When it comes to the western hip-hop business, the United States is the first country that comes to mind. With the origins and a long history, American hip-hop is wining the industry without a doubt. But, because of the well-known names like Drake or The Weeknd, Canadian rap scene is getting more much-deserved recognition. With so many prominent and popular US-Born hip-hop artists, Canadian talents were left behind for a long time. Over the past few years, the world has finally started to discover the forgotten music of America’s neighbour.
Canada has many fantastic, innovative and talented artists that bring new sound and style to the industry. Even though not many of them hit the mainstream yet, they definitely have a big chance to do so in the near future. We want to introduce 12 Canadian rappers that deserve attention and are up in the game.
Tommy is the queen of Canadain underground rap. She describes herself as a “fetish rapper” and creates genre-bending hip-hop/pop music. Her style is somewhere tricky to describe, but she doesn’t want to be put in the box. Tommy’s lyrics and sounds are brave and provoking. She is openly very sexual and is not ashamed of it. As a feminist advocate, themes of self-love and female empowerment are prominent in her music. Genesis released her debut LP World Vision in 2015 and followed up with a self-titled full-length album in 2018. Tommy is an internet-era rapper with a famous Instagram account and modelling campaigns. The debut album offers a deep dive into the artists’ character and the topic of sensibility, sexuality and dualism. Tommy’s original musical style has made her one of the most influential female rappers in the picture.
PARTYNEXTDOOR is the name you might have heard of. Canadian rapper, producer and songwriter was a first artist signed to Drake’s record label OVO Sound. He decides to be rather low-key in media and prefers the anonymous life-style. The rapper holds a close relationship with Rihanna and Drake and collaborated with those artist many times before. Recently realising a hit with the female pop superstar BELIEVE IT. His talented in songwriting and production allowed him to help out artists like Big Sean, Lil Yachty, Major Lazer and DJ Khaled. So far he put out five very successful albums in the ambient, R&B inspired style. PARTYNEXTDOOR is definitely a proud moment for the Canadian music industry, and his talent keeps shining more with each new project.
Night Lovell is one of the original SoundCloud rappers that gained fame on the app in 2014. His song Dark Light was a viral hit and opened the doors for his career. Growing up in Ottawa, where the hip-hop scene wasn’t big, allowed him to develop an individual style. Darkness, mystery and tense trap beats are Lovell’s signature vibe. All of his projects are sonically complex and very well produced albums. The artist finds a perfect balance between melody and hard-hitting beats. Dark, heavy rap and sound bring depth to his artistic growth. Last year Night Lovell after a long break realised his most personal record yet Goodnight Lovell and became one the fastest growing Canadian rappers.
Since realising his breakout song Killamonjaro in 2017 KILLY has gained a large fan group and quickly jumped into the Toronto’s hip hop scene. He got signed with Epic Label and realised Surrender Your Soul and Light Path 8 thus far. As a 23-year-old KILLY is quickly conquering the rap industry in Canada and already selling out headline shows. He didn’t manage to hit the top charts yet, but with the pace of his growth, it’s only a matter of time.
Mustafa the Poet
Mustafa, the Poet at age 24, is already Toronto’s walking legend. He began his careers as a spoken word poet at a young age, and since then he was building his artistic career. Mustafa’s poetry videos gained a lot of attention and recognition from his community and other artists. After finding his voice and an audience, Mustafa decided to pursue a career in music. His name started to appear in the industry after co-writing The Weeknd’s song Attention from the 2016 album Starboy. In his art, the singer explores important to him topic such as gang violence, inequality, poverty and religion. Mustafa is also an activist for a Muslim community in his home town and openly speaks about political and racial issues. His talent in poetry and writing has significant importance in today’s music. Before his solo career, he has been working with Frank Dukes, Camila Cabello, James Blake. Earlier this year the artists dropped his first singles Air Forces and Stay Alive. With such a promising and beautiful songs Mustafa the Poet’s debut album, scheduled to be realised in 2021 can be a real masterpiece.
Haviah Mighty is making history for the Canadian hip hop industry. She was the first female, Black rapper that won the Polaris Music Prize in 2019 for her debut studio album, 13th Floor. She started her career in an all-female MC collective The Sorority in Canada. Haviah often speaks about her childhood in Toronto and Brampton and experiences of racism and inequality. Her music is full of wise lyrics and upbeat melodies with a Missy Elliot vibes. Her energy in the record is powerful, strong and dynamic. Mighty is not afraid to speak up for herself, and her music shows braveness and transparency. She became one of the most influential female figures in the Canadian’s hip hop scene. In 2020 Haviah realised two new singles Atlantic and Occasion.
Roy Woods got signed to a prestige Drake founded label OVO Sound not long after realising his first music. His style and talent were discovered quickly, and since then, he made a pretty impressive career. In 2017 Roy realised a critically acclaimed record Say Less with patronage from hip hop hero Drake himself. His R&B style brings a new and exciting sound to the industry. The artist brings up 2000’s music and artists like Michel Jackson or Nelly as his biggest inspiration. Woods recently announced that he would be dropping a new, project sometime next year.
Shaya Lia is a Djiboutian-Canadian musician that was born in France. She started writing her first songs while attending a University in Montreal. She is the best know from her fantastic collaboration with fellow Canadian producer Kaytranada. Her sound is R&B, funk, and soul-inspired and crates a sensual and ambient mood. On her very successful EP, Dangerous Lia worked with Buddy, KAYTRANADA, Badbadnotgood, and Kojey Radical. Last year the artist had an opportunity to tour in Europe with an indie artist Omar Apollo. Shaya after the debut LP curved an exciting path for her rise in the business. Lia’s beautiful voice and a unique approach to R&B infused music attracted a large audience excited for her new achieves.
K.Forest, an another rising rapper from the suburbs of Toronto. He is the artist behind Travis Scott’s 2016 song Guidance. But Forest after the received acknowledgements only got bigger in the Canadian world of hip hop. His very private persona and rare online presence give him the status of a mysterious talent. His 2019 LP Forest Fire incorporates 90s rap, R&B and gospel which provided a distinct and interesting project with some room for future growth. It’s evident that K.Forest is totally focused on his musical development and surprises fans with mature sound and lyrics on every album.
D’NME is one of the greatest independent artists in the underground scene of Canada. His very lyrical and technical approach to rap music makes him a special and original figure. He believes in transparency and authenticity when it comes to hip hop and doesn’t want to be limited by the industry. He successfully managed to realise projects online without getting signed to a major label. Having artistic freedom and full control over his career is an important aspect of D’NME. So far the rapper dropped a few singles and mixtapes but is surely preparing new music for the future. His vibrate confidence and honesty enabled him to gain a loyal fan base and many other accomplishments. In 2020 D’NME’s single Untouchable, has reached over 150,000 streams on Spotify.
Ramriddlz’s name blew out on the internet after Drake covered one of his first songs Sweeterman. Even though the Canadian-born artist, in the beginning, didn’t take his music too seriously, with time, he influenced hip hop with his characteristic sound. Ramriddlz’s style is something that flooded the industry quickly in the past few years. Poppy, fast, dancehall-like vibe often used by artists like Drake was Ramriddlz’s bread and butter. The artist recently released a new project Ain’t Shit Sweeter with many up-beat, hit tracks.
Sean Leon is one of the biggest names in Canada. His more soft, chill, sometimes dark musical style and debuts like Ninelevenne, the Tragedy and Narcissus, Drowning of the Ego caught eyes and ears of Daniel Caesar, Brandy, Pharrell Williams and Kanye West. Leon’s talent goes far beyond rap to production, visual art and entrepreneurship. Many creative thoughts and musical knowledge go to his projects while he touches on topics like love, loss, and suburbian childhood. In 2018 Sean put out his mont intimate album Sean Leon (The Death Of) that was very well received by fans and critics.
Text by Oliwia Dworakowska