The documentary of the week | The forgotten origins of local hip-hop

Imagine a biographical work that ignores its subject’s humble beginnings and instead begins with his or her early successes. That’s a bit of the story we told about hip-hop here and that’s what the documentary series The roots of hip-hop in Quebec rectifies. We discussed it with its creator, the journalist Félix B. Desfossés, his co-host, the rapper Imposs, and the pioneer Flight.

For many, hip-hop only established itself in Quebec in 1997 thanks to the 125,000 copies sold The strength to understand, from Dubmatique. Some people remember the song Rap-a-Billy, by Lucien Francoeur, launched in 1983. We are getting closer to the true era of the beginnings of Quebec hip-hop, but the venerable Lucien has nothing to do with this culture. Of course you had to keep your ears open and know the right people, but MCs, DJs, graffiti artists, b-boys and b-girls were indeed working in Montreal and the surrounding area at the end of the 1970s.

“From 1978 to 1983, everyone knew each other in the industry,” says Flight. It didn’t matter if you lived downtown, Little Burgundy, NDG (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce), Côte-des-Neiges or even the South Shore, we formed a tight-knit group, because only a few places accepted that We play hip-hop there. »

Despite the strong ties between the members of this community, time has taken its toll, and bringing them together to create the eight episodes of the series was difficult. “It took me seven years to find these people and talk to them,” reveals Félix B. Desfossés about Shanwan and Butcher T, two of the main actors of this era. He is the host of the flagship show Club 980 on CKGM, Michael Williams, who advised him to contact them in order to properly tell the story of Quebec hip-hop.


Rudy Philius, aka Flight, is one of the first DJs to organize hip-hop gatherings in Montreal.

A part of Quebec culture

Before The roots of hip-hop in Quebecwhich will be broadcast on Télé-Québec’s web and mobile platforms from 1er February, the journalist specializing in music history published, in 2020, a book of the same name with Quartz editions. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, he wanted to “debunk” certain myths in Quebec, particularly about the history of hip-hop. Since he does not claim to be part of this culture, Félix B. Desfossés called on Imposs, from Muzion, to continue his exploration.

I learned a lot of business. For me, it wasn’t just a cool cultural project, it was necessary. It was crucial to archive all of this for the heritage of Quebec culture. It’s the predominant music in the world and we’re finally telling the story of how it happened here.

Rapper Imposs

Another aspect that appealed to Imposs was the pairing between pioneers and artists of the present generation offered in each episode. We see, for example, the female duo from the 1980s Wavy Wanda and Baby Blue then the young rapper Zach Zoya or the breakdance veterans DKC Freeze and Pierre Perpall Jr. then the producer Shash’U. “The multigenerational aspect shows both that they left us something that endures, but also that issues that existed, such as the language barrier, are still there today,” emphasizes Imposs.

The documentary raises the hypothesis that the adoption of the Charter of the French language in 1977 and then the referendum in 1980 were both a driving force behind the need for expression by English-speaking artists, but also a brake on media coverage of their work. The lack of support (institutional, financial, etc.) for many years pushed some to go into exile and others to simply hang up their microphone, their cultural contribution consequently leaving little trace.


The rapper Imposs and the journalist Félix B. Desfossés

Endearing “characters”

In addition to twinning, The roots of hip-hop in Quebec gives rise to many moving encounters. From one episode to the next, we witness old friendships getting back on track, some almost 40 years after they began. In the last episode, the majority of the speakers are brought together during an authentic block party.

“I was inspired by the formula of the show with Marina Orsini Second chance. When people got together at the end, I cried. I’m not hip-hop, I say those things, confides Félix B. Desfossés with a laugh. (In my series), I was touched to see these people come together. Their anecdotes also overlapped; they told me about the same party they had attended and spoke to me with the same passion about the same DJ or the same MC. We had to bring them together to see how powerful things they experienced together. »

When the trio was asked their favorite moment from filming, a consensus quickly emerged. “When I first met Flight in 2012, he spoke to me about Freaky D with so much passion. When I finally met her, not only did I find her just as hot as he had described to me, but she called herself a punk. That we had an Afropunk rapper doing shows at Les Foufs, I find it crazy,” says Félix. “See my daughter again Freaky really touched me. We’ve known each other since 1978 and finding ourselves all these years later, bald with white in the beard, it’s love », adds Flight.

From 1er February at


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