In search of Windsor’s rap scene
o the average Windsorite, the notion of a hip-hop scene in the city is a foreign one.
Before Drake came along, the average Canadian probably didn’t even realize that there was a large hip-hop scene in Canada. However, hip-hop has been around for over 20 years, slowly growing in mostly major urban areas like Montreal, Toronto and, surprisingly, Winnipeg.
On paper, Windsor has the makings of a great rap environment; it’s urban, diverse, borders Detroit, a hip-hop mecca, and has loyal and supportive music fans of other genres. Yet, rappers in Windsor have been fairly low key.
Michelle Soullière is a DJ on the University of Windsor’s campus-community radio station CJAM 99.1 FM. Her show UnderRaps is an education in underground hip-hop.
“I don’t think we have a hip-hop scene in Windsor, at least not one comparable to the other music scenes in Windsor,” she said. “There’s an older group, like (hip-hop collaborative) the Academy and guys like them, and there’s a place for them. But there’s a younger generation and that’s where I think the focus needs to be. There’s nothing that connects all of them together. It’s part of the reason I started my (radio) show.”
Soullière said the connections that are needed to create a scene haven’t been formed and fans of the music haven’t discovered the local talent. “There’s lots of hip-hop fans in the city, obviously, but they don’t come out to shows. People don’t want to engage in the local community.”
Part of the problem is that too many local performers don’t want to work their way up through the city, explained Soullière. “There are a lot of YouTube stars, people who want to skip the local step and try to immediately hit the mainstream.”
Yet, Soullière believes that Windsor can be a great source of inspiration for rappers who are trying to be creative. “Hip-hop is a term that I think commands community engagement and reflects local issues. A lot of these basement rappers are still rapping about cars and hoes; stale stuff,” she said.
Clarrissa Guyton is a Windsor hip-hop fan. She honed her love of hip-hop growing up in Harrow. “There wasn’t a ton to do in Harrow, so I listened to a lot of music.”
Moving to Windsor to attend university, Guyton recognized the lack of performance opportunities for local rappers. She began to organize Hip-Hop Spotlights at the Coach and Horse. “The last one was in February,” she said. “I decided to take a break from doing Spotlights all the time; I want people to be hungry for them.”
Soullière and Guyton both gush about local rappers and their potential. The Expansion Family, Jay Braaks and Kayyce Closed are just some of many talented performers.
“We have a scene, I think, but it needs more support,” remarked Guyton, who has a slightly different take on Windsor’s rap scene. She believes there are too many horses pulling the cart.
“So many fans want to try rap too, it gets to the point where we have rappers mainly performing for other rappers. Everybody has a microphone on their computer and they think they can rhyme.”
“We’re really lucky to be a border city, but in Windsor it feels like a lot of people want to get paid to perform. In Detroit, rappers are willing to pay to perform.
Soullière agrees. “Detroit is such a valuable resource for Windsor artists and vice versa, but there’s not enough of a connection or collaboration.”
The potential for a thriving rap scene in Windsor is real; it just needs the right people to develop it.