“No More Dreams” how HXOUSE is aiming to change the Toronto narrative

Ahmed Ismail and La Mar Taylor, cofounders of HXOUSE

Chasing your dreams and pursuing your art and passion is always a risk anywhere in the world but especially to many here in Canada. We would have to evade our slow-moving, unrecognized towns and migrate to larger cities like L.A. and NYC to pursue opportunities, to succeed, to turn our dreams into reality.

HXOUSE is a next-generation incubator and accelerator that is at the forefront of fostering innovation and opportunity for creative entrepreneurs. It facilitates connections between talent and industry to build mutually beneficial relationships between future talent and current industry titans.

HXOUSE is a not-for-profit venture established Ahmed Ismail and by La Mar Taylor, the creative director behind The Weeknd/XO brand.

The goal is to empower young entrepreneurs with the tools, programming, mentorship, network, funds, and freedom they need to activate their talent and translate it into a sustainable career that promotes industry innovation, and in order to kick things off and get the ball rolling, HXOUSE invited a small selection of lucky individuals to sit in a panel with the biggest and heaviest names in the design, music and fashion industry. A panel of discussion on creativity, connections, failure, success, perseverance and mentality in industries that tend to be difficult and heartbreaking at times.

Dr Woo, Matthew Williams, Daniel Arsham

Day of 1 of Open HXOUSE started at a brisk Monday morning in a brand new building right across from George Brown College,  a building still under construction but the 5th floor was blooming with creativity, high tech labs, eager entrepreneurs and once in a lifetime opportunities to sit and chat with Matthew Williams, Daniel Arsham, Dr. Woo, Nabil, and White Trash Tyler. Heavy names in the fashion and music industry with portfolios featuring Kanye, Lady Gaga, Frank Ocean, the list goes on. The room was full of young creative individuals chatting with the panel and discussing the importance of brand identity and how it all comes to fruition. A room of ~300 people while 1.3 million live streamed got first-hand experience at how brands and figures need an identity and well-executed design to strengthen their image. A 2-hour panel that flew by and ended with hugs, laughs, and kisses from a few hundred people who entered as strangers and left as friends. The panel ended with Lamar and Ahmed Ismail, the creators of HXOUSE discussing how their idea came to life. Lamar tweeted a couple years ago that he plans to make an incubator for Toronto creatives one day before he hits 30, and Ahmed joined him in front of everyone wearing his janitor’s outfit his high school gave him after being denied a co-op prior to graduation. Both of them dropped out of high school, created XO with Abel, and today they opened HXOUSE, a major project that both of them never thought they could do. Both shared a special moment on stage together with the panel and the crowd.

Day 2 tickets were gone in minutes and I didn’t think I would have the honor of watching it, so I set up my laptop at work to live stream it and that’s when Chedo rings me up and tells me to come downtown within the hour to shoot the panel. I was floored, I threw everything in my bag and left and met up with him at the front doors. We made our way up and from the second we entered the elevator with 88 Glam, we knew today’s event was a bit bigger. More artists in the room, more well-known names such as Swizz Beatz, the legend, Mustafa The Poet, Boi-1da, Wondagurl and Halsey, and the list goes on. We hung around and chatted with Lamar and his team, I was able to speak with Black Atlass about how he dropped the best project out of Toronto this whole year, and we spent the hour meeting new, like-minded people as we waited for the panel to begin.

Day 2 was focused on Breaking Through in the Music Industry as the biggest names sat in front of us and told us about their ups and downs and how to deal with the industry. XO manager Cash discussed the importance of knowing your business because the music industry is just that, a BUSINESS! There are people in the industry hoping to milk you of your talents and money. We were taught to be calculative and plan every step of our journey and to never pursue strictly money and materials when making art. A discussion on mental health was brought up as well, on what makes each artist happy, what drives them and gives them the “I made it” feeling, and so much more. Watch the panel below and take in as much as you can. This is a very rare opportunity for anyone, not just Toronto creatives, and all of it came to fruition thanks to Lamar Taylor and the entire XO crew. You can catch Chedo’s question (97:18) in the video.

Mustafa The Poet showing love to Kardinal Offishall

Chedo showing La Mar Taylor a picture of him interviewing Belly in 2007.
HXOUSE team meeting
Black Atlass and myself (Ali)