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Nigerian-born, Ottawa-based rapper Apollo Rae. Photo: Yousef Abdel Rahman.

First-ever CRANIUM Festival hip-hops through the capital—11.14.19 to 11.16.19

By Joshua Soucie on November 11, 2019





City Fidelia, Aspects, Lia Kloud, Apollo Rae, Just Jamaal and more hip hop artists will perform at the first-ever CRANIUM music festival in Ottawa.

Government town might just be less vanilla than many of us once thought, what with Ottawa’s first hip hop music festival taking place from Thursday, November 14, to Saturday, November 16.

The Capital Region Association for Nurturing the Industry of Urban Music, otherwise known as CRANIUM, will be hosting a three-day music festival in the heart of Ottawa. Justin Gunderson is one of the festival organizers as well as a radio host on CHUO 89.1 FM. Gunderson says he and audio engineer Michael Kirton were approached by House of Paint’s previous general manager, Patrick McCormack, to organize an urban music festival.

“We sat down, put our heads together, and it kind of grew from there,” says Gunderson. “Now we have this vision of a festival that’s really here to be a platform for local artists and, at the same time, help them reach out to a broader community.”

There are no music festivals that look out specifically for the urban community here.

As a hip hop artist himself, Gunderson says he and his co-organizers felt that there was a lack of infrastructure for musicians to get the support they needed, especially with regards to hip hop: “There are no music festivals that look out specifically for the urban community here or are put on just for the urban community. There is definitely something that we knew we could tap into and sort of be the voice for the artists that are growing here.”

Gunderson says that, prior to getting involved with CRANIUM, he had not foreseen himself organizing a festival though admits that “it’s good to see that people are excited about it, and it definitely gives you some more pride in what you’re doing, right? The fact that you can help out artists.”

The festival will see artists such as DSTNY (Canadian hip hop artist Tory Lanez’s sister) perform in popular venues within the downtown core, like Kinki, Queen St. Fare, and Babylon Nightclub. Another such artist is Ottawa’s own Luigi Fidelia who is known to his fans as City Fidelia.

Fidelia, who will be at Babylon Nightclub on Saturday, November 16, says he will be performing his first full-length LP record, PainKiller, as well as a couple “oldies” for the CRANIUM Festival goers.

Ottawa’s City Fidelia. Photo provided by CRANIUM.

Montreal-born and Ottawa-raised, Fidelia says he came back to Ottawa after spending five years in Toronto so that he could focus on his album in a familiar setting with which he felt connected.

“Basically, the concept of the album is that everybody has their own thing that their going through, and everyone has their own way to numb that pain, whether it’s like drugs, alcohol or even sports—whatever it is,” says Fidelia. “The overall message is that by the time you finish the 36-minute listening session, the album becomes your pain killer and helps you with whatever you’re dealing with.”

I wanted to be a part of the beginning of this.

Fidelia says he could relate to the festival organizers’ enthusiasm and was excited to get involved: “I actually had another show lined up, but I really felt that I wanted to be a part of the beginning of this because I see it growing long-term, and I really want to be a part of that growth.”

Gunderson says the festival organizers are just hoping to see lots of people show up and support the artists.

“The more support we get, it’s going to show how great this is for the community. So next year, when we approach different organizations for grant money, we can show like, ‘Look how great of a turnout it was this year,’” says Gunderson.

The festival will also be hosting keynote speeches, workshops and panel discussions. You can check out the full festival lineup on their website and purchase your tickets to support Ottawa’s budding hip hop scene.

Visit for the complete lineup and schedule.