Fun Facts in Canadian Hip-Hop History
Canadian Hip-Hop history was heavily influenced by Caribbean immigration during 1960-1970. In 1988, Ron Nelson, a Toronto-based DJ, held rap battles at the concert hall between artists from Toronto and the United States. He was responsible for bringing acts like Public Enemy, Run DMC, Salt Peppa, Ice Cube, Queen Latifa & more to Canada.
Canada’s vibrant music scene in the 60s and 70s paved the way for creating a Canadian music TV program called MuchMusic in 1984. The program had a show called RapCity Michael William first hosted. Later on, Master Tee hosted the show.
In 1988, Michie Mee, who was touted for her Jamaican Funk Canadian Style, was the1st Canadian signed to a US label which signalled Canada’s breakthrough into the American hip-hop scene.
In 1989, Maestro Fresh Wes dropped the “Backbone Slide” single and video. This is the first hit single in Canadian Hip-Hop history to appear on Billboard's Hot Rap singles chart. In 1989, he released “Symphony in Effect” and won a Juno Award for Video Of The Year (Certified Gold 500k Sold). Then, in 1990 his song was nominated for best dance recording at the 1990 Juno awards because they had no specific category for hip hop routines yet.
In 1998, the Canadian rap group, the Rascalz, released a song called “Northern Touch” which was a collaboration with other well-known Canadian rappers including Checkmate, Kardinal Official, Thrust and Choclair. It became a hugely popular song and thrust Canadian hip-hop into the international Hip-Hop scene. As a result of the song’s popularity, the Juno’s created a “Rap” category that the song “Northern Touch” was the first to win!
Another notable figure in Canadian hip-hop - and an artist who has been involved with the Your Voice is Power Program - is Sheldon Pitt a.k.a Solitair. Solitair is the founding member of the Black Jays production team and has been producing music for 20+ years. His production credits include artists such as Nina Sky, Glenn Lewis, Cham, Maestro, Rascalz, Kardinal Offishall, Ivana Santilli, July Black, Choclair & Sugar Jones. In 2006, Solitair started working with Cipha Sounds of Hot 97 under the name "More Fire". The duo produced work for Nina Sky, Daytona, Lil Wayne, Busta Rhymes, DJ Khaled, Jim Jones, Elephant Man & Trey Songz.
Of course, we cannot forget about the contributions to hip-hop by Indigenous youth. Indigenous youth were also embracing Hip-Hop and the first Indigenous Hip-Hop song to be played on MuchMusic was a song called “Feelin Reserved” by the War Party. Notable Indigenous Hip-Hop artists include A Tribe Called Red, Inez Jasper, Joey Stylez, JB The First Lady, Winnipeg’s Most, Eekwol, Crystal Lightning, Snotty Nose Rez Kids, Dakota Bear, Jayli, Samian, and more!
Finally, around the 2000s, the Canadian Hip-Hop scene was getting the respect and recognition it deserves. In 2001, Canada got its first Hip-Hop radio station - Flow 93.5, which finally gave Canadian artists a platform to showcase their talent to the country.
Since 2010, Toronto artist Drake has dominated the Canadian and American hip-hop scene. In 2016, Drake scored the first Billboard Hot 100 number one song by a Canadian artist! Now Canada boasts many other Hip-Hop artists with international prominence, including Tory Lanez, The Weeknd, PartyNextDoor, Roy Woods, and many more!
Indigenous communities in Canada face similar struggles to African American communities in the United States and have to deal with all levels of racism which is often reflected in Canadian Indigenous Hip-Hop lyrics.
Hip-Hop is a modern tool for Indigenous youth to tell their stories and experiences through song.
Often, the message in these songs is decolonization and Indigenization.
The Four R’s Framework
The Four R’s Framework aims to decolonize and Indigenize the education system. Today, we are going to use this framework to analyze music and create our own songs!
Respect for all of creation
To honour all of creation is to have respect. Respect addresses the dignity of people and encompasses the honouring and valuing of who they are as a unique person. Inherent in the overarching principle of respect is the honouring of rights, autonomy, choice, worthiness, uniqueness, and self-determination. Respect is not reserved for those with special societal status, income level, intellect, power or attractiveness: respect is deserved by all of creation, human or otherwise. It is considered a fundamental attitude and way of being for all people. How do you show respect?
Include relevant Indigenous perspectives
Including Indigenous perspectives regarding history and culture ensures Indigenous knowledge continue to be passed down through generations. Respecting Indigenous history, culture, knowledge, and perspectives can include becoming informed about these topics by doing your research and actively seeking out Indigenous perspectives. It could include using Indigenous place names or learning about the history of the land you occupy. How do you include Indigenous perspectives in your life?
Fostering reciprocal relationships
Reciprocity is based on the teaching of interconnectedness. Whenever we take something from the earth, we also make sure to give something back - often in the form of a prayer or offering. When we work with others, we need to ensure the relationship is beneficial to both, so that everyone feels valued and appreciated. Fostering reciprocal relationships can look like showing up on time (valuing someone elses’ time) and returning a favour (if someone helps you, make sure you help them too). How can you give back to others?
Using your voice in a responsible way
The things that we say and do can have a huge impact on others. We need to ensure we are using our voice in a responsible way. Responsibility is more than just an idea - it is an action. Sometimes using your voice in a responsible way can look like advocating for change. What actions are you taking that positively impact the world?
FREEDOM by Dakota Bear
// verse one //
The people are standing together there’s power in numbers
We will not fall where you want us
We learning the laws you throwing upon us
You throw us in water we know there’s pirhanas
The people they needing a leader just know that I’m on It
I’m honest in everything that I do
Every word that I write is true
The people that get it they know that the picture is bigger
So pull up a seat and you’ll listen you putting a fist in the air you know the resistance is here
You’ll hear us off in the distance
We are the kids that you dismissed
We are the targets you just missed
We are descendants of healers and chiefs just know that our struggles are brief
Just know that we one in the same
I’m from the prairies the plains
I’ll grow my hair out until I can braid it again
I’m no longer ashamed
I promised our people our hardships will not go out in vain
You’ll hear in my voice and the melody. Carry the pain
I do not do this for money for fame
I just want to be me I just want to feel free
Is that to much that we ask?
Look to the future but learn from the past
I know that sometimes we clash
And that’s just life chances ain’t handed out twice
A man of my word and a man of advice
I just want to be me I just want to feel free
// hook //
We just wanna live our lives we don’t want to have to worry
Tell me can you help me it don’t seem like you been in a hurry
You playing judge and jury I feel like I’m under siege
Get the matches burn the sage
Chapters over turn the page
Author of my destiny but they telling me differently
// verse two //
I swear we be doing the most
I pack my suitcase and moved to the coast
I promised the next time I come to the city I’m bringing hope
I’m bringing you n it’s bigger then music together we started a movement
Together we stand and we shaking the earth as we moving
As soon as you look for the answer you’ll see the solution
Our minds are as clear as the water as soon as you see the pollution
We want the freedom and not the illusion
We are the warriors the ones you read in the stories we are notorious
I just want to me I just want to feel free
// hook //
"Omen" Lyrics by Twin Flames
I Seen it in my dreams
It’s written in the stars in the sky
It’s when I close my eyes
Been seeing all of the signs
It’s not this place that’s haunted
It’s just me it seems
I’m walking in the daylight
Yet I’m screaming in my dreams
Visions taunt me day and night
They won’t leave me alone
I know it’s not for nothing
I’ve known it all along
Storms are raging
Destruction I am shown
So many tears
burdened by fears
read it in the bones
We all stopped listening
Ignoring all the signs
I can’t help but see
Every time I close my eyes
My father always knew
Born to this land
He warned of change to come
He helped me understand
My Ancestors got my back
walking in their shoes
I know I’ll be ok
They showed me what to do