Ottawa hip hop group Poetic Elements will be releasing their first EP this week. I had a chance to chat with the guys about the route to performing and recording hip hop here in our city.
The story of Poetic Elements begins back in 2006, when Khaleefa ApollotheChild Hamdan and Curtis Masai Nyarko were in high school. Masai was already in a rap duo and Apollo was writing poetry at the time. At Apollo’s request, Masai taught him to rap. The two of them grew together and they began putting out bad music.
Reacting to constructive criticism, the two spent the next year and a half working on improving their skills and learning to use the studio equipment they had purchased. It was during this time that Masai also began making beats.
In 2010, Masai began going to school and Apollo decided to begin work on a solo project. He also began writing spoken word poetry and competing seriously in poetry slams – even competing on the national team at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in 2012.
Masai soon realized that giving up on making music to go to school wasn’t in the cards just then and left college. Apollo continued to compete in slams, but put aside his solo album to continue making music with Masai.
At the beginning of 2013, they began putting together an EP, recording tracks in Masai’s basement. and by that summer, they began putting on live shows – something they had absolutely no experience doing.
It was then that they realized they needed someone more skilled in that area and began working with Brian Prophet-One Blaine. Prophet brought his own live element to the group, playing the drum machine live at shows. The duo became a trio. For having worked together for just shy of a year, the three have great chemistry – something that really shows when they are on stage – playing off each other’s strengths to produce the best possible results. When they recognized that Prophet was much better at mixing and mastering tracks, the guys went back and re-recorded everything that they had already put together for their EP and continued recording with Prophet.
The EP, entitled Diamond Life, after the beat that served as catalyst to its creation, is an ode to where they are at in life. Everyday life – that’s what the whole EP is about.
“There are a lot of pressures in life”, says Apollo, “especially when you leave school to make art. It’s one thing to make music that you like, but you want to be able to make music that people feel. Pressure can break pipes, but it can also make diamonds, and that’s why that track, as well as the EP, is called Diamond Life”.
The whole EP has a certain flow to it. Originally a seven track project, one track was dropped because it didn’t fit well with the feel of the album. All the beats for the album are produced by Masai, with the exception of one track co-produced by Masai and Prophet and another produced by Prophet, entitled “Crimes”. A man of many talents, Prophet also plays the electric piano, bass, and guitar that you hear in “Crimes” himself.
With their EP recorded, Poetic Elements are thrilled to be hosting their EP release party at the Daily Grind, (601 Somerset St. W.) in Chinatown, this Thursday May 22nd. With two well-received shows at the Daily Grind as a part of Colour and Sound, a monthly music and art showcase hosted by Fly on the Waltz, the space was their first choice of venue.
The free event begins at 9:30pm and Poetic Elements will be performing alongside some other great hip hop talent from Ottawa: Atherton, Hyf GypsySun, and Nakiem. DJ 2Creamz will be djing the party. Come by the Grind for what is sure to be an awesome night!
Poetic Elements will also be at June’s edition of Colour and Sound, being held at Fall Down Gallery. Additionally, Prophet will be a part of the beat battle, put on by the Ottawa Battle League (OBL), at Ritual on June 13th. To learn more about Poetic Elements, and to hear some of their stuff, you can check them out on Soundcloud, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.