Although often overlooked by heads south of the border, there’s no denying Canada is home to a vibrant and diverse hip-hop scene that spans from Vancity to the T-Dot to the East Coast (haha I’m not sure what slang for Atlantic Canada is). See below for tracks by a few of my favourite Canadian mcs and producers, including both established vets and some newer cats:
I don’t know a whole lot about Sikh Knowledge, except that he’s a producer from Montreal with a unique style characterized by heavy synths, soul samples and dancehall drum patterns. The result is an eclectic sound that works surprisingly well. ‘Feel Right’ is an excellent example of this, but check out his Myspace for more Sikh Knowledge goodness.
Masia One – an mc from Toronto whose first album came out in 2003 – was born in Singapore but raised in Vancouver. According to Wikipedia she was the first female rapper to be nominated for ‘Best Rap Video’ at the Much Music Video Awards. “Return Of The BGirl” is one of her best known songs and is an excellent example of her lyrical prowess.
Saukrates – Hate Runs Deep (opens a Sharebee.com site where you can download the entire 12″ single)
Saukrates is one of Canada’s best known and most respected mcs. He first gained popularity in the early ’90s with “Still Caught Up” and has since worked with people like Nelly Furtado, Nas, and the cream of the Canadian hip-hop crop on Northern Touch (see below). “Hate Runs Deep” is from his early days and features some gritty drums, ill samples and some excellent, inspiring lyrics.
Stace Prints – Soulivar (opens his Myspace page)
One of the godfathers of West Coast hip-hop, Stace Prints has been making music since the ’80s. Check out his Myspace page for the title track of his newest album, “Soulivar,” named after South American revolutionary Simon Bolivar. Prints explained why he chose the name in an interview with a local newspaper a couple of years ago: “Bolivar started his journey as one man who assembled a small, loyal following and built from there,” Prints explains. “It’s the idea of taking hip-hop back to where it was before the foundation got lost in the shuffle of heavy commercial appropriation. I see the major labels as the Spanish Empire and me trying to go up against that on an independent level as Bolivar did. I want to give a positive message to other hip-hop artists who are also in the same boat as me.”
An up-and-coming mc from Toronto, PA (a.k.a. Prince Ali) released an EP a little while ago called “I Miss 1994” featuring some big names, most notably Craig G of Juice Crew fame (who also wrote most of the battle rhymes in 8 Mile). As its title suggests, PA’s first album has a distinctly Golden Age vibe, with ill jazz samples and hard-hitting, well crafted rhymes.
Also, on a bit of a side note, yours truly actually produced a track for PA waaay back in the day after he heard some of my beats on Soundclick. Check it out: PA feat. INA – Reflect.
Da Grassroots are a three-man production team from Toronto. For their first full-length album, “Passage Through Time” (just a note, the tracks are in .mp4 format), they enlisted the help of some of Canada’s finest mcs to complement their sometimes jazzy, sometimes funky, boom-bap, East Coast style.
And finally, any post about Canadian hip-hop has to end with “Northern Touch.” For those not in the know, “Northern Touch” is probably the most successful Canadian hip-hop single to date. A collaboration between the biggest names in Canadian hip-hop in the late ’90s, this track is credited with rejuvenating hip-hop north of the 49th parallel: