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Ottawa Creatives: Khaleefa ApollotheChild Hamdan

By Amanda Armstrong on March 3, 2015

We’re excited to announce a new Apt613 series, Ottawa Creatives, a showcase which will profile the amazing artistic talent found in this fine city. Each month will feature a different group of artists – from our poets, to our illustrators, to our DJs, dancers, and musicians. Tuesdays will feature a new artist who will also be highlighted throughout the week on our Instagram feed. Seeing as Versefest, a celebration of poetry, takes place at the end of this month, we figured it fitting to begin the series profiling some of Ottawa’s poets, starting with Khaleefa ApollotheChild Hamdan – a spoken word poet and hip hop artist.

Inspired by Bone Thugs N Harmony, the first hip hop group he listened to growing up, Khaleefa started writing hip hop verses at the age of 14. When one of the group members went to prison, he sent him letters with his hip hop verses and received letters in return, encouraging him to continue. His love of rap lead him to the discovery of Pete Rock, whose second Soul Survivor album featured a spoken word artist named Black Ice. This was Apollo’s first introduction to spoken word poetry and, right then, he decided he wanted to be a spoken word poet.

The first poem he ever wrote was for his tenth grade crush. An admission of his feelings for her, Apollo gave her the poem on Valentine’s Day. His crush was unimpressed, throwing the poem out in front of him. After fishing it from the trash, Apollo was  spurred to write a poem about that. Nine years later, despite failing to impress the person who first laid eyes on his work, he has gone on to impress many with his poetry.

Khaleefa’s work has been published by McGraw-Hill Ryerson and his poem is taught in schools across the country. He has also taught several poetry workshops in schools around the city, even receiving a grant to do a week-long workshop at Notre Dame High School, with Ottawa poets, Nathaniel Larochette and Ian Keteku. Apollo made the Urban Legends Poetry Team in 2012, edged out of the Team Captain spot by 0.1 point. In 2014, he made the Urban Legends Poetry Team again and, this time, secured the Team Captain spot. In September of 2014, he took over as poetry slam director for Urban Legends, managing and hosting the bimonthly slam nights at Oh So Good in Westboro.

Apollo has also continued to write hip hop verses, with his hip hop group Poetic Elements. He and his group members, Masai and Prophet One, released their first EP, The Diamond Life, in May of 2013. Poetic Elements has performed in many group shows, even performing at House of Paint last year. As if spoken word and hip hop weren’t enough, Apollo also co-hosts a weekly radio show, called The Home Invasion Show. You can catch him, Livin’ Large, and Masai on CKCU from 2am to 6am every Wednesday night.

A true night owl, Apollo does all of his writing after the sun goes down (sometimes working so late that he is still writing when the sun comes up). For him, writing poems and hip hop verses are a bit of a different process. When writing hip hop verses, the instrumental helps guide the writing, creating a feel for the piece. When writing a spoken word poem, the emotion must be conveyed through words alone. Writing hip hop verses is more fun and uninhibited, while writing spoken word poems is more expressive and cathartic. Both are Apollo’s passion.

So what’s next for ApollotheChild? For Khaleefa, it is all about growth and expansion, both as a person and as an artist. He will be travelling to Vancouver at the end of April to represent Urban Legends in the Individual Poetry Slam Competition. The winner of this competition will go on to represent Canada in the world competitions in Paris, France.

He is also on the board for Versefest, a week long literary festival happening at the end of this month. On March 31st, Apollo will be performing at Pressed for an event called Words to Live By. In addition to working on the first full length album with Poetic Elements, Apollo is in the process of publishing a chapbook of poems, entitled Poems for People I used to Know. Apollo is one driven guy and, coupled by his talent, we can be sure to expect great things.

You can find ApollotheChild on Twitter at @apollothechild, @poeticel & @The186Show, as well as on Instagram at @poeticelements & @thehomeinvasionshow. Poetic Elements’ music is available at Soundcloud and you can download their EP at Bandcamp