other hip hop groups such as Das Racist. He released his first solo mixtape, Dark York, in April last year. He has since been getting a lot of attention for being an openly gay rapper, something that, sadly enough, is still not very common. He has collaborated with other boundary-pushing rappers like Mykki Blanco.

His production techniques as well as his lyrics and rapping style are complex and unorthodox. Coupled with a killer sense of personal style and some banging dance moves, Le1f’s talent is unique and refreshing in a genre that continues to be bloated with “gangstas” rapping about “bitches” and money.

“Wut” is the first single released from Dark York.

DJ Venus X started organizing GHE20GOTH1K, underground parties in Brooklyn and the Lower East Side in 2009. She has since played at major events thrown by the likes of Damien Hirst and Terry Richardson.

Venus X thrives on disparate concepts. She has been known to incorporate Al-Jazeera news broadcasts and audio from the Arab Spring into her sets. She has stated that music allows her to be an activist and be political while also making people feel good.

She has a very deep understanding of different kinds of culture and this is reflected in her original approach to music and DJ-ing.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/24418232″ params=”” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Le1f and Venus X open for M.I.A. at Metropolis tonight, July 17.

For me, the 2013 Montreal Infringement Festival’s opening weekend offered the familiar and fun, unexpected awe, a sense of longing for the show I missed and rainy artistic socializing.

grr en famille barfly infringement

Thursday

The fest kicked off with an air of familiarity. To clarify, when it comes to the Montreal Infringement, familiarity means good rockin’ tunes with a socially conscious vibe emanating from everyone’s favourite dive bar on St-Laurent: Barfly.

After Martin G played a solo set of acoustic tunes where he reflected on what makes his art critical or activist (one of the questions on the Infringement application form), Grr en Famille took the stage. This six piece band (complete with accordion and violin) rocked out with bilingual tunes that everyone could dance to.

That night in Barfly, many did, just as they had done at the Infringement preview show a few weeks ago at Le Bull. A great way to kick off the fest.

psynlangwage infringement

Friday

If Thursday was familiar, Friday night was anything but. First off, I’m not that familiar with hip hop and not at all familiar with skate culture (I had a board when I was a kid, but that really doesn’t count).

I may not be the ideal person to review the Infringement Hip Hop Show that took place at TRH Bar, a new venue on the Main with a skate ramp right in the middle of it. I can, though, look at it from a theatrical perspective.

The staging was a perfect infringement on the concept of separation between audience and performer. There was none and it was beautiful.

The rappers performed right next to the ramp as skaters did their tricks. In the case of Psynlangwage, they also mingled with the crowd around the pit and even on the terrasse.

Between that bustling terrasse and the skate ramp stage area sat Atlantic City native Lucas Simmons, who’s performing theatre this Thursday but is also in town for the entire festival. This night in particular, he was drawing portraits of anyone who wanted for free.

I didn’t expect this kind of evening, but it makes perfect sense. The Infringement is all about breaking boundaries and the show was called Smashing Through Walls and these performers did just that, both lyrically and conceptually.

Have a look at a bit of the scene and listen to some of the socially conscious lyrics of Jay Manafest:

Saturday

Sadly, I was all partied out and didn’t make it to the fest Saturday night. I heard from one of the organizers that Super Greek League (who had played NXNE in Toronto the night before) really tore down the house at Le Bull Pub and thought, well, that’s probably true but I can’t be sure ’cause I wasn’t there.

Turns out he was 100% correct, and here’s the video proof and incentive for me to not miss any more infringing this year:

Sunday

I headed back to the fest as therapeutic rain fell on the city and washed Infringement Therapy, an outdoor interactive theatre performance which was supposed to happen at 7pm, to next Sunday at 1pm. Mother Nature didn’t dampen the spirits of those attending the Dumpster Dive Art Drive, the vernissage for art made from stuff found in the trash went ahead as planned in the alleyway behind Bifteck.

There’s no better way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon than standing in an alleyway underneath a fire escape that protects you from the rain, sipping on wine, eating brie, looking at art made on the spot from what’s available and chatting with like-minded artists. The Infringement is almost as much social as it is performance-based and the DDAD is the perfect example of this dynamic.

This was my weekend at the Infringement, but I didn’t even mention all the fest offered these past few days. As the Infringement continues, so will our coverage.

The Montreal Infringement Festival runs until June 23rd. For the schedule, please visit infringemontreal.org

* Barfly photo by Iana Kazakova, TRH Bar & Le Bull photos by Alaya Martin

If you don’t already know what Hip-Hop Karaoke is then you should check out the feature we did on them a little while ago. Basically Hip-Hop Karaoke invites performers to prove what they’ve got on stage while the crowd enjoys the party.

Hip-Hop Karaoke has been going strong for 15 months now and to celebrate they are hosting a special contest where you can win WeSC gear courtesy of Tiger Distribution, printed + signed artwork from Overthebreaks and BEST of all, you could win lifetime free entry to HHK MTL! To enter the contest check out their FB album with the last 15 HHK poster designs up and vote for your favorite by “liking” it!

This month we look at the artists behind the Hip-Hop Karaoke posters. The poster design for HHK helps showcase local artists and also helps allowing people to familiarize themselves with Hip Hop Karaoke; inspiring new performers to get involved and show support. Their designs are a perfect visual extension of their fun-loving approach to the event.

Originally the posters were designed by co-founder Patrick O’keefe, who has since moved on to San Francisco and other projects. He created the Portrait series posters in the series. Currently the Hip-Hop Karaoke posters (and logo) have been designed by local artist Nik Brovkin, aka Overthebreaks.

Hip-hop karaoke

If you wanna get up on stage and show em what you’ve got spots fill up quick, so pre-register your track at HHKMTL@GMAIL.COM for the next HHK.

Talib kwali-

The Festival Hip Hop de Montreal celebrated it’s second birthday last weekend and it was… well, it was just ok. There were some great shows, some not so great shows and quite a few cancellations. Not a total shit show, but not a screaming success either.

To be fair, the Montreal Hip Hop festival is only in it’s second year which, by festival standards, means it’s still an awkward, gangly, pre-teen that’s starting to get the hang of things but hasn’t quite figured out how to deal with the hair growing on it’s balls.

This year festival organizers decided to take the festival from a one-day event to a five-day, multi-lingual rap extravaganza. “There were rough patches, but also many good moments,” said organizer Sebastien Laberge. “For us it’s a learning experience, to manage so many events in such a short time. I think it’s been a steep learning curve for everyone involved.” Laberge is part of the seven-person team that organizes the festival.

Over the course of the weekend the originally impressive line-up was hit with several major cancellations, mainly due to problems with border control. French rapper Booba was turned away, as was Talib Kweli’s band and Wu-Tang’s Masta Killa.

“It is rap and a lot of these guys tend to have rough histories, so it’s always complicated. Canada’s a very difficult country to come into,” explained Laberge. “It was a bit of bad luck too,” agreed co-organizer Carlos Munoz. “Booba has been here like eight times with no problems, so I think that no one really saw this coming. I think everyone just kind of took it for granted that there wouldn’t be any problems, but that wasn’t the case.”

Talib kwali-

Despite the cancellations, the festival had some shining moments too. Friday night’s Talib Kweli show at Club Soda was packed with hip hop lovers who were so stoked to see the underground superstar that it you could practically see the energy zinging around the room. My favorite moment was when Talib got the whole crowd to sing along to his song Lonely People, the opening strains of which are the opening lyrics of the Beatles song Eleanor Rigby, a commentary on the increasing alienation of individuals in money and image obsessed western society.

Local rapper Manu Militari played a sold-out performance to over 1000 ecstatic fans Saturday at the same venue and California rappers Pac Div closed the festival Monday night with a sweet, if somewhat late-starting and under-attended, show at Underworld. “We were aiming to bring people together who had specific tastes in music,” said Munoz.

Pac Div MHHF
L.A. Rappers Pac Div chillin before taking the stage

“Eventually we want to incorporate all aspects of hip hop culture, have events in the daytime as well,” He said. “It’s also a question of budget,” added Laberge. “We want to incorporate one element at a time, so last year we really focused on the rap shows. This year we incorporated DJ nights and multi-lingual shows. We’re thinking that next year we’ll include the dance world,” said Munoz. “It’s easy to come up with lots of good ideas, but at the end of the day whatever you do, it has to be done properly,” he explained.

Well, I guess we’ll see if that holds true as this festival matures. Even though it may be going through some growing pains, I’m sure I’m not the only Montrealer who is just happy that, in the city of a thousand festivals, hip hop has finally staked its claim.

Photos by Chris Zacchia

If you love hip hop then don’t miss out on the second annual Festival de Hip Hop Montreal. This year’s line up boasts big names from Quebec, France and the states.

The festival kicked off Thursday, March 28th with the always popular Hip Hop Karaoke at Le Belmont on Saint Laurent.

Tonight (Friday) you can choose between American underground hip hop legend Talib Kweli, a lyrical genius well known for his politically insightful prose, and French break-dancer-turned-incredibly-successful-rapper Booba. Then, if you’re still game, you can head over to Cabaret Underworld for the after party and showcase Latino featuring Agua Negro and Ghetto Youths.

Saturday don’t miss Quebequois rapper Manu Militari who will showcase some tracks from his latest album, Maree Humaine.

Sunday you can get local with Rap D’icite and then Monday Southern California rappers Pac Div close down the festival.

For times, venues, tickets and info go to mtlhhf.com

While hip hop artists have pushed socially conscious messages since the 1980’s, the issue of homophobia in hip hop and rap has been largely ignored—until recently.

One artist who takes issue with homophobia in the genre is Ben Haggerty, a.k.a. Macklemore. In his new song “Same Love,” off the upcoming album “The Heist” co-produced with Ryan Lewis, Macklemore compares homophobia with oppression and human rights abuses. And the issue is one very close to his heart: growing up, he had two gay uncles and spent a great deal of time with the gay community.

The video for the song, produced by Tricia Davis, paints a picture of a teenager suffering from being in the closet in high school, but who grows up to find a loving partner whom he marries and spends the rest of his life with.

Earlier this year, Macklemore’s home state of Washington made same sex marriage legal by enacting the bipartisan Senate Bill 6239, which “would allow same-sex couples to marry, preserve domestic partnerships only for seniors, and preserve the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform, recognize, or accommodate any marriage ceremony.”

However, same-sex marriage opponents are hoping to stop these marriages from ever starting by putting the law to a vote this November. Referendum 74, if it fails at the ballot, would send Washington State back to being one which prohibits equal marriage, like most American states. Only six states—Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont, as well as the District of Columbia and two Native American tribal jurisdiction—allow same sex marriage.

Macklemore, along with a group of artists including the Canadian indie-folk duo Tegan and Sara, has volunteered for a campaign called Music for Marriage Equality, which advocates for a yes vote on Referendum 74.

“[Gay people are] the one group of people that are still okay to oppress on a daily basis in raps and no one really talks about it, and that’s discouraging, and something that needs to change,” said Macklemore on a video posted to the organization’s website.

Homophobic slurs like “faggot” and “gay” run rampant in hip hop, with artists like Snoop Dogg, Eminem and Odd Future’s Tyler the Creator “spitting” them frequently. However as of late, the tide appears to be changing.

Earlier this year when singer-songwriter Frank Ocean said his first love was a man, a huge discussion around homophobia in hip hop began.

Many of the industry’s giants showed support for Ocean through blogs or Twitter, with Nicki Minaj adding that the time is now right for an openly gay rapper to hit the scene.

A new video by California rapper Murs for his song “Animal Style,” shows the rapper playing a gay teen who *spoiler* kills his boy-crush due to the immense societal pressure of coming out of the closet.

“I just felt it was crucial for some of us in the hip hop community to speak up on the issues of teen suicide, bullying, and the overall anti-homosexual sentiment that exist within hip hop culture,” Murs said to the Huffington Post.

“Hip hop is really kind of the anchoring point in our culture for people to commune and talk about certain issues in our society,” said Marc Peters, professor of the class “Hip Hop: Past Present and Future” at Concordia University.

“Hip hop is not all social and political in nature,” Peters adds. “Like all entertainers, there is an element of sheer entertainment involved and that has to be recognized and accepted as well.”

Neither Murs nor Macklemore stick solely to promoting gay rights or even socially conscious messages. For instance, Macklemore’s new song “Thrift Shop” glorifies vintage clothing while Murs brawls with WWE wrestler John Cena in his 2008 video “Hustle.” But being conscious some of the time, at least, can be beneficial to the youth that are influenced by these artists.

“I’m just gonna freestyle and spit what’s in my gut, and if you want to you can go and label me ‘conscious’, but just remember there’s a kid at the bus stop beat boxing, whose life will be affected by what he hears in his walkman,” Macklemore raps in his song “I Said Hey”.

And it might also affect the outcome of a referendum.

Macklemore will hold an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit this Monday Oct. 8 at 8:00 AM PST where he will answer questions from the public.

*Photo of Ocean by activioslo via Flickr.