This year, POP Montreal will feature an odd combination of up-and-coming rappers, offbeat eccentric freestylers, and a sprinkle of well-known giants in the industry.
Despite the small selection of hip-hop artists performing this year, fans are certain to find some memorable sounds worth grinding along to.
The clear headliner is Los Angeles native ScHoolboy Q, whose appearance at POP Montreal is part of his worldwide tour following the release of his hugely successful album Oxymoron, which dropped earlier this year. Heavily influenced by other East Coast rappers, ScHoolboy Q’s rapping style is smooth and heavy on beats, with lyrics centred around traditional ‘gansta rap’ themes. Unlike many other venues, Olympia is charging a high price for ScHoolboy Q’s act—even with the significant student discount—but considering the shows’ overall star power, it is likely to be worth every penny.
On the other side of the coin is Brooklyn resident Soul Khan, whose style veers more towards the underground indie rap scene with a clear motown influence. Soul Khan initially made his name via a highly successful career in battle rap, but decided to retire in order to focus on his music career. His underground sound may be a turn off to fans of heavier rap, but for those familiar with the indie scene, his soft beats and mellow flow may provide the perfect transition into hip hop.
Like Soul Khan, Canada native Def3 also emerged in the underground hip hop scene. However Def3—who will be performing with producer Factor—has an entirely different flow. Merging more with the electronic-rap scene, Def3 mixes fast lyrics with airy backbeats and altered guitar chords to make for more of a lounge sound.
The two Montreal natives in the group are solo rapper Full Course and hip-hop duo Mori$$ Regal x Yerly. Full Course represents more traditional rap, his deep voice and slower performance style reminiscent of Notorious B.I.G. circa Ready to Die. Mori$$ Regal x Yerly certainly show promise, but they are still producing a sound that is affected by inexperience. Despite this, these two Montreal acts—in combination with Def3—should give a memorable performance at TRH Bar.
— Morgan Alexander
If you’ve been to Saint-Laurent’s Apartment 200, you may have seen 19-year-old Alex Fleming somewhere in the crowd—odds are, you didn’t recognize him. Performing at le Belmont under the stage name Black Atlass, Fleming’s music is a sensuous experience. Heavily influenced by R&B, his soundscapes meander effortlessly from hip-hop bass lines to distorted electronics to ethereal soul vocals. If you’re into heavier music that still has a danceable beat, he’s your guy.
Among the many other talents sharing the stage that evening is Prison Garde, a prominent member of the Canadian underground electronic music scene. Although both Prison Garde and Black Atlass fall under the electronic music banner, their sets are sure to offer two very distinct vibes. The music of Black Atlass washes over you, shifting in and out of intensity like a tide. On the other end of the spectrum, Prison Garde will have you bobbing and tapping to his continuously driving analog beats, often making use of the sharp drum line to keep the tune moving.
In a different vein altogether—though playing on the same night at the Théâtre Rialto—is Panda Bear, aka Noah Benjamin Lennox, founding member of Animal Collective. His Panda Bear project does an impressive job of making potentially inaccessible experimental music into something broadly popular. The extent of Lennox’s influence on Animal Collective’s sound is explicitly clear in Panda Bear’s music, full of pleasant psychedelia and loopy vocal samples.
Also ingrained in the electronic scene is DJ and Montreal native Rilly Guilty. His sets always demonstrates how savvy he is to the crowd, incorporating what’s ‘hot’ at the moment without ever going over the top. You can recover from the night before with his laid-back afternoon show.
— Kia Pouliot
Garage rock royalty Ty Segall takes the stage this Saturday at Club Soda as a festival headliner. As one of the genre’s most prolific musicians, Segall has released eight albums since his debut in 2007. His most recent record, Manipulator, has won rave reviews from multiple music critics.
For those looking for a more local flavour, Ought, which was formed by McGill students in 2012, showcases the vibrant musical culture of both McGill and Montreal—though in classic McGill fashion, none of its members are Montreal natives. However, Ought has more than hometown pride going for it. Their debut album, More Than Any Other Day has garnered significant critical acclaim and has earned the band comparisons to the Talking Heads and Television for their razor-wire guitar lines and sputtering vocals. You ought to see what all the fuss is about this Thursday at Théâtre Rialto.
A more mellow act to watch out for is Mutual Benefit, the brain-child of singer-songwriter Jordan Lee, which mixes indie-rock with lo-fi and folk elements to create a sound that harkens back to some of the great folk-rock releases of the 2000s. Compared to the likes of Sufjan Stevens and Devendra Banhart by Pitchfork, Mutual Benefit is definitely worth experiencing for those seeking exciting but familiar music.
Toronto rock group The Wooden Sky are also sure to please when they perform at La Salla Rossa on Wednesday. The band utilizes rasping guitar riffs to undercut the folksy twang of the lead singer’s voice, making for a more traditional indie sound. With over a decade’s worth of experience, the band is sure to provide a strong, smooth experience.
— Eric Noble-Marks
This Thursday offers a great night for punk and hardcore fans. At Club Lambi Toronto artists Soupcans and Cellphone are playing the Telephone Explosion label’s showcase. The former act is fairly established in the Toronto scene, with riffs that will melt your face off, and the latter are some up-and-comers who are quickly gaining attention for their weirdo, freak-out aesthetic and sound.
The Famines, who is quite well-known within Montreal, is playing at Casa del Popolo on Thursday. The band offers up a sound that is raw, bare-bones, jangly, and pays great homage to bygone eras while still sounding contemporary and ultimately timeless.
The Dirty Nil is playing at O Patro Vys on Thursday. This trio creates some wonderfully chaotic vibes that are easy to lose yourself in. Your ears will be ringing and your voice will most definitely be hoarse after the show.
Against Me! has stayed consistently great in the past few years and its latest album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, has become something of a staple and a cultural hallmark not only for punk music, but for music as a whole. The band plays at Metropolis on Thursday, and you can expect the entire crowd to be singing along to each and every word.
It was not until Deafheaven’s sophomore release of Sunbather, that the band broke into the mainstream. Earning rave reviews across the board, Deafheaven is exposing people to music that most would never hear. The band’s blend of black metal and shoegaze punk is undeniably beautiful and its performances are known to be no less than spectacular. For those who haven’t quite had their punk craving satisfied after Thursday, Deafheaven plays Bar le Ritz on Saturday.
— Joe Modzelewski
For information on performance time and venue of each band, please visit www.popmontreal.com