By Corene Sullivan
A crowd of 200 people attended Ottawa’s first hip hop awards at Babylon last Friday night, disappointing promoters who had hoped for a larger turnout.
“We’d like to see that number double, but we understand it’s going to take time,” says Maurice McIlwain of Pop-N-Lock Committee, one of the promoters for the awards. “There’s definitely more support needed, but it’s a start.”
He says the turnout was standard for an Ottawa hip hop event, but he had hoped the awards would draw a larger than usual crowd.
McIlwain came up with the idea for the Awards last November.
“It’s to celebrate the hard work and the accomplishments of artists in the city,” says McIlwain. “Hip hop’s growing really fast in Ottawa…there’s a lot of good talent here.”
He says hip hop encompasses not only music, but also break dancing and graffiti art, which were two of the nine award categories at the event.
Other categories included group of the year and album of the year.
McIlwain and Bojangles, also from the promoting company Pop-N-Lock, selected the nominees for each award.
A panel of five judges, who are active in Ottawa’s hip hop community, then chose the winners.
“I think there’s better Ottawa groups that could have been up for the awards,” says Lee Galka, a local hip hop artist who attended the event.
“But all in all, I think they did a good job,” says Galka, explaining he liked the idea of recognizing and rewarding local urban talent.
One of the people recognized at the award was MC Jugga of Boogaloo Tribe, the group that won the Band of the Year and Album of the Year awards.
“(Getting an award) could help you get known,” says MC Jugga, who was also nominated for MC of the year.
Galka agrees, saying that an event like this can improve a group’s profile in the city.
“If you’re a local artist, this is exactly the kind of venue you want,” says Galka. “Everybody knows Babylon is the place to go for hip hop.”
He says events such as the awards are good for people in the industry because they allow artists to meet, network, and find out what’s going on in the Ottawa scene.
“I think the awards are a tremendous idea, a lot of people in the community are very busy, doing shows, recording,” says Adam Kronick, owner and operator of Babylon. “It’s great for everyone to get together and celebrate and plan future endeavours.”
In addition to the distribution of awards, the evening included performances by nine Ottawa artists followed by two Toronto area groups, Rikoshay and Syntifik.
“Everybody here tonight knows Rikoshay,” says Galka
He says a lot of people attended the event either to see the Toronto group or to support the people they know in the industry who were nominated for an award.Even though the turnout for the event wasn’t what McIlwain had hoped for, he’s already thinking about Ottawa’s next hip hop awards.
“Next year, it’s going to be bigger and better,” he says.
His plans for drawing a larger crowd next time include earlier promotion of the event and having a better-known headlining act.