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The Toronto Wave in Hip Hop? – Rap Rehab

    Considering that nowadays there is less and less of an allegiance sonically to one’s region, do we still consider there to be coasts in Hip-Hop anymore?! It all feels more like a melting pot than anything else anyhow, am I right? I mean, lets take New York for example. Unless we’re looking at less mainstream artists, New York rappers no longer have that ‘New York sound’, let alone a more evolved version of it. If, however, we still find it acceptable to divide Hip-Hop into coasts, which coast (if any) has ‘The Wave’ right now?

    Well, each coast, at one point or another, has had its moments in time when it’s had ‘The Wave’. Whether it was the mid to late 80’s when gangster rap was pioneered by the West Coast’s Ice T and soon after N.W.A.; Or the late 80’s to the early 90’s when The Geto Boys and 2 Live Crew from the South took the industry by storm with their controversial lyrics; Or even the mid 90’s when acts like The Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, and Mobb Deep came on the scene and helped redefine that East Coast sound. The North, on the other hand, has never really had its own moment in Hip Hop when it’s had ‘The Wave’ so to speak. However, with that said, The North seems to be currently making a case for itself in terms of commercial success and strength in the game. Lets explore this a little further.

    Trail-blazed by none other than the ‘6-God’ himself, Drake, has taken the industry by storm in a way no other artist in Hip Hop has before. Like him or not, he’s the biggest artist in the game as we know it, and has done so while attaining extraordinary achievements along with countless accolades. Drake transcends Hip-Hop itself and is pushing its limits at the same time. He has covered numerous respected magazines, hosted the ESPY’s, hosted Saturday Night Live, has more Billboard Hot 100 singles than even the Beatles, sold millions upon millions of records, and won a laundry list of awards. With that said, while all this is very inspiring, no one man should have to carry a coast all on his own, so who else is out here making noise?

    The Weeknd, who Drake gave the co-sign to years ago, has been rapidly growing his fanbase since his start and is becoming a staple both in the industry as well as on the charts in the process. Its very challenging to turn on your radio nowadays and not hear a Weeknd song. He’s came in and made his presence felt in a major way. Some might argue that The Weeknd isn’t even Hip-Hop, rather he’s R&B. This, however, goes back to Hip-Hop being more of a melting pot and having so many blurred lines making it harder to totally disentangle the two. In fact, most of your favourite rappers these days are either harmonizing, if not full-out singing, and vice-versa for your favourite singers, so I think its safe to say that The Weeknd is, at least in part, Hip Hop.

    Moving on, the relatively recent emergence of Toronto Rapper/Producer Tory Lanez has shown there to be yet more talent hailing from the region. With heavy hitting mixtapes like ‘New Toronto’, major features like that on ‘Lord Knows’ off of Meek Mill’s album ‘Dreams Worth More Than Money’, not to mention his own the hit single ‘Say It’ currently tearing up the airwaves, Lanez is already making an impressive resume for himself.

    Following the release of his recent mixtape ‘Up For Days’, The Weeknd affiliate Belly, just inked a deal with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation. So, we’ll see what he has in store for us in the near future.

    Outside of the previously mentioned artists is an impressive list of producers solidifying themselves as staples in Hip Hop. For starters, Drake’s go-to producer, Boi1da is responsible for a good number of hits we have become quite familiar with including Jay-Z’s ‘Fuck With Me You Know I Got It’, Eminem’s ‘Not Afraid’, Drake’s ‘Best I Ever Had’, as well as Drake’s ‘0 to 100’, among many others.

    T-Minus, another Toronto-born producer, is responsible for Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Drank’, Ludacris’ ‘How Low’, DJ Khaled’s ‘I’m On One’, and Drake’s ‘The Motto’ just to name a few of his credits.

    WondaGurl, originally from the City of Brampton which is about 30 minutes from Toronto, had her big break with her placement on Jay-Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail for the song ‘Crown’. Since then she has gone on to do production for Ryan Leslie, Juicy J, Young Thug, Drake, and Travis Scott, among those is the hit single ‘Antidote’.

    That said, just looking at the Billboard Hot 100 Hip-Hop/R&B for the week of Jan 16, 2016, you’ll find a lot of The North leaving its footprint on the list. For starters, Drake is occupying the number 1 and number 5 spots with ‘Hotline Bling’ and ‘Jumpman’ respectively. The Weeknd is holding down number 3, 8 and 10, with ‘The Hills’, ‘In The Night’, and ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ respectively. Tory Lanez is comfortably holding on to the 11th spot with ‘Say It’. Antidote as produced by WondaGurl is sitting in the 7th spot. Alessia Cara who is also originally from Brampton area is holding on to a modest number 2 spot with her smash single ‘Here.’

    All in All, I think its fair to say that The North is making a case for itself for having ‘The Wave’ right now, which is likely in part what corporate interests like The National Basketball Association have noticed and hence why they are holding their NBA Allstar Weekend in Toronto this season. What does it all mean anyway? It’s more food for thought than anything else. Or, it could mean that The North is the region to watch for more talent coming to leave a stamp on Hip-Hop. Either way, stay woke!

    Let us know your thoughts on this piece below.

    Ryan E Burnett

    Twitter @ryreynoldz