Music, Toronto

The Drake Effect: The Toronto Urban Music Scene Has Come A Long Way

Canadian hip hop legends, Michie Mee and Maestro Fresh Wes
Canadian hip hop legends, Michie Mee and Maestro Fresh Wes

Lack of recognition for the talent in Toronto‘s urban music scene (particularly Hip Hop) has always felt like it was just “baked into the cake.”  I can’t help but hear Bruce Hornsby in my head … “That’s just the way it is … some things will never change.” It always felt as though Toronto would never get the recognition it deserved for the talent it had (and still has).  Whether you want to admit it or not, the recognition we were really looking for was recognition stateside.  If our neighbors to the south didn’t care, then unfortunately, we didn’t care or at least not as much as we should have.

There were some rumblings, steps toward that elusive recognition; the Godfather of Toronto Hip-Hop Maestro Fresh Wes, and Michie Mee, will forever be pioneers that helped lay the foundation for artists to dream of  bigger possibilities. Master T and Rap City & Xtendamix on MuchMusic continued to get Toronto artists more and more exposure. Still; our inferiority-complex with regard to the States made it hard for us to appreciate our small victories.  Torontonians, in some ways,  have been our own worst enemy.  Pre-Drake … an artist attempting to gain local support generally had an uphill battle; getting people to come to your shows and buy your music was akin to “pulling teeth”.  We’ve earned the title of “Hater Capitol of the World”.

CHOCLAIR – Let’s Ride

When I saw Choclair’s “Let’s Ride” getting played on B.E.T., I freaked out! I was beside myself with Toronto pride! Finally, they’re playing a Canadian Hip-Hop artist on U-S television. “This is it!” I thought, this is going to be the Canadian artist that’s going to break through that seemingly impenetrable U.S. market onward to super stardom. Then we thought it would be Saukrates, then Kardinal Offishall, then, for a moment, we thought JD Era might break through, and then came Drake and everything changed.


The common underlying thread of hope for all these artists was the backing of an established American artist. Saukrates had Redman, Kardinal had Akon, JD Era had Raekwon and Drake had Lil Wayne.  The Canadian urban scene has felt different post-Drake; we were no longer waiting for our artists to get the backing of some established American act.  Now the world started looking to Toronto to mine it’s surplus of talented urban acts. How many undiscovered Drakes might there be? No longer were people waiting for some outside confirmation to feel unfettered to show love and support for our artists. We are now doing that ourselves. This is what I call the “Drake Effect”.

No one wants to miss the next “Drake train”. There’s been a “Weeknd train”; a “Tory Lanez train”, a “Jessie Reyez” train, a “Daniel Caesar train” and on and on.  Of course you’re always welcomed to hop onto these trains at any point during their journey, however, everyone wants to boast they “dun been” chillin’ on that “train” before it ever left the station. And there are a ton of “trains” getting ready to depart the Toronto terminal and the rest of the world is now looking for a ticket.

Kudos to Pigeons & Planes for taking a moment to acknowledge how long Toronto has been working to establish itself as a popular music destination.

Pigeon & Planes:  Built on Solid Ground: Toronto Music’s Rise to Prominence


(BTW, for the record, I had heard of Drake from Ro Dolla … Ro was talking about Drake HELLA WAY LONG before ANYONE had heard of him, no joke.)

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