4801 Parc. Photo by Damien LeBris
A decade-plus in conception, Hip Hop Café opens its doors this Saturday, March 1, offering a one-stop shop for local and international albums with a side of chilling and grub. I sat down with co-founder and area scene-builder Olivier Brault to find out what it’s all about.
Darcy MacDonald: What are your connections to Montreal’s rap scene?
Olivier Brault: I started the business plan about 10 years ago and since I didn’t have the money to fund the project at the time, I started getting involved in other aspects of Montreal’s hip hop scene. I did street promo for local and international artists, volunteered for the Montreal Hip Hop Festival, Under Pressure, started my own blog with video capsules, managed Monk.e, was responsible for the sponsorships of the WordUP! Battles, did writing for Camuz and was part of the Ghetto Érudit team, on CISM. I stayed busy for all those years on top of my school and my 9 to 5, because I always knew that no matter how much time it would take me, Hip Hop Café would see the light of day.
DM: How did you come up with the idea for Hip Hop Café, and what’s your objective? What’s your vision?
OB: The main objective is simply to promote hip hop, whether to a crowd that already knows what it is or to a new clientele that might be interested in knowing what the deal is. In the beginning, the project was all about CDs. I was tired of going to an HMV and not finding something that was too ‘’underground’’ for them and then going to Taboo Records and not finding something that was too mainstream for them. I wanted something that covers both sides. Over the years, the project got a new twist with the addition of events and vinyls and other products, too.
DM: How about the food and drink element?
OB: Food and drinks are an accessory. Don’t get me wrong, that stuff needs to be good. Music will have a bigger presence, but we’ll also try to also cover the other elements of the culture.
DM: Do you have events planned?
OB: For the moment we only have our guests on March 1st booked. After the opening, we’ll start planning other dates — we’re in discussions with a lot of people about events, so you’ll be hearing about more bookings soon.
DM: Are there examples of similar businesses in other cities?
OB: No. I don’t even think that it exists anywhere in Canada. And that’s the beauty of the thing. We’re in a space where on top of having a new concept to promote the culture, we’re in a lane of our own and we create the rules of it.
DM: What’s your take on the local hip hop scene these days?
OB: Even though ‘’we’re not there yet” in a lot of ways, I would say that the scene in Montreal is satisfying. Both on the anglophone and francophone sides, artists are coming with more and more quality music that starts to get recognition. The business level still needs to be upgraded, but I see that even that aspect is getting worked on. It’s perfect timing for the opening of the Hip Hop Café because the city is bubbling and we’re right on time to promote the good things coming out of it. ■
Hip Hop Café (4801 Parc) launches with DJ sets by Mark the Magnanimous and Dr. Mad plus an appearance by Dead Obies on Saturday, March 1, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., free