Founder of Urban Science and #LECYPHER hosted two-year anniversary event
If you’ve ever wondered where to hear live hip-hop music in Montreal, #LECYPHER is your answer. Hosted by the collective Montreal hip-hop band Urban Science, #LECYPHER is a live hip-hop jam session that happens every Thursday night at Bleury Bar à Vinyle.
Musicians and emcee’s gather to play hip-hop as a collective. It is the first and only live hip-hop jam of its kind in Montreal. #LECYPHER celebrated its two-year anniversary on Oct. 6 by hosting a tribute to legendary live hip-hop group, The Roots. The event was hosted by #LECYPHER’s founder, Vincent Stephen-Ong, who is also the saxophone and keys player for Urban Science. Milla Thyme, a Concordia student majoring in music and one of the emcee’s of Urban Science, opened the event by performing songs from his new EP album, Eternally the Student. It’s the first time he has released material as a solo artist, and he wrote all the music on this album, he said. His hip-hop, jazz and funk vibe got the whole audience captivated from beginning to end. Mark the Magnanimous, one of the founders of ArtBeat Montreal was the DJ of the night. There were also delicious chinese BBQ wraps offered by Brothers Ku of Restaurant Dobe & Andy.
Urban Science began its journey when its founder, Stephen-Ong, visited New York City in 2013 for a gig with the hip-hop group Nomadic Massive. While there, Stephen-Ong, along with Nomadic Massive, went to see the former guitarist of Kalmunity, Jordan Peters, perform at a Thursday night jam session called The Lesson—where top musicians perform pure hip-hop every week. “A few months later, I went back to The Lesson and brought my horn,” said Stephen-Ong. “I got the chance to perform on stage and I jammed. There was nothing like that in Montreal.”
In June 2014, Stephen-Ong decided to bring the idea of a live hip-hop collective to Montreal. He had started to ask himself, “What if I got some people together and did a private jam session?” With ideas for a guided improvisation hip-hop band, he gathered a few musicians together, contacted some venues and eventually got a spot at Le Belmont—Urban Science was born.
Still, Stephen-Ong said he felt there was a lack of a regular hip-hop event in the city. “If you were a hip-hopper in Montreal, there wasn’t a jam session in town that happened regularly. If you were a instrumentalist that plays hip-hop, forget about it, there was nowhere to go. I created #LECYPHER nights because there was a void to fill,” said Stephen-Ong. Urban Science moved from Le Belmont to it’s current location, a smaller venue called Bleury Bar à Vinyle, where they started #LECYPHER nights.
The goal of the #LECYPHER is to specialize in hip-hop music professionally. People might mistake the event for a funky jam, but Stephen-Ong made it clear that it is purely hip-hop.”You can’t go up and play a random funky thing. There’s a language, a sound, an aesthetic to hip-hop that must be respected,” said Stephen-Ong. It’s a jam session, but Urban Science wants to keep the quality level of performances high.
#LECYPHER is not to be mistaken with an open mic event. “This is a collaborative jam session. You need to play along with the band and listen to what’s going on musically. It’s in the nature of the event to collaborate—it’s a hip-hop community,” said Stephen-Ong.
Urban Science rotates between 20 different members. On any given Thursday, there will be regulars and newcomers playing together. Sometimes there are guest hosts or well-known hip-hop artists. “I think Montreal has top-notch talent.That is why we have a 20 piece crew, so we can keep our local nights and do more projects as well,” said Stephen-Ong.
Urban Science has also played at The Montreal International Jazz Festival in 2015 and 2016. The band has even welcomed the reggae hip-hop group Les R’tardataires, from Belgium, to their #LECYPHER nights. “A lot of people from the local music scene know about us so, when international artists come to Montreal, they hear about #LECYPHER,” said Stephen-Ong.
Urban Science is also working on a new project, called Urban Science Brass Band, which will be a New Orleans-style marching band that will be jamming to Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar and Dr. Dre with trombones and tubas. “We have emcees on mega phones that are rapping while we walk. We did Montreal’s first ever hip-hop parade,” said Stephen-Ong. Urban Science is known for their live jam sessions but they want to be known for their original songs too. “We would like to make a document of our original music,” said Stephen-Ong. Urban Science will also continue to perform for The Rap Battles for Social Justice and have a few upcoming battles scheduled.
Keep in touch with Urban Science on social media for details about their upcoming events.