This week in the Future of Ottawa series, we’re taking a deep dive into four of Ottawa’s most unique music communities—what they’re like now and where things are heading. Read on for a guest post from Kevin Bourne on the future of hip hop in Ottawa, or read Ed Lister on jazz, Carissa Klopoushak on classical music, or Adriana Ciccone on experimental music.
Kevin Bourne, aka KB The Boss, is an Ottawa-based music journalist and media personality, CEO of SHIFTER Agency, and editor-in-chief of SHIFTER Magazine. Bourne is currently host of CBC Ottawa’s digital series “In The Loop” and is a board member for the Ottawa Film Office.
Apt613: What is the current landscape for hip-hop in Ottawa?
Kevin Bourne: There’s a lot of optimism in the local hip-hop community. There was a time when a lot of local artists felt depressed being in Ottawa and felt like they needed to leave the city in order to make it, but most artists I talk to don’t feel like they need to leave anymore. A lot of the more commercial media outlets in the city are covering local hip-hop, including commercial radio stations and web/print media. There are opportunities for exposure within the city that weren’t there a few years ago. Most people I talk to in the local hip-hop scene feel like the city is a few years away from major industry recognition. Something is definitely bubbling. There are acts like Night Lovell, SVLM, TwoTiime, FTG, City Fidelia, Hueso, and more, who have great potential. To find their work, follow them on social media, YouTube and streaming platforms and you’ll stay up-to-date on their work.
If you care to make a prediction… Where is local hip-hop going in 2021?
Every year in recent years has been a big year for local hip-hop in some way. I think we’re going to see a lot more collaborations between artists in 2021, which is very important in building a local scene. I also predict there’s going to be a bigger separation between those who want to do music on a serious and more professional level and those who think they’re doing it on a professional level but are really doing it as a hobby. As we get more industry infrastructure and the top artists keep making better music, the bar is going to be raised, which will be good for some artists but no so good for others. Some people in the scene, whether artists or businesses, have learned how to have a big year without shows. They got more creative. The ones that stay creative and think outside the box will have a big year.
Where in your wildest dreams could Ottawa hip-hop go in your lifetime?
I think we can be on the level of a Toronto or Atlanta. We’re a lot smaller, but the concentration of talent in this smaller city is ridiculous. In the coming years, I foresee greater connections between Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal. That whole corridor is untapped. Once the wave coming out of the South runs its course, the North is going to be the next place driving the sound and culture of hip-hop. Ottawa can be a part of that. We’ll definitely have a few artists who will be household names. I would love to see at least five local artists make it big and actually stay here or maintain connections here. I’d love to see a bunch of rappers living in Rockcliffe because they’ve become that successful. I foresee major labels setting up offices here. Ottawa is going to be known across Canada and beyond as a hotbed for talent. Growing up in Toronto, I would’ve never foreseen the run that Toronto is on right now (nobody would’ve) so it’s important for Ottawa to know that if Toronto can do it, we can do it.
What is the best innovation to take place in hip-hop since the pandemic started affecting Ottawa?
It seems kind of obvious, but live streaming and video calling. Not only for performance purposes, but even for doing interviews, having meetings with industry people, or hosting listening parties. I don’t think artists and industry people are fully maximizing the potential of live streaming and video calling.
Who is the future of hip-hop in Ottawa?
I don’t think it’s any one person who is the future of Ottawa hip-hop. It’s a collective thing. Different people advancing the cause and culture on different fronts.
Tell us something you wish somebody told you when you started your career in hip-hop and culture writing.
I wish someone had told me how to commercialize or monetize what I was doing a lot sooner. That’s it. I learned a lot by trial and error and the experience I gained in the process was worth it.
Back in 2015, Apartment613 took a look at the future of Ottawa across several different sectors. In 2021, we’re bringing the series back, asking experts, artists, and community leaders to shed some light on their local field or industry, as it stands now and where they think—or dream—it will go over the next few years. Every week we’ll profile a different cultural sector in Ottawa, leaving no niche unexplored—from social justice to theatre, bars to sports, to the future of the municipality and its natural environs. Keep an eye out for a new batch of posts every Tuesday on Apt613.ca.