Diamond In The Rough: Belleville’s Stylin’ Flow talk events, violence in hip-hop & more
Belleville, ON – As a writer, it’s my due diligence to be honest to the wonderful people who take the time out of their busy days to see what’s poppin’ in the world of hip-hop. I was approached by JL Prophet with Stylin’ Flow Entertainment, to come check out a show he was putting on in Belleville, ON. The headliner was Merkules, and (I’ve been out of the scene for a few years raising my little one, so please forgive me) the other 5 acts I’ve honestly never heard of.
So, I accepted the offer even though I thought it was going to be like all the other local shows I’m so used to, you know, the ones we all put so much effort into but only 10 people show up for the opening act, and then we might get 50 people in and out all night? Well, that’s not quite how things went down.
“We’re hoping that hosting and putting together these kinds of shows will bring everyone together and teach people, young and old, what the hip-hop lifestyle is really all about.” – Vytall
So, after doing some research on the artists, reading their bio’s and listening to their music I have to say I was pretty impressed. I started getting excited about the show! On the day of the show I was running late. I NEVER run late, for anything! If anything, I’m usually 15 minutes early! So even though I got there late, they were still lined up all the way down the street to get into this show. I come in, fight my way to the back of the bar near the stage, and I’m hearing the last bit of the first act, Jesse Sincere with JL on the 1 and 2’s. The crowd was so hype! It’s only 8:30!
Like, what in the world is going on here?
Then this energetic man gets up on stage and he’s the other half of Stylin’ Flow, Vytall Iam. He’s hosting, and he’s hilarious! While telling jokes he keeps the crowd excited and gets into the next act, Revelation, then Chris Tipsy, C-Flaulis, Enigma, Noise, Luca Mene, and last but not least Merkules. Every single act that was put on this show just flowed so well together. The sets were seamless (except for a few hiccups with the sound guy, but that’s a story for another day).
In my eyes, a true professional keeps their cool under stressful situations, and that’s exactly what the guys at Stylin’ Flow did. They have a history of hosting events with little to zero violence happening. Vytall says that’s all because of his amazing hugs. So hang on, let me get this straight; sold out crowd, super talented back to back performances, no violence, hype audience, and no issues? I don’t know about you guys, but that is exactly the kind of hip-hop show I want to be a part of.
I caught up with JL and Vytall a few days later and learned a little bit more about them. Here’s how it went down:
Q&A: Stylin’ Flow
HipHopCanada: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me guys! So, tell me a little bit about Stylin’ Flow, what made you guys become a team?
Vytall: I guess it all started with King of the Dot. We realized that the events they were hostin’, we needed that back home, and there was nothing going on here. So, we decided to try and make a scene out of nothing. I mean, there were shows being done here in Belleville, but not the way they should be done. We wanted to give the artists a better platform. The only thing was everyone was trying to start battle rap shows, we wanted to think outside the box. We wanted to go old school, bring back the b-boys, the graffiti artists, the hip-hop artists.
JL: We wanted to put on a show instead of just making people watch the stage.
HipHopCanada: How is it that you guys set up your events to showcase all of that talent?
JL: Well, after we choose the Headliner, we assess the artists we have around us and make sure we choose people that mesh well with them performance wise. Then we figure out what else we can involve to break up the mundaneness of just have a bunch of performers on stage.
Vytall: And essentially too, what we were also looking to bring in was that different crowd, the artsy crowd. I don’t know if JL will agree with me on this but, myself, from my experience, for the most part they’re shy people. So, to me, bringing that into the hip-hop scene would also bring it out more.
JL: It gives them a legal platform. Instead of going out and tagging walls in alleyways or train carts in the middle of the night they can throw it up on a canvas.
Vytall: And then we can auction it and sell it.
JL: So, it’s a way for them to make money, and have a legit spot to do their craft. It also brings in more of an audience for us. It’s part of hip-hop. People think it’s all about rapping and it’s not.
Vytall: Everyone thinks hip-hop is strictly a violence thing and graffiti is vandalism. That’s how society sees it. The younger generation doesn’t really understand the art form of hip-hop. They’ve given it a bad name by going out and tagging profanity and obscene things and calling it graffiti. So now the OG’s aren’t able to do what they love without it being looked down on as some negative thing. We’re hoping that hosting and putting together these kinds of shows will bring everyone together and teach people, young and old, what the hip-hop lifestyle is really all about.
HipHopCanada: That makes total sense, and I definitely see your vision. I witnessed different people in the crowd coming together and just enjoying a well-rounded night full of different aspects of entertainment. How do you choose the lineup of people you want to involve in your show?
Vytall: It’s the love of the art. If we find someone who’s really passionate about what they do verses someone who’s not really passionate but just getting a whole bunch of likes on their page.
JL: Like, those people who get a bunch of likes on their pages and stuff, yeah, they’ll bring in a crowd, but we want to put on a good show.
HipHopCanada: How many shows do you guys put on a month?
JL: We don’t want to oversaturate the market, and we want our shows to be amazing. So, we try to do at least 1 a month. We try not to do the same type of shows too close together. We like to give our audiences variety. We’ve been doing this for just over 4 years now and people around here know, if we’re backing the show, they’re not gonna be disappointed.
HipHopCanada: So, what are some of your goals? Where do you want to take Stylin’ Flow?
Vytall: To the top! [laughing] As much as we love hip-hop we don’t want to be known as just hip-hop promoters.
JL: We want to be known as an entertainment company. We’re looking to branch out to other genres as well. We want to re-do some of the skate parks, throw some music in there, get more involved with the community.
Vytall: We did a Christmas food drive and raised over 369 lbs of food.
JL: We want to put on bigger shows and give back to the community because it’s gonna help build us all.
HipHopCanada: I also want to mention, that this particular show was done on a Tuesday night, AND it was an all-ages show. So, it floored me that it was completely sold out, 200 people, at capacity all night until like 2 a.m. But seeing your family there supporting you, how does it make you feel?
JL: My girlfriend and my family have seen me go through everything that has to do with music. They know it’s my passion, this is what I’m good at and I have their full support. I’m so blessed to have that. Without them and my friends, I mean, some of the shows can be pretty rough. They help out a lot.
Vytall: In the beginning of this for me, my family struggled with it, simply because JL and I travelled a lot. We weren’t concentrating on our home area so we missed out on a lot of stuff. We used to go to Barrie a lot, 4 years ago their hip-hop scene was poppin’! Shout-out to Drop Daniels, he’s the whole reason I host these shows.
JL: That’s where the inspiration came from really, was Barrie. Seeing those shows and how energized the crowds were from beginning to end and nobody knew any of the artists. So, we wanted to bring that back here.
Vytall: So, the first couple years were hard for my family, I have a wife and 3 kids, so we scaled back a bit to concentrate more on family but they also realized that this is what I love to do. I now have their full support.
HipHopCanada: What made you decide that you wanted to start hosting the shows instead of just promoting? Why not just hire a host? And same question to you JL, you DJ the shows and do all the music with the openers. Why not just hire a DJ?
Vytall: When we first started, we were planning on hiring hosts and DJs. We went to a couple shows where the hosts were getting paid to do the events and they got so drunk and made fools of themselves on stage. Not saying all hosts are unprofessional like that but it made our decision easy. Keep it all in house. I’ll admit, I used to have a couple drinks before a show just to calm myself down, but after hosting the Merkules show with no alcohol what so ever I feel like I did way better than I had before. To have a good show you need a good host. We get to know the artists and it makes them feel more comfortable.
JL: That’s what we want. We want the artist to be as comfortable as possible when they hit that stage because it’s gonna make them feel good giving a good set to a great crowd and it’s gonna make the crowd feel like it was worth spending their hard-earned money on our show.
HipHopCanada: I want to thank you guys again so much for inviting me to the show and allowing me to ask you all these questions. I’m really looking forward to seeing more from you two and the Stylin’ Flow Crew! Is there anyone you want to shout-out?
Vytall: For sure! Shout-out Wild Ink and Ben Coles, all the crew at Smoke on the Water, Belle Pub, #FuckTheSoundguy (not every sound guy though, just that show).
JL: Shout-out to the whole Stylin’ Flow team, we wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for the team.
Vytall: Shout-out Dislexsick, Sage, B aka Brian McKenna, the rest of the team that doesn’t like to get shout-outs, we’re shoutin’ them out anyways. And shout-out to you guys too at HipHopCanada! Shout-out to all the artists that come out because if they didn’t do what they do we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.
JL: Shout-out to all the fans! We love you guys, keep coming to the shows put on by Stylin’ Flow! You’ll never be disappointed.
Written by Shanna Robinson for HipHopCanada