We all know that rap is a culture that was born and nurtured in NYC. But now in 2014, it’s a culture, art form and music genre that has completely spread all over the world. From Africa to Asia onwards to Europe and everywhere in-between, Hip-Hop has caught on like wildfire and it’s more mainstream than ever before. The great nation of Canada happens to be one of the hot zones for Hip-Hop talent right now. One of the biggest rappers in the game currently is Drake, and he hails from the city of Toronto. Even though he’s certainly the most popular, there are several others making some really good music and spreading their own unique brand of Hip-Hop. Here are 20 of the most popular rappers and rap groups from Canada ….
The singer/rapper named PARTYNEXTDOOR is one of the youngest entries on the list. He’s only 21-years-old, and he has already experienced a decent amount of mainstream success. His real name is Jahron Brathwaite, and a big reason for the quick ascent in his career is his affiliation with one of the biggest rappers in the game, Drake. Brathwaite is signed to Drake’s label OVO Sound, and he was even featured on two songs on Drake’s last album. So far, he has a critically acclaimed EP and mixtape under his belt, and when he drops his major album, it’s most likely going to be a major smash hit.
The group Swollen Members is a hardcore rap group hailing from Vancouver that has been making major moves in Hip-Hop since the mid-90’s. The group consists of the core duo Madchild and Prevail, and they have released over nine albums in their long career. Their albums have featured established acts like Everlast of La Coka Nostra, Talib Kweli, Tech N9ne and Evidence from LA group, Dilated Peoples. Their most recent album Brand New Day was released this past June.
Canadian rapper Saukrates has been one of the torchbearers of Canadian hip-hop for over 20 years now. He’s an unmistakable presence with his tall frame and big dreads. He has experienced a decent amount of success in the United States, and he’s been affiliated with titans of 90’s East Cost rap era, Redman and Method Man. At one point, he was even signed to Def Jam Records, but the deal never really bore any fruit. He’s still active in the rap game and regularly puts out new music and performs live shows.
Toronto is a hotbed for rapping talent in Canada, and another surging group hailing from that area is the eclectic duo known as The Airplane Boys. The members of the group are named Bon Voyage and Beck Motley. They debuted on the scene in 2011 with a popular mixtape called Where’ve You Been. Since then, they have toured all over the world and they are especially known for their artistic videos, unique fashion style and diverse sound. Their latest album Egos And Expectations dropped this past summer.
The rapper Rich Kidd from Scarborough, Ontario is a double threat on the Toronto Hip-Hop scene. Not only is he a talented rapper who has worked on records with artists like Drake, Saukrates and SonReal, he also produced stellar tracks for established artists like Busta Rhymes, M.O.P., K-os and Nelly Furtado. He has been nominated for a Juno Music Award and in 2013, he released a critically acclaimed album titled In My Opinion.
JD Era is a hardcore rhymer of Ghanaian descent who was born and raised in Toronto. He started his career off as a battle emcee, but eventually evolved his style to become a well-rounded Hip-Hop artist. Growing up, one of the groups he looked up to for inspiration was The Wu-Tang Clan, and his career came full circle in 2012 when he met Raekwon (of the Wu-Tang Clan) and toured with him all over Canada. By the end of 2012, he was signed to Raekwon’s music label and since then he has performed live with high profile American rappers like Rick Ross, Method Man, Redman, Freddie Gibbs, Mac Miller and Gucci Mane. Next to Drake, JD Era might be the next rapper to really establish a firm niche for himself in the United States.
Similar to the previous rapper JD Era, Shad is also a Canadian rapper of African descent. He was born in Kenya to Rwandan parents, and he ended up moving to London, Ontario as a kid. The first album he released was self-financed and it was a well-composed LP that spoke of social ills and the horrible genocide that happened in his native country. He has released four studio albums to date, and his most recent one Flying Colours was released in 2013. In 2011, he won the Juno Award for Rap Recording of the year.
The Battle rap realm is bigger than ever before. At first, it was considered as a fringe lane for rappers who couldn’t actually compose rap songs for radio and the clubs. But now, major sponsors are getting behind rap battle leagues, and some of the top battle rappers are earning some very hefty paychecks. One of the top battle rappers on the scene is Corey Charron from Ottawa. In 2013, he won the mainstream rap battle series on BET’s “106 & Park – Freestyle Fridays” and he has won other high profile battles in Sweden, London and the Philippines. He is currently transitioning into becoming a rapping and performing artist and it should be interesting to see if he will enjoy as much success as he’s had in the battling lane.
SonReal is a promising rapper from Vancouver who has steadily been making a name for himself in the last five years. His movement has been natural and organic, and it stemmed from the release of several free mixtapes that earned him a solid grassroots following. But in 2012, he released a collaborative album with Toronto-based rapper/producer Rich Kidd called The Closers. The album united both of their fan bases from the East & West coasts of Canada, and it was a successful effort that earned the duo a Juno Award nomination. No doubt about it, SonReal is an independently minded artist who will be making a lot of noise in the years to come.
Choclair is another one of the pioneering rappers in Canada that has made a name for himself since the mid-90’s. He hails from Toronto and coming up, he created several really good songs with fellow Canadian pioneers like Saukrates and Kardinal Offishall. His debut album Ice Cold was released in 1999, and it ended up a winning a Juno Award the following year. His last album was released in 2006, and it was titled Flagship.
30-yr-old rapper Belly has a very interesting background. He is of Palestinian descent and he was born and raised in Ottawa, Canada. Since he became active in the Hip-Hop industry around 2006, he has had quite a ride. He’s had singles with R&B stars like Ginuwine and Nina Sky – and he also released a series of mixtapes in 2009 with West Coast rapper Kurupt (of the Dogg Pound). He’s written gold and platinum hits for other artists and has won 3 Much Music video awards. His latest album Sleepless Nights 1.5 was released in 2012 and it featured a cameo from Mr. Snoop Dogg himself.
OB O’Brien is one of the sleepers on this list. That’s because he really hasn’t put out a lot of music so far, but he’s one of the main crew members of the biggest Canadian rapper on the scene right now, Drake. If you’ve seen Drake’s “HYFR” and “Started from the Bottom” videos, he’s the jovial sidekick with the full-grown beard who just seems to be having a great ride. This year, he dropped a new single called “Steve Nash” paying homage to the amazing Canadian basketball player and his full-length project will probably drop sometime next year.
Often times, when people discuss Hip-Hop in Canada, they often forget to talk about the first rappers who paved the way for the current crop of hitmakers. The Rascalz are a group from Vancouver who have been grinding hard since 1991. They have released five albums to date, and one of those was even nominated for a Juno award. Most recently, one of the lyricists of the group named Red1 went solo and dropped an independent project called Beg For Nothing in 2007.
Before the arrival of Drake onto the Canadian Hip-hop scene, it’s fair to say that K-os was one of the biggest rappers around. He has a unique and eclectic Hip-Hop approach that strays well beyond the boundaries of repetitive rap formats. He has experienced lots of success in Canada with his second and third albums Joyful Rebellion and Atlantis: Hymns for the Disco both went platinum. His last album Black on Blonde was released in 2013. Interesting tidbit, in 2010 Hollywood actor and fellow Canadian Hayden Christensen appeared in a K-os video for his song titled “Zambony.”
The Canadian rapper Classified from Nova Scotia is one of the most hardworking rappers in the industry. Not only is he a talented rhymer, but he is also a gifted producer who has created tracks for other Canadian rappers like Choclair and Maestro Fresh Wes. He has also opened for major artists like Nas, Ludacris, Snoop Dogg and Busta Rhymes. His latest release was a self-titled album which was released in 2013.
The 28-yr-old rapper P-Reign is an upcoming Canadian emcee from Montreal who is gradually carving a lane for himself in the international Hip-Hop scene. He has an extremely close affiliation to Drake, and he was even part of Drake’s 2010 “Away From Home” tour. He has 3 major mixtape releases to his name: The Canadian Dream, When It Reigns it Pours and Dear America. In the years to come, he might well be one of the top tier rappers hailing from the north.
The rapper Buck 65 is one of the most prolific and diverse rappers on the list. He has been active in the music industry since the mid-90s, and during this time, he has put out over ten albums showcasing his abstract hip-hop style and genre-bending musical tastes. His fist few albums were mostly in the Hip-Hop lane, but lately, he has been experimenting more with blues, rock and even country influenced music. He is certainly one of the pioneers on the Canadian contemporary music scene.
Kardinal Offishall is certainly one of the reigning forefathers of the Canadian Hip-hop scene. He has often been nicknamed as “Canada’s Hip-Hop Ambassador” because of his prolific musical contributions over the years. He has been active in the Hip-Hop scene in both Canada and the United States since the mid-90’s, but he truly broke through in 2007 when he signed to Akon’s label and released the hit single ‘Dangerous” in 2007. The song was a Top 5 hit on the Billboard charts and went 3X Platinum in Canada. As of 2013, Kardinal was appointed the position of Creative Executive Director of Universal Music, Canada.
K’Naan is an immensely talented rapper and poet originally from Somalia currently based in Toronto, Canada. Fans of soccer will most likely be very familiar with him, because he was the artist chosen to create the jubilant and inspirational theme song ‘Wavin’ Flag” for the 2010 Fifa World Cup Competition in South Africa. Over his successful career, he has done songs with artists like Nas, Nelly Furtado, The Roots and Mos Def. There is also a juicy tidbit about his personal life: he’s currently dating the gorgeous Academy award winner, Lupita Nyong’o from the movie 12 Years A Slave.
There’s no doubt about it – one of the biggest and most popular rappers in the entire Hip-Hop game is Drake – the 28-yr-old artist from Toronto. Ever since he surfaced in the game in 2006, he has proven time and time again that he is a skilled songwriter, lyricist, rapper and singer. His major mixtape release So Far Gone was an absolute smash, and his major label albums Thank Me Later, Take Care and Nothing Was The Same have all been major critical and commercial successes. He has gone on world tours that have yielded close to $50 million dollars, hosted major award shows, starred on SNL and he’s even been appointed as the official Global Brand Ambassador of the Toronto Raptors, his home city’s NBA team. He’s affiliated with the biggest rap label in the biz YMCMB (which is also home to Tyga & Nicki Minaj), and his new album Views From The 6 is set to be released in 2015. Drake will undoubtedly be a member of rap’s royalty (Kanye, Jay-Z etc) for many years to come.