For as long as I’ve been listening to hip hop (arguably, not that long .. Wu-Tang Forever was the first album I cared about, which was in 1997), I’ve been trying to figure out why Toronto specifically, and Canada to a lesser extent, doesn’t put out mind-blowingly good hip-hop non-stop. Why is there no buzz in the way that there is in the Houston, Detroit, or San Francisco? So in hopes of being part of the solution, I’m going to wind down some of the local stuff that has me boppin’. This is hopefully part one of a series.
Toronto’s urban population, be it black, white, asian, or whatever, is financially better off and generally more educated than the similar demographic in the U.S., so why is that not giving us an advantage? Maybe I just answered my own question – but I seriously doubt that the ability to make good hip hop is tied to poverty and the lack of a high school education. On this tangent, Famous (myspace) has a track 4th Biggest City, released early last year. The theme is: we’re in the fourth biggest city in North America, VideoFact gives you $40k, and the CRTC will make sure your song gets played at least 30% of the time on any urban station; carpe diem.
There is always the one notable exception: Kardinal Ofishall. Sure, there are K-Os and Shad-K, both of whom have the university crowds buzzing, but Kardi kills it for the city. He is the epitome of Toronto hip-hop ambassadorship. He rose far above that framework that Choclair, Saukrates, and the rest of the Northern Touch crew laid out. Bakardi Slang might as well have been an advertisement for a newer, more bloodclot English language that Plies could slur, but the album died a bad label death when MCA folded. He put out Not 4 Sale, a pretty pop-friendly album (stream it here), for which he caught some heat from people who care – but someone has to blaze the trail of Toronto to the main-stream, nes pas?
But here I’m trying to focus on the non-Kardi Toronto hip-hop world, which feels much smaller and harder to know.
To me, recently, Famous and Luu Breeze have been the standout MCs who have the chance to take a stand in the mainstream. Maybe not in the profound hip-hop megastardom way, but rekindle hope amongst listeners: the way Black Milk (myspace) and others brought new light to post-Eminem Detroit, or P.O.S. (myspace) gave hope to black kids in Minneapolis who want onto Rhymesayers.
In Ain’t No Use Famous discusses the shortcomings of being the rapper he is, as he’s trying to play catchup with the influence of those who told him to tuck his pants to his socks, obey his thirst, and wear white T’s.
This kid Luu Breeze (myspace) has an album dropping soon, so I’ve been told by every conceivable media tidbit about him. The mixtape was sleek, you can download it here. Charge It to the Game is obviously going to be the single, is a banger, but after two high profile videos, I’m not impressed with L&G Films. A Yatch? At least be excited to be on a boat.
More to come.