Profiles

MY LOOK: Local hip hop artist Christian Djohossou, a.k.a. Le R

 This story appears in the Winter edition of Ottawa Magazine, on newsstands now. Click here to subscribe to the print or digital versions. 

Christian is wearing a Scribes & Griots hat, a scarf from an outdoor market in Benin, a Scribes & Griots sweatshirt, a vest he made using fabric from Benin, pants from Ruby X, and shoes from Urban Outfitters. Photo by Jamie Kronick.
Christian is wearing a Scribes & Griots hat, a scarf from an outdoor market in Benin, a Scribes & Griots sweatshirt, a vest he made using fabric from Benin, pants from Ruby X, and shoes from Urban Outfitters. Photo by Jamie Kronick.

Your music is very unique. How would you describe it?
Francophone hip hop or French rap, but more and more, I’m including elements from my country of Benin and my ethnicity, Adja. I have studied a special Agbadja rhythm. It’s very intricate and involves a set of many drums. In the future, I would like to add this to my recordings. For now, I’m getting more involved in the spoken-word scene. I’ve always been attracted to how traditions could survive into modernity. Some aspects of culture in Benin could disappear — it has to do with the tendency for youth to want to move forward, not back. I’m trying to create something for them that is general but uses metaphors and images that are resonant in my life. The aim is to say something that is clever but still accessible.

How would you describe your personal style?
Colourful, for sure. I tend to like things that are more earthy and joyful and mix traditional with modernity. It’s these two elements that constitute my personality. It’s also the idea behind my production company, Scribes & Griots. The ideology is to combine the traditional and the modern, the writing and the oral history, and to find the balance between the two. Eventually I want Scribes & Griots to be a record label for like-minded musicians.

Where do you shop?
There’s a store on Bank Street — Ruby X — that has a lot of unique stuff that I enjoy. Also Urban Outfitters. The prices are good, and you can still find some things that are special.

Tell me about this vest you designed.
I got a crash course in sewing from the mother of a friend, who was visiting from Paris. We used materials from Benin that I had been saving in a closet, and basically she watched over my shoulder as I sewed.

How do you decide what to wear when performing?
It should be different from anything I’ve worn before. Some things I will wear again, but never exactly the same outfit. Also it depends on how that performance touches my interior, how much I’m willing to share. Sometimes it’s just how I would dress in everyday life, but sometimes I’d want it to be more special.

How does your clothing style affect your performance?
I always really envision the performance, so by the time I get on stage, I’m already in a comfort zone. Knowing what I’m going to wear just makes that easier.

I understand you perform a lot at schools. What’s that like?
I’m very happy to be able to go into schools. It’s a blessing. A lot of the lyrics are about empowerment and following your dreams. The way I interact is different, and after, some kids come and talk to me — you feel a special connection.