Lifestyle Brand HICU puts on local showcase highlighting Vancouver’s rising talents
Vancouver, BC – While the vibrant music scene of Toronto rarely waivers, there’s been a shift on the West Coast this last year. Lifestyle brand HICU caught onto these shifts in West Coast culture early, and recognized the need for a public platform as a collaborative possibility between fashion and sound. The result of the brands’ efforts were two clothing lines laying parallel to the release of two sound tapes ( Sound Tape N ° 1 and Sound Tape N ° 2) which combined promising rising Canadian artists. While the projects brought an impressive aesthetic value, they were highly noted for featuring some of the best rising artists that the West Coast has to offer.
This past Friday, January 13th saw the first ever HICU showcase held at the Alexander Gastown in downtown Vancouver. In collaboration with Hyphy events and HipHopCanada, the evening displayed sets from the local aritsts who contributed tracks to both tapes. The turnout was outstanding, and quickly surpassed capacity as people filled all three floors of the venue (with the lineup reaching well around the block even after doors opened). The energy was contagious, and a just testament to the success of a newly flourishing collective community.
Check out our interviews below with artists: Seth Kay, GRNDBLVD, Brandon Gregora, Stevie Ross, Sharuk, Dave Fields, Spotty Josif, as well as HICU’s creative director, Borna Shayegan (aka LXRY92) . In our conversations, each artist was asked: what their respective track meant to them and how it came about, how they individually felt about being an artist from Vancouver at this moment, and where they see the community headed. We also had the opportunity to talk to Borna about how he was inspired to take this approach with HICU – collaborating fashion with music.
“WYWG” with Dave Fields
“My track with Dave Fields, “WYWG” meant a lot to me. Being part of a project with artists of the cool wavy R&B genre just shows that two different worlds can work well together. I feel that Dave and I brought the aggression aspect that the project needed. It’s crazy because Borna really knows the scene and we were handpicked to be apart of it. The crazy thing about that song, is we did it in two weeks from start to finish. And on top of that, the song progressed naturally.“
“I’ve been doing music for awhile now and honestly it feels great to be an artist now. I know the city can be cliquey sometimes but after that show the supports gone through the roof. I was thinking the whole time like, damn, when did people start showing love? How come I didn’t get the memo? I feel like the community is much more open to new artists and we’re finally coming together.”
“I think everyone’s starting to realize in this music shit that it’s Vancouver vs The World. I know for awhile everyone tried to claim the city but all it takes is for one of us to be put on. I know for a fact that if I ever make it, I’m taking the whole city with me.”
Photo by Mats Schram
“WYWG” with Spotty Josif
“WYWG” with Spotty Josif means a lot to me. Even though it only took a couple of weeks to put together, it feels like it was a long time coming. Spot was one of the first Vancouver artists I met after coming over from Ontario, and I feel we had a mutual respect for each other (and each others music) right away. Even though we have somewhat different styles, I think they mesh well together. It’s funny because Borna had expressed interest in both of us being on the project, but I don’t think he expected it to be on the same track.”
“I’m still a new artist in Vancouver, but I feel as though I’ve been carving out a space for myself and my sound. Coming in as an outsider, and having different interests in music pre-rap, I feel I have my own sound and that I’m doing things a little differently than other artists in Vancouver. I feel blessed that people put their faith in me and my music from early on, people like Matthew Harvey, who I collaborate with on basically everything. I feel as though Vancouver is becoming more and more open to local artists and the support seems to be building. I think people are catching on.”
“I’ve been fortunate enough to build relationships with so many faces in the community over a short period of time. I feel the love and I see people showing more and more support, whether online or at shows, and it feels like a step in the right direction. The HICU showcase proved to me and many others that we need this type of support in our city, and I think we’re going to keep getting it.”
“All I Want”
“The song means a lot to me because its my first release. I made the beat for the song in a few hours and freestyled the hook right after. Left the track alone for a few months but Borna’ was like you need to come back and finish it.”
“We don’t have the music scene other cities do, so naturally artists get less recognition in Vancouver. But that just makes me want to grind harder and develop my craft. End of the day, the product speaks for itself. Good music has no borders.”
“I don’t know about the wider community — but if you mean the HICU family, just watch what we about to do this year.”
“On You” originally was a song I made just for my friends, not really serious about it. After a couple weeks I uploaded it on Soundcloud and shared with a few people online. Within a couple days, Stevie Ross sent me a message on Facebook, mentioning how much he liked the song and wanted to work on new music with me. At the time it was something extremely unexpected. This body of work has opened many doors for me this past year, and I feel blessed with my experiences and the people around me.
“I’m from Victoria, BC, and the music scene there is a lot different, I find, compared to Vancouver. From my perspective, Toronto is a big name when it comes to underground artists making it successfully in music, but I find the sound in Toronto is the same in a lot of ways – lyrically, style of music, Drake, etc. Being an artist here I find we work hard on creating our own individual sound, and it is a very positive, supportive city. Everybody has something different to bring to the table.”
“I predict this year will be a successful year for most. A lot of amazing projects have kicked off this year already, and I’m excited to see others improve and grow as artists. I hope to work with new artists in the city, as well as keep consistently working on my craft.”
“Superman” and “Switch” with Brandon Gregora
“I think Vancouver is super unique, because a lot of the people that are still killing it right now, or starting to get their just dues, we all met like 5/6 years ago going to Monday night hip hop because of Emotions. That’s where we all built relationships, y’know? Maybe we all didn’t work together in the beginning because we were all just trying to figure out what we were doing. We all took different paths to get to where we’re going. All those relationships that everybody built – it’s coming into fruition now because look at how we’re working together. Everybody is pushing each other. Before my set I’m playing my other friends’ songs because we have to force it on the DJs out here, if they’re not going to play the songs. We have to say “Play this song before I go up,” and then pick your homie.”
“I think Vancouver’s in a good spot right now. I think we’re all going to kill it. We’ve got ninetyfour, Brandon, Spotty, Dave, So Loki. That’s what I’m trying to do, this whole run with this album Imma’ shout everybody out in every interview cause I don’t give a fuck. If I’ve gotta’ start it, then I’ll start it. But hopefully everybody follows and we all just fucking mobilize. We’ve got it, obviously, just look at how the show went. I’m happy to be a part of it.”
“I hope everyone stays positive and wants to keep working together. If we stay on this wave, the city could have a real moment with all the different talents out here. I’d just like to see more industry out here (in general) and I think we’re going to be the guys who make that happen.”
“No One” and “No Luv”
“No Luv“ was recorded in a friends bedroom. Seth just happened to be there as well to record some stuff of his own. He heard me lay my verse down and after playing it back, he told me “yo, this has to be your toughest joint yet” and I was like “well shit, hop on if you got something.” About 10 minutes later the guy went in on it and bodied it. This was a couple years back now. Anyways, we never intended this song to come out or to have that mix be release worthy but I messed with HICU heavy around that time too and they generously asked to throw it on the tape so I said why not? and I’m glad I did because after a couple shows now it’s clear that this is the people’s favourite.”
“No One” came about with a surprise. I didn’t really see my direction for my verses but I had the hook stuck in my head for months before ever writing to it. Again, it all came from experiences and feelings prior to it and some in that current moment, which in the end kept it honest and real. It was a new sound I brought to the tape following my EP released during the summer but the people took it in well, and I felt a different confidence behind this one.
“Privileged. I’m not sure if the older guys in the city can say that because I know they’ve been at it for some time without seeing any drastic difference in our culture. However, I feel good about it. Vancouver does have a lot of artists but the ones who grasp the attention are all in their own lanes. No one is out here biting sounds or copying a wave and I think that’s a huge advantage for us when the city finally gets on the map. There’s still breathing room out here. I also absolutely love the city so what else would be a better way to represent it?”
“After that release party? I wish I could ask the people who showed up the same question. Because it’s those people who make me feel like we’re heading for the top. I can’t say with confidence that 2017 is “our year” but I could be completely wrong. Without a doubt our community is heading for bigger and better things. That HICU release party proved that we have something out here and I feel like it’s just been sparked. I mean.. The year just began. What’s to come? I want everyone to win and it’s going to happen. “
“My song “6 AM” was just a vibe. I had the beat, and played it for my man on the way to the studio just free styling a few bars and his reaction was like, “Yo… You gotta record that.” As far as the concept, it’s just where my life was at during that time. Literally finding myself still awake at 6 AM night after night, only focused on music and money. Of course, when you’re all work, it leaves little time for personal, relationships etc. That’s basically what that song is about.”
“I love being an artist in Vancouver. It’s probably the best place to be an artist period. I hear a lot of people complain about why it’s more difficult to be an artist from here, or how we have no community and that’s the problem, or a million other excuses for why they can’t make shit happen for themselves. As long as you blame the city, or the people in it for your own progress and success, you’ll never make it.”
“I don’t like to talk too much about what’s gonna happen. I prefer just to show work. But I can definitely say that this will be a great year for Vancouver. Bout’ to do a whole lotta’ damage.”
“HICU started as a passion project as a branch of my design studio, High Culture Studios (hence the tags “An Experiment conducted by High Culture Studios”). Creatively, it only goes through my filter, so the vision is pure. Doing art direction for many of the artists I work with, like Stevie Ross, Seth Kay and Teshalé puts me in a unique position to pull a project like this together.”
“My angle with these tapes is to show how close to home the inspiration for HICU is. There are artists (in Vancouver) making music worth talking about and being proud of… I think the HICU Sound Tape opened up a lot of people to that. And the HICU Pop-Up + Sound Showcase event we had on January 13th confirmed that… the city pulled up for it and it was epic.”
Check out the HICU website, both tapes, and their full capsule here.
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