Karaoke is alive and well in Melbourne, but it's always been pretty hard to shake off the 'daggy' or 'so bad it's good' label. Maybe the problem has been the choice of music: whether you're murdering a classic ballad or stumbling around to some Top 40 trashy goodness, it's very rarely a good look.
While Hip Hop Karaoke certainly doesn't take itself too seriously, it is far away from daggy. On the night I head along to get my hip hop song on, 1000 £ Bend is filled with a young, alternative and enthusiastic crowd ready to get dance, cheer and sing along.
Hip Hop Karaoke originated in New York in 2004, and since then has spanned the globe. Tom Lafeuille, organiser of Hip Hop Karaoke Melbourne, noticed an enthusiasm for hip hop music when he moved to the city, but found there weren't enough venues or club nights to accommodate this genre. After seeing the success of the Hip Hop Karaoke nights in his home country of Canada, Lafeuille was determined to get it off the ground here.
Getting to Hip Hop Karaoke early certainly has its perks. Drinks are only $5 from 9pm-10pm, and if you are here to play, it pays to get your name and song on their list early. It's first come first served for those looking to sing/rap, so if you have your heart set on a song you'd be wise to get in quick, as they'll only play each song once.
Unfortunately the Hip Hop Karaoke boys are running a little behind schedule on the night, but it's really no skin off our nose. The crowd is happy chatting, sinking beers and grooving away to the likes of Lupe Fiasco and Damian Marley before the real action starts.
To kick things off, Tom throws down the gauntlet with Big L's 'Big Picture', to be quickly followed up by 'What's Golden' by Jurassic 5 with the other three HHK lads. Things are off to a very good start. Now that the scene is set, Lafeuille is quick to lay out the ground rules for the evening:
1. No freestyling
2. No racial slurs. Including the N-word. Replace it with 'dude' or 'man' or whatever, or leave just it out
3. No homophobic slurs
One big difference with this style of karaoke is that there are no lyric sheets/words to follow on a fuzzy TV screen. Everyone who is performing tonight is probably aware of this important rule, and may have been practicing before taking the stage. While this does rule out some spontaneity from those looking to perform, this is a plus for the crowd; we're in for some seriously great performances, not just self-indulgent drunken rambling/screaming into the mic.
Probably the most noteworthy element of the evening is how inclusive and welcoming Hip Hop Karaoke is. Lafeuille is a great host who razzes up the crowd, makes special note of first time performers, and can throw down a solid rap himself when it's called upon. The crowd follows his enthusiasm, and every performer is met with and ends with a riotous applause.
Our night at HHK has been a lot of fun and we'll certainly be coming back next month. Not only did we have fun dancing and singing along to the like of Kanye West, Eminem, and a Tribe Called Quest, but we were also genuinely entertained by some great rap talent of those brave enough to take the mic. $5 entry is extremely reasonable for the good times had, and we're already plotting our performance for next time.
Hip Hop Karaoke is on the second Thursday of every month at 1000 £ Bend. See you on July 10.
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