Featuring local beatmakers and prominent Montreal hip hop community figures, the second edition of Rap Slang Democracy was a healthy and at times humorous brainstorming session revolving around the challenges and issues that impact the local scene.
Hosted by Mario Fuentes, who goes by the stage name Markings, the panel included local radio-host and DJ Don Smooth, producer and journalist Scott C., legendary hip-hop promoter Ricky D, co-founder of Artbeat Montreal Sev Dee and filmmaker Aisha Cariotte Vertus, among others.
Unlike it’s predecessor, the second edition of Rap Slang Democracy focused more on the inner workings of the scene and moved away from the lyrics. Much of the discussion was centered on the different barriers local artists have to deal with, the constant evolution of the Montreal scene and the undeniable influence of the Internet on the genre.
“Music hasn’t really changed in the past 10 years, it pretty much is what it always was,” said Scott C. “What’s different is the way that we listen to it, the way we digest it and the way we make it, and that changes everything.”
Smooth explained that much of the reason hip-hop in Montreal wasn’t picked up by FM radio the way it was in Toronto was because of the obvious language barrier. He also alluded to a generational gap that’s been influential in the slow development of the genre.
“What’s unfortunate about Montreal is that the ‘powers that be’ are kind of really behind times, they’re really stagnated,” said Smooth. “They don’t realize that hip-hop music is the music of today.”
As stated on their website, Artbeat Montreal “sets itself as the cornerstone in the establishment of a superior quality and new variety of Artistic Works.”
“It was a deliberate plan to galvanize urban youth and the hip-hop community and to use a medium which we know as art,” said Dee about the project.
Artbeat Montreal is where the Piu Piu movement originated from and it’s what Vertus is reporting on in the documentary she is co-directing.
Piu Piu is a community of local beat makers that experiment with different sounds. The music that is produced transcends language barriers and is highly influenced by hip-hop; it’s an integral part of the local scene.
“I’m not a die-hard fan of Rap music; the lyrics don’t always mean much to me,” said Vertus.
“I prefer instrumentals, the beat will speak to me. These guys are saying something so why not explain it.”
The 20 year-old documentary filmmaker shared with the audience her passion for music and how it drove her to document the movement in PIU PIU.
Panelists explained what inspired each one of them to do their work and stay involved in the hip-hop scene during these times of change prompted by the Internet. But the major concern that was addressed was accessibility and abundance factors vs. quality of work.
“Too much choice isn’t a good thing,” said the legendary Ricky D. “What we need now is a little bit more structure, if it’s too wide open then the guys or girls that are supposed to get their shot end up not getting their shot because people’s attention is very limited,” he said. “They listen for a second and they’re out in a minute.”
Yassin Alsalman, who also goes by The Narcicyst, moderated last February’s discussion and was also on this edition’s panel. Alsalman put forth the idea that accessibility and visibility isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but a new challenge that artists face.
“The game is harder now, because everyone is on the field,” said Yassin. “Everybody can be on the field, there are no spectators anymore. It’s all about learning the new, and rolling with the punches.”