DJ Memetic Talks Ottawa, Culture and the Hip-Hop Playground

Published Wednesday April 29th 2015

The eyes and ears of arts lovers will be tuned to the Ottawa region for 12 days this spring (April 29 to May 10) as Canada’s National Arts Centre presents Ontario Scene, a multidisciplinary festival featuring 90 events. TD is pleased to be the festival’s Community Partner.

Saturday May 2 features a free, daylong event dubbed Hip-Hop Playground: Battles and Beats. Curated by Toronto’s Manifesto Festival of Community and Culture, the Playground is a celebration of hip-hop culture that showcases dance, music, graffiti art, spoken word, and more. Acclaimed Ottawa DJ, producer and urbanist Memetic will host. TD Music had a chance to speak with the man born Kwende Kefentse.

Memetic explores the intersection of culture and geography in all aspects of his life. Raised in Mississauga, he moved to Ottawa to study at Carlton University where he landed a radio show at CKCU-FM. As a club DJ, Memetic co-founded the popular Timekode monthly events, which soon turn 10, while as an artist, he is set to release RIDEAU2RICHMOND, a 28-track instrumental album that literally traverses the OC Transpo number 2 bus route.

Running west from the Parliament buildings through many different Ottawa communities, the number 2 happens to take music lovers to most of the capital’s used record stores. Memetic went digging at eight of them, sampled elements from albums found, chopped these up and merged them with original beats and sounds recorded while journeying on the bus. It makes for a unique, truly urban listening experience.

During the day, Memetic works as a Cultural Developer for the City of Ottawa. The development of Ottawa’s music industry is a current focus. He’s personally played a role in the development of Ottawa’s hip-hop culture, including as the longtime host of House of Paint, the city’s annual, enormously popular hip-hop festival that takes place under a bridge.

The multi-talented artist brings all of these experiences to the table as he reflects on the offerings of Hip-Hop Playground.

“On days like this, my favourite thing really is seeing it all happen at the same time,” Memetic enthuses. “When you see b-boys and b-girls competing, graffiti going up, DJs playing and more, there’s a whole scene. I love the cacophony of it.”

Thumb graffiti boxman project photo flips bscGraffiti Boxman Project Photo Credit Flips BC

Taking place inside Ottawa’s exciting new warehouse event space Maker Space North, Hip-Hop Playground will feature the 15-foot cardboard canvas of Toronto’s Graffiti Boxman Project, an interactive turntablist zone with award-winning DJ Grouch, and a Dance Battle where 20 of Ontario’s best dancers will lock, pop, break and freestyle as they compete to the tunes of DJ JervyJerv.

“I’ve been a fan of DJ Grouch for a long time so I’m definitely going to hang out there for a bit,” says Memetic. “As for JervyJerv, he’s a young Ottawa guy on his come-up. He’s been killing it at all of the dance battles, and making a name for himself.”

Also showing off their footwork, and conducting workshops, will be Toronto-based urban dance company Gadfly, along with Ottawa’s famed dancer/choreographer Crazy Smooth.

Thumb crazy smoothCrazy Smooth

“Crazy Smooth is so nice that he doesn’t battle any more; there’s no one like him,” Memetic extols. “He strictly judges stuff now, and has this crazy dance company, Bboyizm. They really take dance to the next level. He has also worked with a lot of youth in some of the most remote, northern parts of Canada, doing his social work through hip-hop.”

On the mic will be Toronto spoken word artist Mustafa The Poet, known for his deeply personal and inspiring words.

Thumb mustafaMustafa the Poet

“Mustafa is really dope,” says Memetic. “I’ve seen him several times here in Ottawa. Ottawa actually has a strong poetry scene, and the spoken word community has always been directly connected with the hip-hop community. A lot of the poets rap, and there are these poetry rap shows. It feels like a very Ottawa thing to have that integration. In Toronto, those scenes are pretty separate.

“I’m also really interested in seeing Shad - his new EP is super cool. He performs later that night, at Bronson Centre just down the street. It’s along the number 2 bus route, actually.”

Memetic clearly loves his chosen city.

“Ottawa is into a really cool part of its growth curve. Not only is it growing in terms of its population, but also in the infrastructure that supports that growth. Really, Ottawa is in a moment of becoming. It’s an opportunity to participate, and if you get in at the right place and time, partially dictate what it will become.”