The Colours of Montreal’s Underground Music Scene

Hip Hop Karaoke Organizers Discuss One of Montreal’s Best-Kept Secrets

photo of Brandon Johnston.

Montreal has many hidden gems, one of them being its hip-hop culture. You don’t necessarily hear it at the forefront—it’s somewhat invisible, yet it surrounds us. You just need to know where to look.

That’s what Hip Hop Karaoke wishes to accomplish—to gather a community of individuals who eat, sleep and breath hip-hop on a daily basis. Hip-hop doesn’t restrict itself to a genre. It’s a lifestyle as well as an art form.

“Hip Hop Karaoke acts as an incubator for creativity and [positivity] through the congregation of interesting and diverse people,” explained Olivia Benaroche, an event organizer at Hip Hop Karaoke Montreal.

Founded in 2011, Hip Hop Karaoke is a monthly event that brings a vibrant new twist to Montreal’s hip-hop scene.

In a collaborative effort to bind entertainment and an inclusive environment, this organization aims to be a place where people can get together as a community to celebrate and pay homage to their favourite rap icons, as well as to meet like-minded performers and artists.

“Montreal has a very unique community surrounding hip-hop culture because of the city’s multiculturalism,” said Benaroche.

Montreal, where a large number of people are fluent in two languages, is the end result of a vast creation of discourse since languages aren’t conceived in the same way.

“[However], the association of people of different cultural backgrounds allows [us] to bind a community who use hip-hop as a common language to illustrate aspects of their own distinguished experiences,” Benaroche said.

It doesn’t matter how many nights you’ve spent at your local karaoke spot, because Hip Hop Karaoke flipped the script on traditional karaoke. Gone are the days of bouncing balls and lyrics; this showcase is all about the stage presence, energy and persona.

“Also, there is just something about the flow and rhythm of hip-hop language that allows people to focus on the music and performance rather than adhering to a specific lifestyle or behaviour associated with hip-hop,” Benaroche added.

The marriage of hip-hop and karaoke creates a special vibe, which brings an urban spark to Montreal’s nightlife.

Yet, compared to other historical rap cities across the United States and Canada, Montreal’s hip-hop scene is scarce, even though there is local talent and promoters do a decent job at giving them the spotlight.

“The supply and demand isn’t at the top of the list,” Benaroche said.

If we look back historically, hip-hop preached about peace, love, unity and having fun.

From a culture that originated straight out of the Bronx, these were the fundamental principles of hip-hop created by the legendary Zulu Nation. The Afrika Bambaataa song “Peace, Love, Unity and Having Fun” highlights this.

Dubbed the godfather of hip-hop, Afrika Bambaataa intended that these principles shed a positive light, in contrast to the violence, drug abuse and ethnic wars that plagued the streets during the 1980s.

“Even though this negativity still happens here and there, as the culture progresses, we play a big role in conflict resolution and enforcing positivity,” Bambaataa once said.

Today, it would be difficult to associate these words to Hip-Hop’s current culture that is controlled by an industry that, ironically, gives rap a bad reputation. In today’s age of style over substance, hip-hop glamorizes money, drugs and sex. Yet, initially, this movement preached for peace, love and unity.

“I strongly believe that a lot of the people that come to Hip Hop Karaoke […] feel they can connect intensely with the music,” Benaroche said.

Benaroche encourages people of all ages, backgrounds and interests to join the event. Hip Hop Karaoke Montreal is an event open to all. From seasoned MCs to average Joes, people of all backgrounds are welcome.

“There is no such thing as a bad performance as long as you have heart and passion,” Benaroche said.

“If you’re a hip-hop head and want to know what all the fuss is about, look no further. Hip Hop Karaoke’s 25th back-to-school edition is right around the corner,” she added.

“With DJ Shash’u and D-Shade spinning the tracks, this promises to be an amazing night of hip-hop for everyone to enjoy.”

Hip Hop Montreal Karaoke // Sept. 18 // Le Belmont (4483 St. Laurent Blvd.) // $5 before 11 p.m. or $10 after