Toronto musicians to watch in 2018: hip-hop edition

Toronto’s rap scene has been on a wave for the last four years and it’s not slowing down. Here are six acts poised to have a major year


Layla Hendryx

Hendryx typically gets left out of conversations about the city’s up-and-comers, and that’s a shame because she’s one of our brightest voices. She can do it all, from PREEPAID, a punchy and stylish EP with producer JMak heavy on petty kiss-offs and wry humour, to standout song Rain Or Snow, a melodic ode to self-reliance and the grind. She’s got a laid-back jubilance that’s also totally self-assured. In 2018, Hendryx plans to release a video for Dirty Dancer and drop another collaborative project with JMak by spring.

Pressa

Pressa proved himself last year with a pair of mixtapes and, most notably, Novacane, a three-minute ominous force of a tune he featured on by rising Fort Erie producer Murda Beatz. Buoyed by his high-pitched sing-song flow and sneaky wordplay, the song quickly received co-signs from the Weeknd, Meek Mill and Toronto’s reigning rap emperor, Drake, who liked the 21-year-old so much, he brought him to Europe as an opener on the Boy Meets World Tour. Pressa’s Tory Lanez collab, Canada Goose, scored 1 million YouTube views in a week, while his work with Metro Boomin on his second mixtape of 2017 put him in the upper ranks. Now he’s making his own co-signs – on the horizon for 2018 is a rumoured collab with fellow rising star Killy.

Killy

Killy is the most viral non-Drake rapper to emerge from Toronto in years and it’s easy to see why: armed with a mellifluous flow that’s equally engaging over brooding production and a cappella, the 20-year-old is poised to be our next breakout star. Thanks to singles Killamonjaro, No Romance and Distance and his melodic, halting and slurring flow full of Toronto slang, he has over 43 million streams across platforms. At a mid-December showcase at the Phoenix, Killy drew the biggest reaction from the young crowd on a bill that also featured more experienced local emcees like ShaqIsDope, Tasha the Amazon and Sean Leon. Soon we’ll be able to see how far his lightning-in-a-bottle can carry him. A full-length is expected in 2018.

Shan Vincent de Paul

Vincent de Paul is a Sri-Lankan-born rapper who arrived in Canada as a refugee. He’s a part of the cross-genre, cross-collaborative sideways collective, along with La+ch, Michah and Coleman Hell. An endlessly versatile artist whose music encompasses jazz, electronic dance music and 90s boom-bap, he’s also multi-talented: his self-directed music videos are conceptually strong and add depth to his already heady music. He plans to release a mixtape in the spring, his third studio album in the summer and embark on a North American tour soon after. Expect to hear his name a lot.

Hard to Kill

You may not know the name Hard to Kill, but there’s a good chance you’ve come across its members Teddy Fantum and G Milla, both of whom are longtime affiliates of the Weeknd’s crew XO. Members of the DSTRY collective, the duo releases eye-catching videos helmed by slick and seasoned creative house Kid Studio. Slime, their first release as Hard to Kill, follows last year’s collaborations on Fantum’s solo album, which include Help Me, the narcotized On Me and the gloomy, unromantic Cyberia. Clearly, they elevate each other. Hard to Kill’s self-titled debut album is expected to drop later this month. 

iaamSaam

The Jamaican-born rapper from Mississauga’s debut EP, PsychEval, released early last year, is a compelling mélange of spoken-word flows, impassioned singing and defiant introspection. That earned the 22-year-old a spot in the Red Bull Music Academy’s Bass Camp incubator program, which tends to be a good indicator of the next batch of talent. She sings and raps with a chip on her shoulder, aiming to silence the bogus narrative that the next wave of local talent is all dudes. Her newest release, IaamGangster, is scheduled to drop in Spring of 2018.

music@nowtoronto.com | @jordanisjoso

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