Green Hypnotic & High Klassified: LVL Ou Rien
It’s Friday night at the skatepark, a graffiti-littered hotspot called TRH-Bar, and there’s loud music blaring. A few skaters congregate near the skate bowl.
There’s graffiti, marks of paint, and tags on almost every wall and crevice in the establishment. The event is at a bar in Montreal, but the city of Laval is largely represented.
The night is dedicated to Laval rapper and producer Green Hypnotic, who is celebrating his then-yet to be released album, Emotions.
He is accompanied by High Klassified, a 22-year-old producer signed to Fool’s Gold, a record label headed by Montreal native and legendary DJ A-Trak. He’s a young producer, but he’s already received high praise.
“High Klassified is the Drake of Laval,” said fellow producer and Laval-ite VXNYL during the party.
Both artists can be perceived as gatekeepers for the Laval music scene for different reasons.
High Klassified has the star power, with his connections to artists across the world, despite his age. Green’s rise has been a “slow grind”, but he’s well respected within Laval, and even wants to be involved in more executive producing gigs with fellow Laval artists. Following the release party for Emotions, Hypnotic was seen having a lengthy conversation with another Laval rapper, Jei Bandit, about producing future material.
Klassified, born Kevin Vincent, is regarded as one of the more notable faces of the LVL Ou Rien movement, which looks to put Laval on the map as a veritable destination for hip-hop. But he admits Green was the reason he got involved in the first place.
Hypnotic, born Oliver Oray, has been rapping since he was a teenager and has released a number of projects including 2012’s INC.O.A.S.T.NITO and 2014’s COASTAR. He also doubles as a mixing producer and has been jumping at any opportunity to produce material. The rapper was only 16 years old when he began rapping alongside Klassified’s brother, Chibbi, just for kicks. Klassified’s cousin also got involved with their music and he simply joined because he didn’t want to feel left out.
“They started doing music and I really wanted to be involved,” said High Klassified, who originally took up rapping before downloading the Fruity Loops software and got into beat making.
“We were just freestyling and trying stuff and we were just having fun,” said Hypnotic. “I wanted High Klass to be involved in something with the team so I just showed him the basics on how to produce and he just took a little bit of that knowledge and blew up.”
Klassified has blown up, collaborating with a number of artists including 2 Chainz and Mick Jenkins. He’s done tours across North America, Europe, and Asia, all the while documenting his touring and life experiences on Snapchat for the world to see. He’s also just released a new EP called Kronostasis, released this past October.
All the while, he’s still taking classes at College Montmorency in computer science. He almost didn’t continue pursuing music because he wanted to focus more on school, but his manager, Didier Hilaire, kept pushing him to continue. Soon enough, his profile raised, and he caught the attention of many DJs and producers, including Montreal producer Lunice, who played a track of High Klassified’s during a set. Then one day, he received a fateful email.
“[It was] some random email I got by A-Trak [that said] ‘I really fuck with your shit,’” he said. “He’s like a hometown hero.”
It’s been a slower time for Green, as he sees artists such as Klassified find success at a younger and faster rate, but he’s more than happy to see them thrive. Plus, he feels he’s closer to a breakthrough now than ever before.
“It’s motivating, man,” Green Hypnotic said. “I’m not a jealous guy, I like to see people win.
“It’s good energy, especially when you’re in a crew,” he added. “Everybody motivates everybody, so it just kept me moving and it kept me focused and it’s a slow grind but i’m good with it. I’m patient with it.”
It’s the afternoon after the party and both artists are sitting, waiting for a ride home from Montmorency metro. Klassified’s phone buzzes and he answers. He’s talking to his brother, Chibbi— also a rapper—about when he’ll be picked up. The two engage in conversation for a few moments before Klassified ends his conversation with “Laval,” as if it were custom to end discourse.
The setting soon switches to Klassified’s basement in Fabreville, a district in Laval. Green and High Klassified take seats in chairs as we’re surrounded by red walls, speakers, a laptop, and gym equipment. Chibbi is on a large black sofa in the basement playing video games just a few feet from where they’re sitting, not too far from a large plate of chicken wings—mostly devoured by Green.
While some rappers may discuss the lack of unity between Montreal rappers on the island, there’s seemingly far more togetherness on the northern island of Laval, which was once seen as a corny land with virtually no street cred. Now, one can now purchase “LVL ou Rien” apparel at streetwear boutiques such as Off The Hook.
The slogan “LVL ou Rien” was supposed to be a sarcastic and funny statement from Klassified, before Chibbi loved it and it soon took off, and a brand, hashtag, clothing apparel, and movement was born.
“We made it hot,” Green Hypnotic said bluntly.
Unlike Montreal, however, Laval doesn’t have a popular club where rappers can congregate and enjoy themselves, which explains why bars and clubs in Montreal are often the scene for Laval rappers—although Centropolis is a spot you can go if you want to be fancy. However, Laval has another alternative.
“We make house parties,” said High Klassified. “Everything happens in my basement.”
Klassified has played host to parties in his basement on numerous occasions. He reminisced on a time when Laval taxis “cashed out” by driving around most of his party goers, some from Montreal, to another time where people danced and gyrated on white walls at another party, to the point that body sweat and colour of people’s jeans dirtied and stained them by night’s end.
While Laval doesn’t possess as many venues as Montreal, and the two will still hold parties in there, they acknowledge there’s a certain magic in the parties they take part in their home city, a place that they will represent above all else.
“People from Montreal want to come down to Laval and feel the chill vibes,” High Klassified said. “Laval is about good vibes.”
Video by Elysia-Marie Campbell