Grafitti art under Dunbar Bridge as part of the 2013 House of PainT Festival © Photo courtesy of House of PainT
Ottawa’s hip hop community joined forces over the past 5 days in celebration of House of PainT‘s 10-year anniversary. The annual community festival, which brings together the 4 elements of hip-hop culture, celebrated its tenth year from September 11 to September 15 with a solid programming that had something for everyone.
This year’s edition kicked off at Babylon Nightclub with the Ottawa Grand 500 Poetry Slam which saw spoken word artist Sir Realist take the winning title against some of the city’s best poets. It was the second year that spoken word was included on the House of PainT (HoP) lineup and it proved to be another successful event demonstrating that Ottawa’s poetry scene is certainly alive and well.
The festival built momentum on Thursday, September 12 with Basement Raps and the Good Look Graphic Art Show and Musique Globale, two important events means to showcase local and national artists hailing from the hip hop music and arts scenes.
Since both events were being held simultaneously at different locations, Eventful Capital attended Basement Raps conveniently held in the lounge at Ritual. The intimate in-your-face MC Showcase featured performances by local hip-hop artists Homebased, Missing LinX, Cashtro, City Fidelia, and by Eternia and DL Incognito who both have roots in Ottawa. Although only a small crowd showed up for the event, people were receptive and supportive of the music being presented.
The Thursday night event started behind schedule with Homebased opening the show with a short set meant to warm up the crowd. The trio, who’s performed at HoP in the past, delivered material from their debut album Get Busy including the track All I Know as they encouraged those in attendance to participate.
Following Homebased, Missing LinX took to the stage with their unique mix of hip-hop and poetry. The group, comprised of spoken word artists and MCs Cannon2x, Hyfidelik the GypsySun, PrufRock Shadowrunner and JustJamaal, delivered an energetic set on top of being poetic. Although JustJamaal was absent, each member was engaging and together they showed that they share the best group synergy in town. They performed tracks from the album R.I.P. Charlie including How To Make A Gee reminding us that a good life and future is not promised. Missing LinX is a definite force to be reckoned with in Ottawa and beyond local borders.
Cashtro, a seasoned member of the local hip-hop scene, was up next on stage. The Pittsburgh native spit some old and new material, maintaining the crowd’s attention with his imposing stage presence after which City Fidelia followed with a short but passionate set.
Soon after, hype man Mic Check introduced Canada’s dopest female MC Eternia who did her thing and literally took over the lounge as she rapped from the bar engaging the audience to ensure maximum crowd participation. She wouldn’t have it any other way and made sure everyone was having a good time as she performed the tracks Final Offering, One Love, and the new Love Means featured on Shad’s upcoming album Flying Colors.
To close off the night, headliner DL Incognito performed live following a notable absence from the local scene. For the occasion, the Ottawa native was accompanied by his loyal Nine Planets Hip Hop affiliates Mic Check and Tech Twelve. DL opened his set with Universal Love after which he performed Atmosphere and the popular Audio Coke to which everyone rapped along. He continued with new material from Someday Is Less Than A Second Away including Super, Admiration, and Days Gone. It was certainly nice to see this veteran of the local hip hop scene represent the 613 and encourage the movement’s continuity.
HoP maintained the momentum on Friday, September 13 with the Soundclash concert under the bridge at Brewer Park. The lineup for the night featured live performances by Babylon Warchild, D-Track, the Narcicyst featuring Meryem Saci of Nomadic Massive, Zaki Ibrahim, Big Daddy Kane and Afrika Bambaataa.
Eventful Capital arrived just in time to catch the Narcicyst‘s performance. The Montreal-based Middle-Eastern rapper delivered a solid set featuring the tracks Color Blind, a powerful duo with Meryem Saci, and the thought-provoking Fly Over Egypt.
Soon after, it was time for Zaki Ibrahim to take the stage. The South African-Canadian singer-songwriter born in BC performed live in Ottawa in support of HoP and in an effort to promote her first full-length album Every Opposite, which is currently shortlisted for the 2013 Polaris Music Prize. Right from the start, the artist captivated the audience with her soulful voice and RnB sound. Accompanied by two vocalists, Ibrahim’s mise-en-scène included intriguing choreographed sequences as she performed songs from Every Opposite including the beautiful Everything and Something In the Water. She seemed happy to be performing for Ottawa’s hip hop community mentioning how it was “nice to be a part of this”.
Zaki Ibrahim then made way for the legendary Big Daddy Kane who immediately jumped into his set to the delight of festival-goers. By then, an impressive crowd had formed under Dunbar bridge, a clear indication that people didn’t want to miss the rare opportunity to see this hip hop pioneer perform live in Ottawa. The 45-year old Grammy-Award winning rapper from Brooklyn, NY who’s considered one of the greatest MCs of the golden age of hip hop , opened his set with Daddy’s Home followed by Young, Gifted and Black, and Raw. Kane carried on with the popular hit Ain’t No Half Steppin’ and he concluded his set with Warm It Up, Kane stating that he considered it an “honor to share the same stage as Afrika Bambaataa“.
Big Daddy Kane performing live under Dunbar Bridge as part of the 2013 House of PainT Festival © Photo courtesy of House of PainT
The American DJ from South Bronx, NY, who significantly contributed to the development of hip-hop culture, was the ideal figure to have to celebrate the importance of Ottawa’s hip hop community on the 10th anniversary of HoP. Joined on stage by an MC/Hype Man, the father of the Zulu Nation gave Ottawa hip hop fans a solid DJ set containing lots of old school tunes mixed with some newer material that kept everyone dancing. The good vibrations felt under the bridge at that very moment perfectly defined what HoP is all about: an inclusive community gathering that connects anyone and everyone who loves hip hop culture and embraces its way of life.
That very feeling was maintained throughout Saturday as the Main Event took place under Dunbar Bridge. As always, the main event showcases the 4 pillars of hip hop culture and while graffiti artists covered the surrounding concrete walls with impressive art, DJs Shub, Illo and Magnificent provided the beats for the perfect soundtrack.
The spotlight was primarily on the bboys and bbgirls however who brought their heart and soul onto the dancefloor for some serious breakdancing battles. As crews battled against one another round after round, only 4 teams remained standing for the semi-finals towards the end of the evening. Before the final round, audience members got the chance to witness a breakdancing demonstration by some of the original Canadian Floor Masters, Canada’s oldest performing bboy crew. It was inspiring to see men well into their 50s still getting down in style on the dancefloor.
A bboy battles during the Main Event on the occasion of House of PainT’s 10-year anniversary. © Photo courtesy of House of PainT
A passionate finale between GWS and F.A.M. ensued and Ottawa’s own Souljazz Orchestra provided a live bboy anthem mashup for the occasion. The group’s lively set started off with Let Me Clear My Throat by DJ Kool and it continued with Mother Popcorn by James Brown, Don’t Sweat The Technique by Eric B and Rakim, and Organ Donor by DJ Shadow just to name a few. The jury ultimately gave the winning title to Yukon’s GWS for a much-deserved battle as the crowd cheered and applauded the crews for a job well done.
The Souljazz Orchestra concluded the night with a performance of original material, but unfortunately many people left after the breakdance battles instead of sticking around for the live music. Perhaps the group would’ve attracted a larger audience had they played at Babylon or the Mercury Lounge, but it was definitely refreshing to see them outside of the regular concert venue.
The final day of the 2013 edition of House of PainT was dedicated to knowledge-based presentations and panel discussions by key players of the hip hop scene including a keynote by none other than Afrika Bambaataa.
The 5 days of House of PainT were very well-attended and organizers certainly put together a rich and diverse programming accessible for all in celebration of the festival’s 10th birthday. It goes without saying that there’s room for improvement with regards to certain aspects of the festival’s organization, like punctuality, but this didn’t deter from the overall look and feel. If House of PainT isn’t proof that the National Capital’s hip hop community is thriving then what is? One thing’s for sure: the annual festival has confirmed its presence as an essential part of Ottawa’s cultural scene and as a pivotal player in keeping our city’s hip hop culture alive.