We all know that when it comes to hip-hop, no one does it better than the States. Being the home of the movement, the U.S. involves itself in the development of the genre much more than any other country. As time went on, though, hip-hop became a global movement. From the favelas of Brazil to the streets of London, England, the culture made its presence known. One country that knows how to do it right is Canada.
Being a Canadian myself, it’s fair to assume that I have some sort of bias, but regardless the talent in this country is definitely present. From Vancouver to the Maritimes, rappers come correct and deliver. Granted, Canada doesn’t seem like a very welcoming place to hip-hop (our border patrol is a constant nightmare for any rapper coming to tour in Canada), but from the days of Maestro Fresh Wes and his hit single “Let Your Backbone Slide”, to the recent success of Drake, Canadians have popped up here and there throughout hip-hop history.
These five rappers/rap groups aren’t being highlighted because they’re Canadian. They’re being listed here as great rappers first and Canadian citizens second. So without further ado, here are five Canadian rappers/rap groups you need to know about.
Classified comes from Enfield, Nova Scotia, which is literally as East Coast as you can get. This rapper/producer has pumped out 13 albums in the last 14 years. It wasn’t until his 9th album, Trial & Error, that he began to garner some real buzz in Canada. His latest album, Self-Explanatory, featured Royce Da 5’9″ & B.o.B. (I know it’s Bobby Ray now, but the tracklisting said B.o.B.), Choclair, and several lesser-known Canadian emcees. Classified has a convincing sound and is virtually always rock solid in his writing. Since Self-Explanatory, I’ve noticed more Americans on blog sites getting into Classified, so hopefully this buzz will only grow. Below is my favorite Classified song: “No Mistakes”, from Boy-Cott In The Industry.
In my mind, Moka Only (from Victoria, British Columbia, which is near Vancouver) is the king of the West Coast when it comes to Canada. If you thought Classified’s 13 albums in 14 years were impressive, then you don’t know anything about this guy. In the 13+ years he’s been making music solo and in collaborative projects (he was once a part of Swollen Members), Moka Only has put out OVER 40 ALBUMS. You can obviously see why he calls himself “The Most Prolific”. Moka Only does not sacrifice quality for quantity, though. His hypnotic flow and wit capture you in his songs and make you feel like he’s rhyming with the utmost ease. Below is the video for “Starfish” from one of his 2008 albums, Carrots And Eggs.
k-os (which stands for “Knowledge of Self” or “Kheaven’s Original Sound” – no seriously, when he explained it, he gave both answers on two different occasions) is a Toronto native that I already gave some exposure to on this site with his single, “I Wish I Knew Natalie Portman”. As stated in that previous post, k-os is a man of many talents: he sings, raps, writes, plays keyboard, and plays guitar. The guy is such a huge breath of fresh air musically speaking that the Toronto hip-hop scene would not be the same without him. k-os’ ability to switch between writing raps and writing songs with melody is also something I have to give big props for. As we saw with 808s & Heartbreak, just because someone can write raps, it doesn’t mean that the person can write songs with melody, which require as much thought and expression but with fewer lyrics. To show you k-os’ writing talent, below are arguably his most popular rap single (“Man I Used To Be”) and his most popular single using singing exclusively (“Sunday Morning”).
Shad is fairly new on the scene. From London, Ontario (a few hours southwest of Toronto), he was born in Kenya from Rwandan parents. With only two albums, he has already been able to win over many people. His lyrical content is well-balanced, ranging from the humorous to the conscientious. He is also insanely clever, has tight worplay, and can spit DOOM-like multis, as proven on the song “Exile” (the only difference between Shad’s multis and DOOM’s is that Shad’s tend to make alot more sense). I just recently finished listening to his latest album, The Old Prince, and I was surprised by how strong and impressive an album it was. I highly recommend it to all hip-hop fans because it is a sleeper classic. Below is my favorite music video and song of 2008, “The Old Prince Still Lives At Home”. It’s impossible to not like this joint.
Finally, we have Point Blank, a group out of Toronto’s Regent Park (Canada’s oldest housing project). This group consists of six rappers (Imperial, Trouble, Stump, Kidd, RPD, and Jackal) and one producer (Pikihed). Although they have been releasing singles since the mid-90s, their first album, the self-titled Point Blank, dropped only last year. Point Blank stay true to their roots and usually rap about the hardships that they and others face in their community. Clearly, not all of us can relate to this, yet Point Blank’s sincerity and authenticity in their sound and in their lyrics make them a group that can be appreciated by even those of us who didn’t have to face such struggles growing up. These guys prove that they’re no joke and because of their honesty and attitude, they were able to drop a really solid album. Below is their music video for “God Only Knows” featuring Mark Mckay.
So there you have it. Although it is a country whose population is small and scattered, Canada is still capable of being the home to some of the realest hip-hop I’ve ever heard. These 5 rappers/rap groups prove that Canada has some serious talent – talent that the whole global hip-hop community needs to know about. To end this off, I’m going to post one last song: Classified’s “Oh…Canada”, the rap guideline to who we are.
Tagged: Canada, Classified, God Only Knows, hip hop, k-os, man i used to be, Moka Only, no mistakes, old prince, Point Blank, shad, starfish, sunday morning, talent