Hear your fave ’90s R&B jamz live

The third edition of Real Love unites a fine crew of local musicians and vocalists in a common cause: to bring babymaking party music back to the stage.

The promo video for Real Love 3
Most of us never got to see our ’90s R&B heroes live, at least not in their prime. Local artist Nik Brovkin (aka Over the Breaks) — who emigrated from St. Petersburg, Russia, in the mid ’90s — missed out on that scene entirely, but caught up over time, out of love for this particular brand of babymaking party music . Last June, he and Waahli Yussef from Nomadic Massive launched an event that would bring the super sounds of the ’90s back to the stage: Real Love, now pulling up to its third edition at le Belmont this weekend.

Gaya Sanya Michel Elie at Real Love 2. Photo by Mariel Rosenbluth
Gaya Sanya Michel Elie at Real Love 2. Photo by Mariel Rosenbluth

“I started noticing, in the same way that fashion styles come back every 20 years or so, R&B was coming back,” Brovkin says. “Younger producers in their early 20s, like Kaytranada and whatnot, started doing remixes of ’90s songs, and I saw that there was a lot of potential, a lot of people who are super into the ’90s and dying to see an R&B show — a live show with music that you can actually party and dance to.”

Back in 2010, Yussef hired Brovkin to design posters for Hip Hop Revival, a series of events with a similar structure and mandate to that of Real Love.

“I grew up listening to hip hop in the golden era: 1990 to 1997,” Yussef says, explaining that his love of the originals didn’t sway his event in the direction of wedding-band-style imitation or canned karaoke music. “With Hip Hop Revival, the goal wasn’t for the songs to sound too much like covers, but have top quality musicians and MCs flip it in their own style — change the lyrics, change the music, make it their own.”

“I was a fan of all the musicians that we were working with on Hip Hop Revival,” Brovkin adds, “and I was dying to hear some of my favourite R&B, but done by them and with their own take on it.”

Kenlo Craqnuques at Real Love 1. Photo by Mariel Rosenbluth.
Kenlo Craqnuques at Real Love 1. Photo by Mariel Rosenbluth.

Many of the musicians who’ve played the previous two editions of Real Love and will take the stage again this weekend are either members of Nomadic Massive or the Kalmunity collective. Real Love 3’s vocalists are Sam-I-Am, Sarah MK, Meryem Saci with Alan Prater and Lou Piensa with Butta Beats, while the band features guitarist Christopher Cargnello, keyboardist Zach Frampton, bassist  Mark Haynes and drummer Anthony Pageot. The line-up has changed somewhat between editions but there’s also a fair amount of continuity, whereas the set-list is completely new. You’ll never hear the same song twice.

“It’s a lot of research and a lot of work, but the people who are part of the team are doing it because they love the music from that era,” Yussef says. “They’re really good musicians and they understand the loop, and they’re able to identify when you have to do things like detune the bass to get the right sound. They understand hip hop and R&B.”

“We were looking for people where you can feel that they grew up in the ’90s in their stage presence,” says Brovkin of the selection process for the vocalists. “Everything about Real Love, including the name, the graphics, the outfits worn on stage, I wanted it to really hit the spot.” ■
Real Love 3, with an opening set by DJ Lexis and Maridee Nox, happens at le Belmont (4483 St-Laurent) on Saturday, April 12, 10:30 p.m., $10