The Other Montreal Music Scene: The Real Underground
It’s been three years now since The New York Times, SPIN and other Rolling Stones officially labelled Montreal a Hot Music Scene, based on a not-necessarily-undeserved but very Anglo-centric coverage of Arcade Fire and their friends.
Are we still cool? Probably not. Three years is an awfully long time for that kind of hype.
There is however a whole other music scene in Montreal, one that is mercifully immunized against the mainstream English-language media. A scene that goes way beyond les Cowboys Fringants. Here’s a few names for those into that type of thing.
Remember when a Québec Anglo signing in French wasn’t so much of a curiosity? Remember Me, Mom and Morgentaler, GrimSkunk and… euh… the McGarrigle sisters? Yeah, neither did I. Paul Cargnello – think Jean Leloup and Joe Strummer in Leonard Cohen’s suit – redeems English Montreal from the tragedy that is Crescent street. (That said, we sometimes wish he’d go back to English once in a while just to kick Jack Johnson’s ass.)
Straight out of Moncton! Not from Québec at all, New Brunswick’s Radio Radio is the first Acadian hip hop crew ever represent the 506 and demonstrate how Shiak, the acadian slang, just might be the ultimate rhyming language ever! Don’t worry, nobody in Québec has any idea what their talking about either.
Côte-des-Neiges’ M.A.N.U. is often guilty of some simplistic rhymes but he just as often makes it up with inspired gems: “J’suis sur la voie rapide comme monsieur Jack Layton/Fuck ceux à droite comme le maire d’Huntington”. La Traversé du Lac Nasser is a more lucid and subtle reflexion on the conflict between the West and the Islamic world than anything ever published by any Canadian newspaper, complete with an aknowledgement of Canada/Québec’s hypocritical stance and a condemnation of the way Arab regimes blame Jews for all their own failures.
True to the original punk spirit Xavier Caféïne infiltrated commercial radio with catchy pop tunes that dissed Montreal, baby boomers and his ex-girlfriend Gisèle while celebrating the rise of China that will liberate us from the Bald Eagle and Jesus Christ. That and he still defends smoking.
There are now two solitudes in Québec Hip Hop, with on one side the not uninteresting Old School orthodoxy and, on the other a new breed busy deconstructing the genre into something the American and French godfathers of Québec Rap never saw coming. Gatineau have gone farther into these uncharted waters than anyone else. Think Dr. Dre: The ‘Schrooms 2008.
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