Clubbing: Hip Hop Karaoke

Photo: Daisy Fernandez

Hip Hop Karaoke is a club that, as the name implies, a club that gives you the chance to karaoke through your favourite hip-hop songs in front of an audience of your fellow hip-hop fans. It usually takes place at Södra Teatern, and is run by Johanna Svanelind, Elias Einhyrning, Helena Sandahl, Ellen Sjöberg, Nima Barjami, Lisa Ambjörn, Fatima Osman and Chloe Lillo. We met Johanna and Helena to chat about it.

What are your own backgrounds in hip-hop? How did you get started in this business, and how did the idea for the hip-hop karaoke night start?

Johanna: Well, none of us have professional experience, except for our DJs. We’re just huge hip-hop nerds and fans, and that’s where the idea for hip-hop karaoke comes from. It’s about coming to a place where everyone loves the music you love yourself. I think all hip-hop fans take pride in knowing all the lyrics and practising at home, and then hip-hop karaoke is your chance to show the rest of the world, and get your skills out. Even though you’re not a rapper, because it’s actually really difficult [laughs].

Helena: And to be really unapologetic about it too. There’s no pretension. It’s just about fans of hip-hop, showing off their skills.

Johanna: It started because two of the other organisers and I used to live in London, and there was a hip-hop karaoke club at a place called The Social. It was one of the first places I went out to, and I continued going for five years and made so many friends. It was one of the best environments to be in. Then we all moved back to Sweden, and missed it. So we pulled a couple of friends together who are also hip-hop nerds like us. So we tried it out at Landet and there was a line down as far as the tube! For some reason everyone else thought it was a great idea as well. So after two events we had to move to Södra Teatern, because we pulled in too many people. And we’ve been going since then.

And so what’s the set-up of the club typically? You’ve got the karaoke, the DJs… how does the standard night play out?

Helena: Well on a standard night we open the doors at 21, and we usually have about an hour where we just play music, with a DJ. And then people who have signed up start to trickle in, usually a little after 22, then we’ll do our first karaoke set. Then we’ll have a short break, then another set, and so on. Sometimes we do singalongs.

Have you ever been surprised by any of the participants? Has anyone ever blown you away when you weren’t expecting them to?

Helena: All the time. Some people you can tell [that they’re good], they have a swagger, you can see they’re huge hip-hop fans and they’re going to do great. But my favourite thing is when you see a girl, who’s in a fancy dress and high heels, and horribly enough in my head I think ‘You’re in the wrong place honey, you should be in Stureplan!’. But then she grabs the mic and just goes off! With insane energy and knows every word. That is the best thing!

Do you have any tips for nervous beginners?

Helena: My biggest one, something that I got wrong the first time, is practise with the instrumental track. Most of us listen on the bus and mime along with the artist, and we think we know it, but when the words aren’t there it becomes a different game.

Johanna: Practise with the instrumental and practise out load, not just in your head. This was my biggest problem, because I always tend to drift into a falsetto and it sounds really weird!

Helena: And practise breathing, because if you don’t and you’re doing a fast track, like Busta Rhymes or something, you’re gonna run out of breath!

And what do you think of the health of the hip-hop scene in Stockholm right now?

Johanna: I think a lot has happened in the hip-hop scene in the last couple of years, both on the club scene and with artists. I think hip-hop has become more popular and trendy, which always might stop at any moment. We used to hang out at Södra Teatern’s hip-hop clubs like five or six years ago, and it was maybe us and three other people in the room, on a Saturday night. And now when we do it, around five or six hundred people show up. That’s not just because we’re a great club, something has changed. Typical clubs play more hip-hop too. There’s a lot of Swedish music they play now too, because there are so many good hip-hop artists. What I find most exciting is that there’s so many Swedish female MCs coming up.

So how can people get involved in the Hip-Hop Karaoke events over the next couple of months?

Helena: Sign up! Get onto our Facebook page, tell us what song you want to do. Bring your crew and come out!.

Johanna: We love when people bring their crew. We’ve also missed people having co-ordinated dances and outfits, that’s something we’d like to see more of. If you sign-up to perform you get free entrance. And be there on time, because we have long queues, so don’t get stuck in the queue, come early. It’s also free for the first hour.

The next Hip Hop Karaoke event takes place at Södra Teatern on Jan 13. You can apply to perform by mailing hhk.sthlm@gmail.com