Hip Hop In Hamilton

This month, we start a new series of LivingArts Hamilton blogs featuring guest writers from a variety of arts disciplines across the community. This week, we're pleased to welcome hip hop artist and teacher Lex Leosis as the first in our series of blogs written by the members of Hamilton Youth Poets (HYP) about young artists in Hamilton.

I’ve been a part of the Hamilton music community, on and off, for nine years now. Being born and raised in Toronto, I was initially surprised by the amount of musical content being produced in Hamilton, with little recognition from Canada’s premier music outlets. It is without a doubt, that Hamilton has a thriving music scene and continues to invest city resources in growing this community with prominent events such as Supercrawl and support for classic venues like, This Ain’t Hollywood. The list of venues and music-related events is spectacular for a city the size of Hamilton, and it is only growing. However, as a Hip-Hop artist myself, I cannot deny Hamilton’s blatant disregard for it’s Hip Hop community.

This is not for lack of talent, Hamilton is filled with beastly emcees of all styles, and ages. The Hip Hop community itself is alive and well, with new artist emerging each year, and season veterans throwing shows and supporting the city’s up-and-comers. After playing alongside a handful of talented emcees, I realized that I rarely saw their names on city festivals, events, and publications. Hamilton seemingly puts focus on Rock, Alternative, Indie and Electronic acts on their line-ups, and if we’re lucky, we will see a few Hip Hop artists sprinkled in during the early time slots. I can only speculate why this is, but it is most likely that the city’s top organizers fall under a large population of people who misunderstand Hip Hop.

In the last four and a half years, I’ve taught workshops through Hamilton Youth Poets (HYP), at a dozen high schools and eight middle schools, so I know the demand for Hip Hop programming is there. Language can sometimes be coded and Hip Hop provides a freedom that allows these students to express themselves through the various elements that make up the culture. Hamilton’s Hip Hop scene has built a community of artists who feel safe, and supported, with an increased sense of belonging. In a city where 44% of students feel connected to their city, this community is important. The conversation of expanding the scene, with increased local support, needs to continue. Leading the force in this movement is local veteran emcees, who have developed international clout, such as; Lee Reid, Mother Tareka, Emay, nILLA, and Eklipz (just to name a few). Hamilton Youth Poets also contributes to this movement, with free community programming “The Spitfire Series”, which allows access to free poetry, journalism, and Hip Hop workshops every Saturday. This 14-week programming culminates at their annual youth poetry and Hip Hop festival “Louder than a Bomb” in May. 

The talent, the community, and the market for Hip Hop continues to thrive in Hamilton. We need to demand that community organizers recognize the important contribution that Hip Hop is making to the city and urge Hamilton to invest their time, money and resources in supporting this culture and the people that fuel it.

Lex Leosis
Lead Teaching Artist with Hamilton Youth Poets [HYP]