Hip Hop Ain’t Dead…
It Lives In The North
Canadian hip hop has a long history and connection to the underground movement of hip hop with many passionate artists in the various elements of hip hop (breaking, deejaying, emceeing, graffiti, beat making, beat boxing, fashion, etc). Beginning in the 1980’s, having been influenced by the Bronx art form, Canadians started putting their own expressions of the culture of hip hop. With the exception of 1989 to 1991, and the early 2000’s on, it remained a largely unknown style of the culture. Nowadays, Canadian hip hop enjoys successful artists in various elements of hip hop.
The first credited hip hop song created was Singin’ Fools with the song “Bum Rap”. It was released in 1982. Toronto had early support with the station CKLN-FM with the launch of the show “The Fantastic Voyage” in 1983. There wasn’t much success getting support on a large scale and was hence forth shafted and 86’d. There was not a great infrastructure for it.
Deejaying did get support and with some elbow grease, some DJs got work playing in clubs around their cities, some competed, and some even grew a fan base and toured. Some notable names are DJ A-trak and DJ Dopey.
Breaking (bboying, breakdance) grew in popularity with notable films like Breakin’ and Beat Street. Breakdance crews from the US toured and since the 80’s to now, crews formed and participated in the art. Canadian Floormasters are one of the first crews to do it and since flourished with independent crews performing, battling, and teaching.
Graffiti has always been big, and my own city of Vancouver BC is always scrawled with incredible graffiti art. Good graffiti artists get hired to paint murals for customers, but they always go paint on their own. There is an industry for it and one of the notable graffiti crews is Stompdown Killaz.
Canadian hip hop music artists continued to mainly gain underground and cult followings with little to no mainstream success. Groups such as Maestro Fresh Wes, Dream Warriors, Main Source gained the most prominence however still remained underground acts. Canadian hip hop thrived on an indie spirit. From 1992 to 1998, it never hit the mainstream. However, a chain of events took place that gave it recognition, and it was the Northern Touch collaboration of cross Canadian hip hop musicians and rappers in 1998. The Rascalz, a Vancouver group, shunned the Juno Awards, which brought hip hop from Canada attention on a mainstream level.
Having a propensity to creating quality hip hop music, ALLMUSIC noted Canada is hip hop’s best kept secret. Since then, Canada has hit the mainstream internationally, with crossover hip pop artists like K’naan, Drake, The Weeknd and hip hop with a reggae influenced Kardinal Offishal. Still with that mass appeal, any Canadian artists still thrive in the underground and indie status, gaining recognition worldwide.
1980’s to early 1990’s Notable artists
Maestro Fresh Wes
Get Loose Crew
Main Source (K Cut & Sir Scratch)
MCJ & Cool G
Mid 1990’s Notable Artists
Notable is that the french hip hop scene in Canada had better support than their English speaking counterpart artists, with artists like Dubmatique selling 300,000 copies of their album.
Rascalz, Choclair, Thrust, Kardinal Offishal, Jellestone, Saukrates, Baby Blue Soundcrew, Drake, Classified, K-os, K’naan, Swollen Members, Sweatshop Union, Buck 65, Belly, Moka Only, Shad, Kyprios, Cadence Weapon, Snak The Ripper, Stompdown Killaz, KOTD, DJ A Trak
Most notable are Kardinal Offishal, Drake, K’naan being the artists with chart topping international mass appeal!
Notable Beat Boxer
French Hip Hop is also a scene of it’s own in Canada, followed by a very supportive Aboriginal hip hop scene, filled with many artists of that culture.
Hip Hop has had a positive influence on the First Nations of Canada, whom use it as a form of expression and empowerment.
Notable French Hip Hop Artists
Notable Aboriginal Hip Hop Artists
A Tribe Called Red
Post written by
Chang$ter aka Ju$t Jun MC of GuapoVida