Any discussion of hip-hop in Halifax has to begin and end with Jorun Bombay. A legendary Halifax hip-hop figure, he's worked as a DJ, MC and producer on 60-plus albums in the past 15 years. Haltown Projex was a group of MCs and DJs that existed in Halifax from 1992 until 1998. Spearheaded by Jorun and consisting of such Halifax legends as Buck 65, Bonshah, Tallis Newkirk and Shingai, the group's beginnings were immortalized on the Buck 65 track, "Memories of the Passed." Live performances took place at the legendary, but now defunct, all-ages club, Café Ole and the Khyber Club, both on Barrington Street. Many years ago Sean Jordan traded paper routes for rhymes and now goes by the moniker of Wordburglar. Inspired by Halifax MCs of the past, the Burg is one clever MC. The two met for a chat at Tribeca.
How did you get started in Halifax hip-hop?
Jorun: The first show I ever played in Halifax was Club 55 on Gottingen Street. I was 16. I was opening for...MCJ. I had my set sabotaged because I was the young kid, y'know, little 16-year-old guy, 'C'mon let's tease him or whatever.'
Wordburglar: I performed with some friends in high school and we played Café Ole and it was just through someone at my high school.
What about the Haltown Projex?
Jorun: I've given a lot of people opportunities in town. We had a big show going on and I had a lot on my shoulders; I had to promote it and then DJ for 11 groups, I made all their music and had to mix it down in the studio. Classified heard about me, came to a show at Café Ole...and came up to me and said, 'Yeah, can we open the show? I know you don't know us, but we know about you. I have your tapes.' And I let him.
There were people who came out of that like...Tachichi (of The Goods) came out that way, Classified and a few other people. They weren't put through the bullies, they just did their thing.
Wordburglar: I used to go to those Café Ole shows when I was a little kid. I lived right around the corner.
What do you think worked about a place like Café Ole?
Wordburglar: There's a few different answers to that...I remember it being literally all ages. You would have kids there and you'd have people of legal drinking age and that was what was cool about it.
Jorun: Keep in mind what was next door...
Wordburglar: Comic bookstore, Sam the Record Man...
Jorun: And the Khyber. It was almost like a package. A lot of times after we closed a show at Café Ole, we moved the after-party next door to the Khyber. Or we'd have a pre-show or whatever, we'd sell our tapes there and then we'd say, 'If you didn't have money today, go next door (to Sam's) tomorrow and you can buy our tapes there.'
We were living in the moment...took it for granted. Wow, that was quite the time.
Do you think it's nostalgia or were things really better back in the day (circa 1996-1999)?
Jorun: It really was that great.
What about Halifax today?
Wordburglar: It will always be the shows. All the MCs that I see out of Halifax that are doing well are guys who are constantly doing shows. That's how you do it. You're just going to get better, see what works, see what an audience responds to and you're just going to learn how to rock. When you go see rappers today, somebody like Kool Keith, people might go, 'Oh, he's out there,' but you see him live and he is an old-school MC.
Jorun: Every time the city tries to shut down a place that is doing well in hip-hop, it keeps going. There is a transition period. The Khyber was the middle point---Ghettosocks was a doing a thing with Alpha Flight there and the city shut the Khyber down. Then right after Sam's closed and then right after that the Marquee closed down...then there was nowhere to perform. But then...people just made do with what was around, 'Let's go down to this alley way and meet at five o'clock every Friday and do our thing and put it on the internet.' Every time they make do with the situation.
While we're waiting, let's keep doing stuff. This city has been going up, down, up, down, but the hip-hop thing just keeps going.
Wordburglar: Hip-hop will always be a part of Halifax. If you travel around Canada everybody knows Halifax for its hip-hop scene. It's dope.
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