The Snow Bowl
This Ain’t Hollywood 345 James Street North
Yo homeys, whatup! Don’t mind me as I attempt to incorporate some hip hop slang into this entry. Emphasis on attempt. For Kristin and I, this was our first foray into Hamilton’s hip hop scene. It was certainly a change of pace for us after many shows filled with rock music and pretty acoustic tunes from some of our dear Tour friends and fantastic local musicians. I was first introduced to Canadian Winter by Kristin who heard they’d be playing at the Snow Bowl at This Ain’t Hollywood, putting a musical twist on Super Bowl weekend. After taking a listen to some of their tunes, we knew we had to check them out and we didn’t have to wait long, just until February. Named 2011 HMA Hip-Hop Recording Artist Of The Year, Canadian Winter’s debut album, “Just Wait Until February,” chronicles Kobi’s move from the UK to Canada and his experiences in this great city. How fitting for them to be playing a show a year later, no less in February, to celebrate this success. We’d joked with them a week prior about it being a true Canadian Winter due to the amount of snow we’d gotten!
Seeing as this was our first ever hip hop show, a lot of preparation went into getting ready! Kristin and I spent the days leading up to the show contemplating outfit ideas, wanting to embody a fusion of Canadian winter and hip hop. I also spent some time prepping musically, taking in the tunes of Drizzy (Drake), Weezy (Lil Wayne), M.I.A., Jay-Z, Kanye West and kicking it back old school with some Gil Scott-Heron and Digable Planets. In the end, we settled for leather jackets and winter accessories, perhaps more rockstar than gangsta, but hey, as Beyonce once proclaimed, “Diva is a female version of a hustla.” Haha true dat. Dressed to the nines, Kristin and I, as Homie K and A.V.I. (Articulate, Vivacious, Intriguing – shoutout to my friend Duncan for his help!) headed to the Hammer to get our swagga on. Holla at your girls!
We made our way towards our favourite spot at This Ain’t Hollywood by the infamous red lampshade (we’ve frequented This Ain’t enough to have chosen our fave spot), only to find the space occupied by Gunner (Jamie Smith) who was was broadcasting his show, Faster and Louder/Live to Air from This Ain’t Hollywood. It’s always nice to catch up with friends and we spent some time before the show chatting it up. We also had a chance to speak with Lou Molinaro, owner of This Ain’t Hollywood, who took us ‘backstage’ later on in the evening and introduced us to the guys of Canadian Winter, who were chillin’, waiting to hit the stage. Comprised of Kobi on vocals, DJ Johnny Fever on the decks, and Kojo B. Chintoh on percussion, the guys of Canadian Winter are so friendly, down to earth and chill, and it was fun watching the friendly banter between them. As we explained the story behind our Tour and February being Breakfast Month, the crew began to list off breakfast places in the city and the two of us quickly noted the many fine sandwich establishments in Hamilton! Looks like we’ve got another Tour theme on our hands.
First up on stage were Hamilton Hi-Cats who split up into two groups to open and close the show. The Hi-Cats, featuring Lotty, ARC, Dose, RashDon, Mitchell Heaton and Stealth Elementz, brought their game and most certainly hit hard. During a break, they got the crowd in on some entertaining call and response of “I say hip, you say hop!” and “I say Steel, you say City!” Kristin and I got in on the action, joining in as the audience belted out their love for the city. One love, homeys, one love. Take a listen to “Bring It Back,” “I Don’t Wanna Move” and “Get Lifted” (sampling John Legend’s “Get Lifted”) to get a taste of what these cats are all about.
The Phorce came out full force and brought their hip hop game to the stage. I loved the smooth R&B vocals from John Dailey which added to the sick rhymes by Flash Jenkins and Michael ‘Dex’ Brown who rapped like it was nobody’s business. Their first single, “She’s Bad,” has a great old school vibe to it, reminding me of groovy rap anthem “Put Your Hands Up” by Fatman Scoop, and will have you dancing along in no time. I can totally imagine a break dance competition taking place with this song in the background! Watching the three of them, you could sense a unity in their group, embodying what The Phorce represents which, according to Dex, is “the unity of strength, power, and creativity we bring toward our music…” With a debut album dropping soon, trust me when I say that these guys are going places.
It was time for Canadian Winter to get the show on the road and boy did they give us a show! The guys of Canadian Winter have got such a great dynamic to them and it was neat watching them play off one another. Frontman Kobi brought so much energy to the stage, hyping the crowd and checking in to make sure we were alright. Also, accents make everything better, as did Kobi’s British accent. Kojo brought some subtle yet effective beats on percussion and DJ Johnny laid down some sweet tracks and looked like he was having a blast. Singer Bonnie Hamilton joined them on stage, lending her sweet vocals to “Ooh La La, Ah Oui Oui,” yet again a full circle moment! Paris, French, France meets hip hop in Hamilton, what could be better?? Kristin and I were excited to hear some of our favourite tunes, including “Get The Show On The Road,” “City Lights” and “You Know What You Are.” One thing I loved was their jazzy sound, evident in their first track which starts off with a bang and features one smooth saxophone run that you can’t help but hum along to. Towards the end, they were joined on stage by Lee Reed to bust out some rhymes about life in the city.
As the night went on, I found myself joining the audience in dancing along and getting into the groove. It wasn’t hard to look around and take in the crowd. I know I’ve spoken about the sense of community in Hamilton a few times, but this was further emphasized at this show. Watching everyone get in the groove, heads bobbing in sync and taking in the slick rhymes and beats made me understand the appreciation for hip hop sounds. Unlike some mainstream acts, these three hip hop groups had an authentic, raw sound and messages which they conveyed ever so mellifluously. At one point, a few people started breaking it down, showing off their best dance moves.
So all in all, this was most def a successful foray into Hamilton’s hip hop scene. I can’t wait to delve further into Hamilton’s hip hop scene in the future and experience what Hammer’s finest have to offer to the hip hop game.