Culture & Conversation

High Pressure Hip-Hop

Les Foufounes Électriques: overflowing with personality, history, and just the right level of grime to make a place cool; the perfect venue for the Under Pressure International Graffiti Fest’s final punch for 2011 this past Sunday night.

Emceeing the evening’s event are announcers from the rap portion of CJLO, Concordia University’s radio station. Pumping the crowd up, quizzing us on our rap IQs and promoting the latest work of each act, the 20-somethings remind us that hip-hop is alive and well in the city.

As soon as we’re convinced, Ottawa’s Flight Distance takes the spotlight. The trio, consisting of two MCs and a DJ, bring a whole lot of spirit and energy to the tiny stage. With a catchy flow and deep beats that move with their rhymes, a short set of about five songs is enough to get everyone hooked.

The same can be said for the next group, Montreal’s Og Hindu Kush, who inject an equal amount of passion into their set, jumping around stage and having just as much fun as the rest of us. The group give it their all, embracing the intimacy of the small venue as they work to win over individual audience members rather than the masses.

During the Foufs madness, Under Pressure fosters an atmosphere which feels much more personal and real than other festivals. They successfully deliver an intimate showcase of some of the best of the Montreal hip-hop scene. No matter where one stands in the room, be it against the stage or against the back wall, a vibe is there — strong, positive and easygoing. This is a place where strangers can become friends, and where anyone – UP regulars and newbies to the scene – can be immersed in a weekend of high-octane hip-hop culture.

Before the final and main event, the room ripples with anticipation to the sound of the smooth DJing of Masta Ace’s producer. While most are aching for his entrance, the pump-up session is certainly successful: the crowd is three times louder once Masta finally makes it to the stage. The rap star arrives, looking like any other Under Pressure weekend roamer, to the chant of “whats up Ace boy?!” from what now has become hundreds of hip-hop devotees. The ’88 legend-status Juice Crew collaborator leads the crowd in cheers and chants, hands and Pabsts high in the air. Intoxicated off an incredible amount of cheap beer and free music that’s so good it feels as if it’s bootlegged, the crowd is entirely hyped, allowing the Masta to end Under Pressure 2011 on the best possible note.


Under Pressure ran August 13th and 14th, 2011. For more information on the festival, visit

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