The Comprehensive Guide to Toronto Rap

Toronto rap doesn't just start and end with Drake, it's full of multicultural and eccentric artists with their own slang and flavor.

|
Jun 11 2013, 8:20pm

New York is often billed as the "mecca" for a lot of things: basketball, racism, bagels, hip-hop, etc. But you'd be interested to know that Toronto was often this close to becoming a mecca in its own right regarding some of these items, specifically basketball and hip-hop. The first NBA game ever was played on November first, 1946 between the New York Knickerbockers and the Toronto Huskies at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. The Huskies would go on to lose by two points, not be allowed in the league, and have their stadium converted into a grocery store; while New York would go on to wallow in mediocrity for the next 58 years. However, they would be allowed to do so as official members of the Association, while Toronto would have to wait 49 more years to get an official dinosaur-themed team. All because of two points that we should probably just go ahead and blame on Vince Carter.

In regards to Hip-Hop, DJ Kool Herc migrated to New York with his six siblings and mother from Kingston Jamaica and settled firmly in the Bronx, going on to flip samples and loops in a way that would go on to change music forever. During 1967 the Jamaican population was taking advantage of its recent independence by seeking a new home in three main places: New York, Britain, or Toronto. Since most current citizens probably had a bad taste in their mouthes from being colonized by the British for so long, most opted to choose either Toronto or New York. So while we don't know Mrs. Herc's exact motives, it's safe to say that there was a 50% percent chance that Kool Herc could have been inventing Hip-Hop on the streets of Scarborough instead of The Bronx.

But being the almost-mecca hasn't exactly discouraged us in regards to hip-hop (Basketball though? Yeah, we give up) as we've had a consistent string of talent emerge from the city since the 1989. Maestro Fresh Wes was an early adopter, instructing us to let our backbone slide over a flipped sample of five separate artists including The Mohawks, James Brown, and Public Enemy. The record reached number one on the charts and put Toronto on the map for hip-hop and allowed artists like Michie Mee, Choclair, Baby Blue Sound Crew and Solitair to push it forward in style and in substance. It wasn't until Kardinal Offishall's debut as a solo artist with "Bakardi Slang" in 2001 that the citizens of Toronto became properly represented as a multicultural and eccentric bunch with their own slang and flavor. It was also the first time that we were introduced to the world as the "T dot" and we haven't looked back since.

The current crop of talent to represent the city doesn't start and end with Drake, although he has played a crucial role in keeping us in the limelight in a post-Kardi world. In fact, with almost forty currently active artists in the Greater Toronto Area, there's a good chance that you'll find something for every preference ranging from grime to gangsta rap to boom-bap to "lyrical-miracles" and much much more. To help you keep up with who does what and where they're from, I have created a comprehensive rundown of active Toronto rap acts:

4TH PYRAMID

Area: North York (Finch & Don Mills)
A slick rhymer with expansive touring credentials under his belt including being on the road with such legends as Wu-Tang and Too $hort, 4th Pyramid's vivid imagination and hardened look makes him a standout talent.

6TH LETTER

Area: Old Toronto
Imagine a mix of Joey Bada$$ and Wiz Khalifa and you get 6th Letter, a spectacled marijuana advocate with an affinity for boom-bap beats and vintage clothing.

A-GAME

Area: Scarborough
These identical twins are all about living the lavish lifestyle and rapping about it. Although their style is often seen as a gimmick, they consistently create songs that end up as summer anthems for the city.

ADAM BOMB

Area: Old Toronto
A highly technical battle rapper who grew an organic following by freestyling on corners, Adam is a punchline machine wrapped in a hoodie with an ear on the streets and another on pop culture refrences.

AIRPLANE BOYS

Area: Scarborough
This duo spits machine gun rhymes over eclectic samples while wearing the finest leathers. It's Art Haus rap at it's finest and it's done well enough to garner them an audience in Asia where they often tour.

BIG LEAN

Area: Scarborough
A gangsta rapper whose priorities revolve around getting money and then rapping about it, Lean was wise enough to secure a Chief Keef cameo before the teen rap-idol went to jail.

BLAKE CARRINGTON

Area: Mississauga
Style and substance make Blake a favorite both in Toronto and in LA. He's the artist that knows everyone and knows how to dress. The first time I met him, he had a different colorway of Air Yeezy's on each foot.

CHURCH CHIZZLE

Area: Old Toronto
After winning the freestyle battle crown on MuchMusic and making a name for himself, Church was stabbed 12 times, 7 in the head. He uses this as further motivation to pursue his craft and be a community activist.

D-PRYDE

Area: Brampton
The incredibly popular Asian sensation with a heart of gold, D-Pryde managed to get a record deal in New York where he now spends most of his time.

D-SISIVE

Area: Old Toronto
After picking up steam in the 90s only to fall into depression, D-Sisive found his passion again thanks to listening to the Beach Boys (seriously). He is often heralded as one of the most lyrical artists to come from Toronto.



DEVON TRACY

Area: Mississauga
Half hip-hop artist, half dancer, Devon Tracy has used his appeal with the ladies to build a steady career trajectory.

FAMOUS

Area: Scarborough
A master of marketing, Famous puts more time and effort into the presentation of his music than most. Along with his string of mixtapes, he was known for recording the opening song for a local sports show.



HONEY COCAINE

Area: Vaughan
Formerly part of Tyga's camp, Honey's abrasive and foul-mouthed attitude makes her very popular to a select set of the population.

JELLY TOO FLY

Area: North York
The gap-toothed and dreaded female who loves other females has built a cult following due to her strong hustle and penchant for rhyming bluntly and directly to the listener.

JD ERA

Area: Mississauga
The original golden child of Toronto's rebirth, JD has been picked up by Raekwon's local label and has used the resources and influence to build his audience beyond the Greater Toronto Area.

K'NAAN

Area: Etobicoke (Dixon)
Originally of "Waving Flag" fame, K'Naan has been fighting to push past the image of a one hit wonder by releasing motivational and uplifting rap anthems and writing books of the same nature.

K-OS

Area: Old Toronto
An experimental bohemian artist, k-Os has had a string of hits and works tirelessly to push the boundaries. He recently recorded a rap-rock album that broke the mold by not being awful.

LUU BREEZE

Area: Scarborough
Known for being able to get in the pocket of any beat, Luu has gone through beef with some of the artists on this list and made it through triumphantly.



P REIGN


Area: Scarborough
Instrumental to Drake's success and reputation, P Reign is currently reaping the rewards by releasing a mixtape with the likes of A$AP Rocky, French Montana and Waka Flocka.

PAGE

Area: North York (Jane)
Although he's known best for getting his song jacked by Drake, who used it to introduce the world to his sing-raps on "Still Fly," Page has kept grinding steadily through the years.

RAZ FRESCO

Area: Brampton
A boom-bap rapper with style and an affinity for retro Jordans, Raz is also the producer of a majority of his songs. He's attained major underground buzz through his live performances for major artists.

RICH KIDD

Area: Mississauga
Although he started off as a producer, Rich recently got behind the mic where his thunderous voice has become a loudspeaker for a lot of Toronto's societal issues.

REDWAY

Area: Mississauga
A stylish lyrical proprietor who spits with a slight Jamaican accent, Redway has bred his talents by splitting his time in Toronto and New York, where he has built his network over the years.

RONEY

Area: Scarborough
Toronto's answer to Chief Keef with a touch of grime, Roney is a 16 year old wunderkid who represents the toughest part of the city with his languid rhymes and catchy ad-libs

SAUKRATES

Area: Old Toronto
The godfather of Toronto rap, Saukrates has been rapping in a sing-song voice years before Aubrey. In fact, this intellectual dreaded wonder is rumored to appear on Drake's new album.

SHAUN BOOTHE

Area: Old Toronto
A bare-bones rapper with a soft spot for rapping with live instruments at every opportunity, Shaun also works at being a community leader along with his aspiring rap career.

SMASH BROVAZ

Area: Mississauga
A production and rapping duo that deals with drug-raps and innuendos, their soulful take on street raps is done with a wink and a nod on top of their jazzy instrumentals.

TASHA THE AMAZON

Area: Old Toronto
The charismatic spitfire lyricist rhymes on top of electronic music and inserts off kilter references at every opportunity.

TF HOUSE

Area: Old Toronto
Affiliated with The Weeknd, House makes a smoky and trippy brand of music that deals with drugs and romance in a sedated and whirled cadence.

TONA

Area: Scarborough
A veteran of the new Toronto rap game, Tona blends his gruff delivery blended rhyme patterns with out of this world beats to create head-bopping tunes.

TORY LANEZ

Area: Brampton
Currently making a big push with his take on Houston-inspired screwed rap with the help of DJ Drama and Sean Kingston, Tory Lanez is set to have a huge 2013 by releasing drug-induced bars over slow beats.

TRE MISSION

Area: Don Mills
Tre's Toronto soul mixes with his love for UK grime music to blend the best of both worlds. His talents have been recognized by the likes of Tim Westwood, who invited him to rhyme alongside UK artist JME.

Is there another Drake among this bunch? Perhaps. But Aubrey only managed to reach the level he's at now through an influential co-sign, before which he was getting booed off stage when opening for the likes of Talib Kweli. Toronto is a city that latches on to trends very quickly, but it's not one to start and support them organically. If Kanye West were to say that any of the above are the "next big thing in hip-hop" you can bet that the city would throw their support behind them vehemently. But until then, you can bet that we'll continue to stand behind our identity as the "Screwface Capital" and boo an occasional up-and-comer off stage.

People in their basements probably don't think Slava P wrote this. He's on Twitter - @SlavaP