The Thug Life Chose Me

Hip-Hop Karaoke Collaborates with Concordia for Back-to-School Special

Photo Brandon Johnston
Photo Leslie Schachter
Photo Leslie Schachter

Got some post-Frosh or back-to-school blues? Drop the books and spit some rhymes: Hip-Hop Karaoke Montreal is inviting all Concordia students to attend a no-cover slammin’ hip-hop show—and to take the stage if they’re feeling brave.

HHK MTL is a monthly hip-hop/karaoke hybrid event that’s far from your typical Friday night karaoke experience. Participants are encouraged to try and impersonate the rappers whose song they are performing, making gangster and often goofy get-ups onstage the norm.

Performers and audience alike are quite diverse, with a wide range of ages and various ethnic backgrounds, making the experience more inclusive for everyone. And the shows are all in good fun—you won’t find any _8 Mile_-esque rivalries, rap battles, and Glocks at an HHK show.

It’s also unlike regular karaoke in that participants are expected to memorize the lyrics beforehand. Crib notes aren’t allowed, and there’s no TV screen telling you what comes next.

This week’s Back to School edition is sponsored by the Concordia Student Union, CJLO and the Arts and Science Federation of Associations, which means the show is free for all Concordia students who show up with their student ID. The event is also part of CJLO’s Orientation.

Olivia Benaroche, event organizer for HHK, told The Link what makes Hip-Hop Karaoke exceptional.

“I think what makes Hip-Hop Karaoke so fun and unique is that it’s very community-oriented,” she said. “When people perform, whether it’s their first time or 10th time, they’re very well received.

“We like to see people get up there and do their thing, and it’s almost even more fun when the person isn’t naturally good at rapping. It makes it more interesting for everybody,” she added.

IT manager Navid Vafi, also known as Boih, will be performing for his fifth time at the Back to School HHK. From his onstage experiences, he describes the crowds as “alive, rowdy, energetic, loving, supporting, believing, positive and all-around amazing.”

Performers typically sign up in advance to prepare their set, but signing up on the night of the show is allowed.

A song list is provided on HHK’s website, but special requests can be made as well.

HHK also hosts a hip-hop trivia game called What You Know About That!, which allows anyone in the audience to participate onstage, show off their knowledge of the ins and outs of hip-hop culture and win some prizes. Local chef Enzo will also be serving up his $3 “biscuits and BBQ.”

In the Limelight

HHK is open to local hip-hop lovers, karaoke aficionados and party-goers alike, so don’t be surprised if you see a friend onstage rapping their heart out, leading a double life in a Ron Swanson/Duke Silver scenario.

Matthew Chain, whose stage alias is Scoops, is one of HHK MTL’s regular performers, and has many memorable experiences, like “that time I pulled a flute out and fluted, the time I did Danny Brown’s ‘Witit’ super drunk and got maybe 17 per cent of the lyrics right, and the time I did a ‘Forever’ remix with Fuego and MC Snorlax,” he said.

At HHK, no one is booed offstage for choking or making mistakes—organizers pride themselves on a tolerant environment where nobody gets humiliated and amateurs are encouraged to finish their chosen songs.

“We’ve had people screw up,” says Benaroche. “They forget the lyrics and they get discouraged, but the audience will pump them up, will cheer them on, and we give them a couple of tries to re-do the track.

“We’ve had girls who have gone up and completely screwed up three times in a row and then the fourth time we re-do the track, they get it perfectly,” she continued. “We really like to create that warm and encouraging environment.”

For Boih, HHK is all about the love.

“As corny as it sounds, it feels like the ‘hippiest,’ most ‘peace and love’ environment imaginable, especially when you realize that this is, in essence, a hip-hop event,” he said.

“It’s a great change of scenery from the usual hip-hop event.”

For first-timers, Scoops has a few words of advice.

“Learn the track at least two days before the show. That is, have it fully memorized by Tuesday night if the show is Thursday,” he said.

“You need that one-day gap to let the words sink into your brain. The worst kind of nervousness is the fear you don’t know the words.”

According to Benaroche, Concordia students can expect to experience “an unforgettable evening where they can merge their love of music, partying, good drinks, good food, good community and good conversation.”

To sign up, send your contact info, alias and the title of your chosen song to

Hip-Hop Karaoke Montreal: Back to School edition // Sept. 19 // Le Belmont sur le Boulevard (4483 St. Laurent Blvd.) // 10 p.m. // Free for Concordia students / $5 regular, $10 after 11 p.m.