I love finding good coffee, and I also love supporting independent cafés. Good thing Montréal has both, and some of my favourite cafés can be found downtown, in the Plateau, and the Mile End. Le Hip-Hop Café is a relatively new addition to the Mile End neighbourhood and I had been meaning to drop by and check out the place since it opened in February. Mind you, the establishment situated at the corner of avenue Parc and rue Villeneuve is not just a café but more of a business with a concept — one that happens to offer good coffee and eats but operates for the purpose of promoting hip hop culture in Montréal.
The café is a meeting spot for neighbourhood coffee lovers and students, but it isn’t one of those places where you can lounge about for hours pouring over your biology books. There is free wifi, caffeinated options and the choice of background music is awesome — Nas’ classics were playing when I recently dropped by. But the number of seats (around ten) are limited and purposefully so, as the café operates as a sort of community centre in a space decorated with graffiti murals and canvas paintings. While the counter and tables take up one side of the space, the other side includes a DJ booth and items for sale such as the graphic T-shirts on display and vinyls in the case you like what you’re listening to. Posters of hip hop events in the city are plastered on the counter and the spot is also a venue for city events.
The café’s location in the Mile End makes sense as the neighbourhood is well known for its large artist community. The Mile End is the anglophone counterpart to the Plateau, which also attracts the creative class though of the French tongue. For example, DJ Champion resides in the Plateau, a electronic and trip hop musician who is well known in his native Montréal. In the Mile End there are so many English musicians that call that neighbourhood home, most famously Arcade Fire, and other indie bands of similar genre. Montréal is not famous for its hip hop scene — where is our Québecois Drake (well, do we want one)? — but perhaps Le Hip-Hop Café is trying to change that as it’s undeniable that the love for hip hop music exists in the city. On its website, the café describes itself as a “cultural centre”; it’s really a café-slash-store-slash-event space. It might be hard to wrap your head around this concept, which is so new and no place of comparison comes to mind. But that’s what makes Le Hip-Hop Café so cool and progressive, and worth checking out.
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