September 23, 2021

There are just a few clues that the building at 341 Marsland Drive in Waterloo was once a music venue, but in the 1990s people would come to hear legends like Public Enemy, Vanilla Ice and Ice-T.

The club was called The Twist.

“It was a night-club, a popular place to be,” says Sam Nabi, a local hip-hop musician. “If artists were doing a North American tour, they would go to Detroit, and they would go to Toronto, and we’re about half way between Detroit and Toronto, so Kitchener-Waterloo was always a good place for artists to stop off.”

The Twist, just like Starlight on King St., is now one of more than 40 places marked down in TriCityHipHop, a unique online map of the Hip Hop scene in the area, built by a group of musicians led by Nabi, who’s trying to give the scene and the artists the respect they deserve.

“There were a lot of people that actually had quite good success, quite good reach and fan base over the years and I think our community hasn’t done a very good job of lifting those voices up or remembering those artists,” Nabi says.

Artist and producer Tait Garret, who’s one of the people featured on the map, says that the hip hop scene around here is still strong, thanks in part to the diversity brought by all the students in the region.

“When the universities and colleges connect with the homegrown talent around here, it makes for a beautiful connection between the two, that can really spread the diversity between audience and musicians,” Garret says.

Maybe The Twist and Starlight are part of history, but Hip Hop in the TriCity area is very much a part of the future.

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