It’s the 905 calling: GTA producers and rappers take hip-hop by storm

Hip-hop producers hailing from the 905 continued.


Hip-hop producers hailing from the 905 continued to have a big impact on the sounds coming out of Toronto as well as on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in the United States.

While much of the attention has been on the breakout success of pop stars Alessia Cara (Brampton) and Shawn Mendes (Pickering) – who practically leapfrogged into the U.S. thanks to hawk-eyed record execs and managers combing YouTube for fresh talent – there was also a steady stream of strong releases from rappers and producers hailing from the suburban Mississauga and Brampton.

At the major-label level, former Brampton resident Tory Lanez landed a deal with Interscope imprint Mad Love and capped off the year hanging upside down from the ceiling during a triumphant sold-out show at the Hoxton.

Meanwhile, breakout 18-year-old Brampton producer Wondagurl influenced singles charts through her work with Houston rapper/producer Travis Scott on Rihanna’s Bitch Better Have My Money, and with budding producer Eestbound on Scott’s club anthem Antidote, certified platinum this month with more than a million copies sold.

As far as the local scene is concerned, it’s exciting that more acts are breaking out without the coveted Drake co-sign that helped propel PartyNextDoor to international stardom and producers Boi-1da and T-Minus to singles chart ubiquity.

Of course, the 6ix God continued his usual remixing (and shine-stealing?) of several rising artists, but the only act to officially land on his OVO Sound roster was Roy Woods, a fiery Brampton singer/rapper with a flair for raspy, Michael Jacksonesque vocal inflections.

Mississauga-raised producer Mikhail‘s profile continued to rise with Freddie Gibbs’s Extradite featuring Black Thought of the Roots, a song reminiscent of the raw, eclectic and funkified 90s East Coast rap sounds that many younger acts are bringing back.

Two anticipated local releases on the harder end of the spectrum were Mississauga MC John River‘s The Storm mixtape – the follow-up to 2012’s The Calm – featuring production work by Wondagurl and FrancisGotHeat, and rapper Raz Fresco‘s self-produced mixtape Pablo Frescobar, which made its classic New York influence explicit with a guest verse from Raekwon the Chef.

Working with faster BPMs, Mississauga-raised MC/producer Keita Juma pushed dark, menacing vibes and playful, futuristic beats on his Chaos Theory and Nights In Space A Short Film releases.

As one might expect from cities known for diversity, the music produced by 905ers (and ex-905ers) this year was eclectic and adventurous – but not totally outside wider trends in hip-hop.

kevinr@nowtoronto.com | @kevinritchie 

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