If you think you know karaoke in Montreal, think again. Whether its college-aged kids getting down to current urban radio staples or a group of mothers dusting off some old-school rhymes, Hip Hop Karaoke has given people from all walks of life to showcase their inner rap star and, for one night a month at Le Belmont, truly live in a communal gangsta’s paradise.
For the uninitiated, here’s a quick skinny on the proceedings. You pick your song ahead of time and register it with the organizing powers-that-be in advance of the particular monthly event. Be prepared to get in some practice time too, because at HHK, you won’t have the safety of lyrics on teleprompters. This may sound daunting, but it’s an exhilarating trade-off. Performers get to experience karaoke not as a drunken slog through a vaguely familiar tune, but as the catalyst for a reverential tribute to the greats of the genre. Throw in a live trivia section, cool giveaways, affordable eats and drinks, and arguably the best party atmosphere the city has to offer, and you’re looking at one hell of a night on the town.
Olivia Benaroche, HHK media liaison and part of the seven-member organizing committee, told me that the consistent success of these events is thanks to their tried-and-true formula that keeps everyone coming back for more. “The HHK goers interact with each other a lot,” she said. “Whether they’re complete strangers or longtime performers, they can experience a sense of community based on nothing other than a common love for music. It’s like a mini music festival of local talent once a month!” For anyone touched by rap music, HHK definitely puts the “U” and “I” in community.
Although HHK is on the upswing now with no sign of slowing down, the story of these epic nights almost had a very unhappy ending. With the event’s original founders going their separate ways in 2011, regulars like Benaroche (who’s also a newly-minted Concordia grad) stepped forward and made sure that Montreal would continue to have glorious nights of hip-hop sing-alongs. “The thing I love most about HHK more than any other aspect is the friendships I’ve made thanks to these monthly events. I’ve gotten to know our performers, regular attendees and Belmont staff, and of course my colleagues, who’ve become my HHK family. I wouldn’t want to let anything this good fade away.”
With all the hype surrounding the upcoming May 16th shindig, the next logical question might what’s next for HHK and its organizing team. While all the decision makers are keeping tight-lipped about any details about future events or surprises, it’s clear that Montrealers can expect to maintain their monthly dose of hip-hop elixir. So what are you waiting for? Head on down to Le Belmont this coming Thursday for some tailfeather-shaking goodness. That way, you can make like Ice Cube and truly say that it was a good day.
As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter @afishcalledmatt for bite-sized comedy!