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The Legacy of Hip Hop Karaoke

There are several kinds of experiences to be had at Fortune Sound Club’s Hip Hop Karaoke (HHK) night – one may involve drunken embarrassment, blanking out on your lyrics and, as HHK Van creator Chad Iverson recalls happening to him, actually splitting your pants. Another experience is that moment of glory as you rap the lyrics to your favourite song with perfect intonation…and the crowd goes wild. Either way, there are good times to be had, and the upcoming Monday, June 23rd HHK will be extra special for a few good reasons.

For starters, this will be the first HHK since the monumental announcement that Fortune Sound Club and Blueprint – two staples of Vancouver night life – will be partnering on an ongoing basis. HHK host DJ Seko anticipates this partnership to “open up more opportunities for out of town guests and bigger parties,” a prediction which will manifest on June 23 as the godfather of Canadian hip-hop Maestro Fresh Wes celebrates the 25th anniversary of his debut album Symphony in Effect as a special guest.

Indeed, the 1989 release of Symphony in Effect was a groundbreaking one. HHK host DJ Flipout recalls, “it was a Canadian rapper who was on par with all the other rap music I was just getting into at the time,” while Maestro himself acknowledges that it was a great template or launching pad for the Canadian hip-hop scene in the late 1980s and early 90s.” Subsequently, Symphony in Effect was the high school and college soundtrack for many established people in the Canadian music industry, and Flipout explains how the album has “remained a part of my life because Maestro has actually become a friend of mine and he’s one of the nicest, gracious, humble and inspiring people I’ve ever met.”

Maestro’s not particularly interested in resting on his laurels nor remaining stagnant in his craft – acting, writing, swearing in Canadian immigrants, judging a Miss Universe pageant and recording with Rich Kidd are just a few of his more current endeavours – but he recognizes that “25 years is a true landmark and should be documented for the integrity of the genre of music.”

From the initial rush of Canada’s first rapper to make a splash on the international rap scene to the revisitation of his accomplishments amid the many rap aficionados who now have the opportunity to hone their skills and have some fun at HHK, it’s clear how far Canadian rap culture has evolved. Having attended a few “really dope” HHK events in the past, Maestro knows what to expect. “I love Vancity,” he says, “I think these events bring back the fun element of the Golden Era of hip-hop . Makes me smile thinking bout somebody doing over a Tribe joint…big up to my peoples GMAN and RIZK for making this happen.”

Maestro showed the world that Canadian hip-hop can be on par with anywhere else, and events like HHK continue to foster the environment where everyone has a shot to get up on stage and display their talent. Be sure to check out HipHopKaraoke June 23 for a wild array of performances, from hot drunk girls to aspiring MCs to hip-hop heads to Maestro himself – and of course, your charismatic hosts Flipout and Seko.

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To get a taste of the HipHopKaraoke life, we asked some of the major HHK players – including creator Chad Iverson, hosts Flipout and Seko, and special guest Maestro Fresh Wes – to share some of their favourite hits and misses from performances past, their karaoke wishes, plus predictions for the Monday, June 23rd event.

What would be your choice of song to rap at HHK?

Maestro: “Nuff Respect” by Big Daddy Kane.

Flipout: “My Philosophy” by Boogie Down Productions

Seko: “Off The Books” by The Beatnuts

Chad: “Secret Wars Pt. 1” by The Last Emperor.

A song you’d like to hear someone else perform but haven’t yet:

Maestro: Probably a Gangstarr or Nice N Smooth joint. The good old days.

Flipout: “Victory” by Puffy, Biggie, Busta.

Seko: “I Wonder” by Kanye West

Chad: “Uncommon Valor” by Jedi Mind Tricks

Worst HHK slaughter you’ve heard:

Flipout: Drunk people who only know the chorus to a song and bring all their friends on stage, use all four mic’s available (leaving me mic-less, therefore powerless) and just yell for 4 and a half minutes. While this is fun for the people involved it’s totally not fun to watch.

Seko: I can’t recall any horrible performances its always just been about fun and the love for hip hop.

Chad: Oh I wouldn’t want to call out the worst slaughter of a track but there’s definitely a bunch! HHK is all about good times and having fun and we don’t put people down or on the spot if they’re blowing it.

Iggy Azalea prediction for next HHK:

Flipout: HHK crowd is on top of it! Iggy’s BEEN been getting rapped.

Seko: We had many girls perform Iggy before from Pu$$y to Fancy. The HHK crowd is really on top of their new rap. But hopefully after her show she inspires more girls to sign up. My prediction will be 4

Chad: I’m guessing at least two requests for Iggy. When rappers/groups come through Vancouver we usually get a request or two to rap their tracks at our night.

What impact has HHK had on the Vancouver scene?

Flipout: It’s given people, fans, aficionados, junkies, connoisseurs, etc. who love hip-hop to literally participate in it, instead of and/or additionally to just getting wasted and rapping along at the club… well, I guess it’s the same thing except we let them do it on stage, with a mic. It’s also given some exposure to aspiring professional MCs and is a good testing ground for your craft, stage presence-wise. Additionally, it takes all the douche out of posturing and posing that some people assume is synonymous with hip-hop. It brings the art and craft of it to the forefront which is what hip-hop is built on. In other words: skills.  

Seko: It has helped people discover their hidden MC talent. It also helps up and coming MCs to showcase their skills and promote themselves. I have been fortunate to break brand new records at the night as well as playing classic favourites and songs by Vancouver’s artist. The night is more than just a regular “club night.” People actually have respect and love for the hip hop culture.

Chad: I believe that HHK has helped spread the knowledge of some groups/MCs that people may have not heard about in the past. It’s a good way to get an idea of what other people are listening to! It has also helped aspiring MCs with their stage presence and mic control too and it’s led some people to pursue rapping who didn’t do it in the past. It’s a fun outlet and I believe it helps keep the hip-hop scene in Vancouver vibrant.

– Amalia Nickel

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