Thanks to Orléans native Devin Atherton and his partner in crime, Hassan Hamdan (also known as Deejay So Nice), Hip Hop Karaoke has come to the capital. An event that brings old school jams, local talent and an on-stage opportunity to give wanna-be hip hoppers the chance to perform in front of a live audience.
"We provide our audience with the unique experience of rocking the mic in front of a crowd – but we don't just stop there," reads the event's website, www.hhkott.com. "Our mission is to create as real of an experience as possible. We provide our participants all that is necessary to make this an authentic live rap encounter: the beats, a hype man, a stage, a wild crowd and even a DJ."
Atherton and Hamdan came up with the idea after hearing about the craze that was sweeping other cities across Canada and even in the UK. Wanting to join the likes of Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver, the pair, that host a radio show together, wanted to put Ottawa on the Hip Hop Karaoke map.
"I fell in love with it," said Atherton after attending a Montreal show. "Just performing, I was like, 'Yes.' We need to do this in Ottawa."
After two months of planning, and dropping his latest album "No Threat" Atherton, along with Hamdan brought the first installment of the Ottawa edition, dubbed HHKOTT, to the capital on June 21, attracting a crowd of over 150 hip hop enthusiasts and reaching capacity at "Mugshots" a new downtown venue. Ottawa's only "haunted jail bar" resides at 75 Nicholas, the site of the old jail, turned hostel.
"The venue itself is really fantastic, which I think had a lot to do with the initial excitement for it," said Atherton who explains that once the cold weather hits in September, the event will be moved to Babylon night club on Bank St. which holds a capacity of 320.
Atherton said he was pleased with the enthusiastic response from the city.
"The media really jumped on it really quickly, for whatever reason people just loved the idea... You always hope for that, but I didn't necessarily expect it. I've just learned over the years having expectations for anything just lets you down."
Rounding out its third installment on August 16, the crowd that has turned up so far has been a diverse one.
"I think the cool thing was the amount of women that came out. Hip hip in general is a pretty male dominated genre. You go to rap shows in the city and the ratio is like 70/30, if that. Often it's more like 80/20 and the girls that are there are usually rapper's girlfriends. So it was really cool to see lots of women out and about, in terms of diversity."
When asked what he thinks makes this kind of performing event, which doesn't allow participants to have a teleprompter like most traditional karaoke events, Atherton said there wasn't just one main attraction.
"There's so many reasons, there isn't just one key ingredient. The fact that they're watching their friends perform, so the audience is the entertainment. The fact that it's a lot more theatrical than your typical karaoke night. People are planning in advance, working on choreography, at times bringing costumes into it. There's also the fact that people are choosing really classic songs to perform, so the whole night you're hearing songs that you know and love for the most part. Everyone's singing along. It's a real community, everyone's on the same level."