Commonwealth brings hip hop and karaoke together

By Chris Adams, July 24, 2014 —

When Josh Mandrake moved back to Calgary from Vancouver two years ago, he noticed a gap in the city’s club scene – particularly a lack of hip hop events. After attending Vancouver’s Hip Hop Karaoke (HHK) at Fortune Sound Club, he decided to bring the idea back to Calgary.

For the past 14 months Mandrak has hosted a successful monthly Monday night Hip Hop Karaoke at Commonwealth.

Mandrake says the night’s success comes from the loyalty of regulars who have attended the rap sing along since it started in April, 2013.

“Calgary can be hit or miss for promoting nights, especially on a Monday,” Mandrake says. “Even when it’s not that busy, you still get the people showing up that are having an incredible time.”

HHK starts the night with crowd-pleasers to get the audience excited. Mandrake recalled last month’s performance of Busta Rhymes and Chris Brown’s, “Look At Me Now,’ saying the girl did very well with the difficult lyrics.

“Busta Rhymes must have trouble doing that verse. When that stuff happens, my heart warms. You can see the passion in the person doing it,” Mandrake says.

Mandrake, who produces hip hop beats under the alias Apeface, said the best songs are ones the crowd knows. He says hip hop from the 90s is received particularly well and that knowing the track and being confident makes for a successful performance.

“It’s funny to hear a dainty woman doing a nasty Snoop Dogg song,” Mandrake says. “One of my homegirls came up and did “Gin and Juice” and she started off with ‘Ya’ll can suck my mother fucking dick.” She’s just this tiny thing.”

Mandrake says that the night brings out different groups from the hip hop community.

“You get the rap kids, the poppy girls, the gangster guys. You get all that, but it’s always a positive vibe,” Mandrake says. “It builds a strong sense of community where everyone can feel comfortable and let their guard down and just be who they are.”

Hip Hop Karaoke’s next night is on Monday, July 28. Performers go on at 10 p.m., but potential Hip Hop Karaoke idols can sign-up on the night’s Facebook page or email hhk@commonwealthbar.ca to reserve their song in advance.

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