2016: A Golden Year For Toronto’s Hip-Hop And R&B Scene.

2016 is slowly coming to an end and 2017 is right around the corner. With the new year approaching, it’s important to reflect on what a great year 2016 has been musically for Toronto and the GTA.

Let’s rewind time and go back to the 2016 NBA All-Star Weekend. It was the first time these festivities were taking place in Canada. The biggest stars in basketball, hip-hop and entertainment flooded the city that weekend. The spotlight was on Toronto and the world was watching. It was a special moment for Toronto, but it was just one of many.

In April the focus would be on Toronto again, as the world got the chance to see one of the tallest landmarks in the world through Drake’s album cover for ‘Views’, the CN Tower. After Drake released the album cover for ‘Views’, the image became an internet sensation. The album was a homage to Toronto as it featured many references and titles such as ‘Weston Road Flows’ and many others. ‘Views’ went on to be a huge success. It was the number one album on Billboard for 12 straight weeks. It also reached 1 billion streams on Apple Music. The album featured ‘One Dance’ which was a number 1 billboard single. On his birthday episode of OVO Sound Drake also announced a new project–’More Life’ scheduled to be released in December. He released 3 new songs off the upcoming “playlist project” including ‘Fake Love’, Sneakin’, and the highly discussed ‘Two Birds, One Stone’ for its verbal attack towards Pusha T and Kid Cudi.

Tory Lanez is another successful Toronto artist who released his album ‘I Told You’, has a few number one records, and was constantly in the media this year. PartyNextDoor released his highly anticipated album ‘P3’ this year which had successful singles ‘Come and See Me’ as well as ‘Not Nice’. Roy Woods, DVSN, and Majid Jordan are also experiencing great success, having been the opening acts for Drake and Future’s Summer Sixteen Tour and having released their debut albums. Jahkoy and J-Soul are two other talented Torontonians making noise. The Toronto singer/rappers both signed deals earlier this year, Jahkoy with Def Jam Recordings and J-Soul with Birdman’s Cash Money. Jahkoy recently released ‘California Heaven’ a single featuring Schoolboy Q, and J-Soul was on a group track ‘Pull Up’ with Birdman and RichGang. There’s also Jazz Cartier who has experienced plenty of success this year after releasing his project Hotel Paranoia. Jazz sold out Toronto Venue Mod Club in a day and upgraded to The Phoenix and sold that out too. His headlining concert was streamed live for free on his website. The Downtown Toronto rapper is also co-headlining a tour in Europe and is an opening act for Post Malone’s 41-date Hollywood Dream Tour.

The Weeknd, Toronto’s R&B superstar recently announced his latest album, STARBOY, and released two singles off of the upcoming album. This album featured a new look with The Weeknd cutting off his signature hair style and he also released two singles off of the album: ‘Starboy’ and ‘False Alarm’. ‘Starboy’ is currently number one on billboard, and ‘False Alarm’ is at 5th. This year alone he won multiple awards including two Grammies and was nominated for an Academy Award. He calls himself the King of the Fall and it looks like he’s going to finish the year strong.

The Scarborough star also attained a new group mate from Rexdale who has been making waves. His name is Nav and it’s very likely that he is managed by The Weeknd’s business partner Cash and is a member of XO. Nav has received millions of plays on his SoundCloud this year and has become one of the most popular new local artists. His latest song was a feature on Travis Scott’s album BITTSM, and it’s a track fittingly titled Beibs In The Trap. 

To suggest that the Toronto hip-hop scene is dominated by just commercial and mainstream artists would be completely false. In fact, Toronto is home to so many talented artists that are quickly emerging. ShaqIsDope comes to mind, having performed plenty of shows and gaining notoriety on an international scale. There’s also Top 5, widely known as ‘Shirt off shawty’ who received quite the shoutout on Drake’s ‘Grammys’. He also recently released a track featuring Styles P ‘Who Gon Do It’. Safe, Smoke Dawg, and the Prime Boys are also Toronto artists who have spent time performing across Canada and are quickly gaining notoriety. Brampton’s K. Forest had an amazing 2016, after releasing his debut mixtape, creating a Afro-Soca banger (Guidance) and getting it on Travis Scott’s album. Ajax and Pickering are also contributing to our music scene with dope artists like Sean Leon, Daniel Caesar, River Tiber, Joe Impala and more. River Tiber released his debut album Indigo and got his amazing song West featuring Daniel Caesar premiered on Zane Lowe’s show for Beats1 Radio. The record was then remixed by Brampton’s very talented MC–Derin Falana and Ajax producer Jahmal Gittens–while the rapper was in New York for music.

Some honourable mentions include:

  • John River
  • Robin Banks
  • Alessia Cara
  • Ramriddlz
  • Puffy Lz
  • 11:11
  • Jayd Ink
  • Leila Dey
  • Pressa
  • Adria Kain
  • Derek Wise
  • Drew Howard
  • CMDWN (FIJI and Castro Guapo)
  • Big Lean
  • Pluto
  • Tre Mission
  • Casper
  • ALL.ME
  • Louis Val
  • Devontée
  • SYPH
  • Clairmont The Second
  • $HA
  • Layla Hendryx
  • Blacka Da Don
  • Savannah Re
  • Booggz
  • $heed
  • Kavale
  • Tasha The Amazon
  • & more!

This year really showcased the talent in Toronto, but it’s only just the beginning. These artists will continue to grow and newer artists will emerge, and this cycle will continue. If Toronto isn’t already, it will become a staple city in the music industry. It’s just a matter of time.

Yusuf A

Yusuf is a Canadian freelance writer and author. He's also a lover of music, particularly Hip-Hop and R&B in the Toronto scene. Yusuf released his second book 'Words of Expression,' which is available at all major retailers. You can connect with Yusuf on social media (@Yusuf_AOfficial) and through his website at www.vaultpublications.com!

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