With another year in the books with regards to the hip-hop world, there were a number of standout contributions from the great white north that should be noticed. These are creations and displays of artistic talent capable of showing that Canada is indeed fast becoming a hotbed for hip-hop, rap, and other urban music stylings. The following are a few of my favourite efforts from Canadian hiphop artists this year:
Rising star Abel Tesfaye brought a somewhat indulgent re-release of his three riveting mixtapes to the table in 2012, boasting remastered audio and three bonus tracks. New production or not, all three efforts from The Weeknd still remain quite impressive. An excellent pickup if you didn’t manage to get a hold of these when released for free.00
With Songs for Lovers and Fighters, Ottawa’s Alex Silas showed his listeners that he is capable of drawing on a myriad of different musical styles and influences, and seamlessly weaving them in alongside hip-hop to create a truly unique album. I anticipate Silas’ growth as an artist into the new year.
Coming out of Toronto, Peter Jackson’s Fresh Start was another interesting listen that captured my musical attention in large part due to its variety of different styles of urban music and honest lyrics. An album such as this, as well as a cross-country trek with Jadakiss can only mean good things for Jackson.
Another local effort from Ottawa, The Blindspot is an excellent collection of tunes from City Fidelia which set the bar high in terms of production and lyrics. The future definitely looks bright for both City and the Ottawa scene
With Country, God, or the Girl, Somali-Canadian rapper K’Naan brings a bevy of new collaborators on board such as Nas, Nelly Furtado, will.i.am, and even rock music legends Keith Richards and Bono. At first glance, this may seem like his most commercial effort yet, and K’Naan himself is not afraid to admit that. So much so, that the man himself wrote a piece for The New York Times to legitimately apologize for making the album. An artist who can realize when fame has, perhaps, compromised some of his original values and appeal is surely inspiring.
Kid Koala is an undisputed legend within the world of turntablism, and 12 Bit Blues is an excellent addition to the list of his creations that affirm that statement. Using an E-mu SP-1200 sampler, an instrument he had wanted since he was a boy, Kid Koala finally gets his chance to create with one. Each track on 12 Bit Blues was sampled and recorded in real time, making for a raw, truly unique listen.
Shad experienced a relatively quiet 2012 (perhaps at work on another degree program?), but still found time to release a quick mixtape. The name-your-price Melancholy and the Infinite Shadness sees the man stay true to the lyrical wizardry and sensibility listeners around the country have come to know him for – all over the course of five tracks around 3 minutes in length. Hopefully this can tide us over until his next album.
With their self-titled record release this past July, Ottawa producers A Tribe Called Red combine traditional music of Canada’s First Nations with more modern club and electro stylings. The result is something quite striking – a sound which has seen success in venues all across the country thanks to the trio’s performances. Give it a listen, the fact that the entire album is available for free on their website only sweetens the deal. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever heard before.
Garnering his second shortlist appearance for the Polaris Prize, Edmonton native Cadence Weapon is beginning to pick up steam within Canada’s hip-hop consciousness. The groundbreaking, 11-track record showcases the rising star’s creativity in both wordplay, and instrumental sides of things – strengths that put him on his own level apart from other successful Canadian rap acts such as Drake and Classified. His next record could perhaps reach greater heights!
Gaining notoriety through the internet community with their jazz-infused covers of hip-hop classics, Toronto trio BadBadNotGood had an excellent 2012, largely propelled by the release of BBNG2, a wonderful record which saw them once again mix jazz with everything from Odd Future to Kanye West. Of course, being the house band for Coachella’s campground, backing Frank Ocean onstage, and making music alongside RZA doesn’t hurt either.
Article by Calum Slingerland