It started out as the ambition of an eager 18-year-old with a business plan. Armed with an entrepreneurial spirit, Olivier Brault, now 27, along with long-time friend and administrative manager Damien Le Bris, is finally seeing his dream come to fruition with the opening of the Hip Hop Cafe on March 1. The cafe will combine the cozy atmosphere of a coffee shop, with the thrill of digging for vintage records and albums.
“In the beginning, it was more about record stores,” said Brault, president and founder of the cafe. “I was tired of going to HMV and not finding what I wanted because it was considered too ‘underground,’ then going to an underground spot and not finding something that was more mainstream.”
Wanting to bridge the divide between Anglo and Franco music scenes, Brault considered several other Montreal locations before finally settling on Parc Ave. and Villeneuve St. in the Mile End area of the city.
“I was hoping to be in the middle,” he explained.
After working for different sides of Montreal’s cultural scene for almost a decade (he previously managed local graffiti artist MONK.E and also used to write for Camuz), he acquired a multitude of contacts to actually fill the “merch” section of the cafe, allowing him to bring in vinyls, CDs, books and T-shirts from other parts of Canada, the United States and France.
The selection of roughly 200 CDs and more than 100 vinyls, both vintage and new, will range from old school rap, to jazz and funk, genres that Brault says are precursors to hip hop itself.
“If you specialize in a genre, you need to have as much variety as possible,” said Brault.
Despite having a greater knowledge in hip hop culture than in other genres like jazz, Brault does not want to limit himself to playing solely one type of music, explaining the importance of catering to a wide variety of musical tastes.
Instead of traditionally dividing the vinyl and CD section by sub-genre or place of origin, Brault decided to place them all together then categorize them alphabetically so that customers will have to dig through the merchandise and get a complete feel of what they have to offer.
“To me, it’s important to mix everything,” he explained.
Along with serving up coffee and a rare selection of records, Hip Hop Cafe will also be a place where local and outside artists, DJs and musicians can come and display or perform their material. But since the cafe will be situated in a somewhat residential area, the cafe is not allowed to host any actual ‘shows’ that require extra amplification due to the high noise levels that would go along with them.
Brault has enlisted the help of Montreal franco rap group Dead Obies along with other artists to kick off the opening day with a bang.
“I think it’ll work well in Montreal because we have so many different hip hop heads from different background,” he said. “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”
Hip Hop Cafe officially opens its doors at 10 a.m March 1 and is located at 4801 Parc Ave.