Trying to Give Ottawa A Good Rap

Ottawa – the city that fun forgot. Or maybe it’s the city that fun exists in but, more often than not, is clouded over with stuffy, conventional attitudes that pollute the streets during the daily commute to our less than lively downtown core.

The latter perceptions of our capital region are common ones. And that’s fine – any city is bound to have those who slam it and those who support it. The five ladies of In A Nutshell are supporters, through and through, and we’re always proud to say we’re not the only ones.

“I’m going to stay here until I die,” agrees Clayton “CB” Hawkins, the man behind Ottawa rap personality Spitten Image. “I’ll always be repping the 613, you know? As just a white kid rapping from Ottawa.”

Spitten Image

“CB”, as he’s known to most, has big plans for himself – and for Ottawa. A 23-year-old man born and raised in Orleans, Hawkins realizes the popular thing to do is either conquer a city’s rap scene and move on to bigger and better – or, for most young people, just get out as soon as you get the chance. Not exactly the case with Spitten Image.

“Because Ottawa is so black and white, we have the potential to start a huge scene here,” he says. “We’ve got a bunch of amazing rappers – why not take it as far as we can with what we have? It’s a beautiful city and no one has dominated it with hip-hop yet.”

The short-term plan for Spitten Image, who originated five years ago as part of a duo called Live Feed and has now gone solo, is to spread his word through social media, gigs and videos – and put a face to a name and a name to a city in such a competitive industry. With national capital-themed rhymes and his first video for the single “Steppin’ It Up” released this week, which includes flashes of Parliament and the city center, Hawkins’ baby steps are what he considers to be part of bigger strides many are taking in getting Ottawa on the so-called rap map.

As well, Spitten Image’s lyrical purpose swings right back to the essence of hip-hop nation – struggle, contention, difficult upbringings and triumph – messaging he says is plainly woven into his work. This process, which stems from a longstanding appreciation for writing, is something he considers to be therapeutic to himself and hopefully his audience.


“I battle depression and have been down dark roads like a lot of people who would listen to my stuff,” he says without hesitation. “Hopefully I can try to help a generation of kids who feel lost.”

So, stirring together some hard knock life experiences and a little allegiance to his hometown –is that mix enough to keep him afloat in a musical game founded on rivalry and victory? In Hawkins’ grand plan, this mix is actually more of a remix when it comes to how he thinks Ottawa artists like himself should go about it.

“Battling and challenging is such a huge part of hip-hop, but with Ottawa’s scene right now – we actually have to band together,” says Hawkins, who looks up to Canadian rappers like Classified. “A bit of a rivalry is all good fun, but if we don’t step up from here and strengthen together it’s never going to happen for us.”

House of Paint - a "613" hip-hop compilation

Which is precisely where events like Sunday’s big show at downtown Ottawa’s Ritual night club come into play. A hip-hop heavy night led by New York’s hard-hitting rapper Action Bronson and backed by up-and-coming capital city emcee’s like Philly Moves, Flight Distance and Spitten Image himself – the rhyming revelry is garnering buzz. Starting at 10pm, Hawkins’ says, once again, it comes back to using venues and networking opportunities like this to pump the budding rap scene at the heart of the country.

“This is it; we have to bring the energy. Expect loud and obnoxious rhymes,” Hawkins laughs, pauses and then comes back around to the point of it all.  “Everyone will be proud of the 613.”

For more information on Spitten Image, access to songs and video – visit For tickets to Sunday night’s show at Ritual, they are $13 in advance and can be found at Top of the World, Norml, or Vertigo Records or purchased from any of the artists. The Nutshell gals will be at the show, so come and say Hi!


  1. Andrew J says:

    Hi Jess,
    If your profile info up there is correct, you’re probably looking for some live music in Ottawa. Well, look no further! The Donna Litas are playing with Paper Lions (PEI) @ Raw Sugar Cafe, on Wednesday, Dec 7. (!/events/203748326364484/). Hope to see you there!

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