Posted by: nehal | March 25, 2008

Response to “Toronto Hip Hop’s Bad Rap”

I had many issues with Toronto Hip Hop’s Bad Rap (NOW Magazine, March 21). The writing, the fawning, the nepotism annoyed me (message to Addi: Dude. You managed to get a feature cover story AND a performance spot. That’s pretty damn awesome. Congratulations, seriously. But, you should have just stated straight up that you were performing in the show. Just put it out there, front and centre, and framed the article from that perspective, and not given someone like me a valid reason to hate).

On to the content: it’s dated, a re-hash of the same conversations we (the indie hip hop community) have been having on the regular for at least the past five years. It’s weak in the sense that the piece criticises the Canadian hip hop industry for looking at the States for validation, yet it seemed like the measure of success used in the article for Canadian artists was an endorsement from Americans. The article, apart from being on a self-pity tip, barely addresses any of the issues mentioned on anything more than a superficial level (if anyone wants to talk about racism in the Toronto hip hop scene, let me know. I got tales).

Now that I’ve got the bitchiness out of my system, on to more important points. I definitely appreciated this article for getting people to talk about issues the Toronto hip hop community’s been talking about for at least the past five years. Problem being, it’s only going to get the same people (myself included) griping about the same shit. But hey, there are silver linings. It’s in a publication that the “establishment” pays attention to, so here’s a tip for artists submitting grant applications: this article is a weapon in your arsenal, just include it as supporting material with the most relevant pieces highlighted.

So where do we go from here? It’s too easy to simply start a bitchfest over something someone said, when what we really need is movement. I don’t think anyone really disagrees with what was brought up in the article – hell, we’ve known about it for years. But I believe that we can all agree that something needs to happen. So here’s a call to action: artists, emcees, producers, deejays, musicians, promoters, managers, label execs, etc. – let’s use this article as a concrete starting point.

  • Let’s get together collectively (and not in a Canada Culture sort of way – that happened four years ago, and I still haven’t seen anything come out of it).
  • Let’s find out what’s really going on and why.
  • Let’s brainstorm ways to get the audience in love with local hip hop.
  • Let’s get the major promoters on board, say, by having them commit to putting on a local act with every international one.
  • Let’s develop the business side of the industry and create long-term sustainable economic strategies.
  • Let’s give the audience back the power to shut down weak emcees and create superstars, rather than allowing them to treat local acts like charity cases.
  • Let’s not rely on endorsements from Americans. Please, let’s not even mention them when talking about our artists; we can definitely find other ways to judge our self-worth.

And fuck a clique. Let’s not exclude anyone based on petty disagreements. And let’s quit whining. If we’re still waiting 11 years later for Toronto hip hop to blow up, maybe it’s time we stop for a minute and take a long, hard look at ourselves.

And step up.

THECYBERKRIB.COM NOTE: Attached to the NOW hip hop edition (feature piece mentioned above) there was a great hip hop showcase held by NOW called The NEXT SHIT at Toronto’s new venue Wrong Bar. The collective side of Toronto’s hip hop scene was apparent at this showcase, which in the end is created by the attitudes and behaviour of the artists themselves. As much as the media can get things right or wrong, it’s ultimately the artists who will dictate where a “scene” will end up – here’s to the hope that Toronto hip hop artists can continue to push themselves to move beyond their past generations and break ground for themselves, as their actions and successes will ultimately dictate the popularity among the local fans.

View footage of Kamau’s performance at The NEXT SHIT:

On the topic of fans, especially those in the GTA (TDot), a majority of you should be ashamed at the lack of support you give you domestic acts. There are continually new generations of artists coming up in the scene, solid acts, but most haven’t ever been to see them perform – most can only name the first (and maybe second) generation Canadian hip hop acts from over 10-years ago. Just keep in mind, when you buy that $30-40 ticket for you favorite international hip hop acts, try to put the same amount in to going to check out some new artists (same $ will probably get you in to 2-3 shows), whether they be local or international developing artists, take the time to support the new crop as it’ll be the only way hip hop culture will continue to thrive.

Got something to say? Post it in the comments section. I (and the rest of the fam) would also love to engage in thoughtful and constructive discussion around this. If you’d like to submit your feedback for consideration as a post, email it to info[at]thecyberkrib[dot]com with the subject heading “Enough of this bad rap ish”


  1. Dope you said everything that I wanted to say bro. I personally as a new artist felt insulted by the article. It’s like us still whinning about slavery! I will never spend years complaining as a person and I refuse to let those whom I rep internationally, do that either.

    Let Us do things our way. We are the industry, they’re just looking to see what we’re doing. And that’s the facts.

  2. I appreciate anybody reading this… but I have a few revelations.

    1) I didn’t know I was going to be on the cover. That was a choice made by Now Magazine, not by me, as I was in Austin, Texas covering SXSW when the photo shoot happened, as you can tell by me not being on the inside of the magazine with the rest of our friends DJ Nana, Theo, Isis, Adam Bomb and Kamau.

    2) There were more than a few quotes and pieces of info that didn’t make the final version. This story has almost never been told in the mainstream media, which is why so much info could be said. I love Now for even believing in the story enough to give it this much space, but they admitted they are not even hip hop heads to the level that I am, so they wanted the story to come from my perspective, when I originally wanted to just quote everyone else I interviewed… there is much less nepotism than you think here, dear.

    3) I know we’ve been discussing this for years in Toronto hip hop. The point is, the solution STILL hasn’t been implemented. Also, there are tons of people who have no idea how severe the discrimination against Toronto hip hop artists is. To some of us, it’s common knowledge. To others in Toronto, it’s late breaking news. I tried to do my best to tell the artist’s struggle taking the past, present and future all into account, and honestly, I’m more of a musician than a journalist, so know that I’m not on some mission to exploit the scene and stir shit up for publicity and beef. I didn’t even suggest the concert showcase either, Now contributed that cause they believed in the story I was writing that much. They deserve that credit too.

    3) The Americans I quote aren’t for validation, they reflect the mentality that CANADIANS need to learn. Both RZA and Bun B spoke about Canadians respecting themselves, that’s why I used their quotes. I believe in Canadian hip hop more than most people in Toronto do, Nehal, and people know this is a fact. I was given access to interviewing all these Canadian artists because I have supported them over the years and love them and believe in them so much. I will continue to, until people see the vision that I have: that Toronto is the musical city of the future.

    I will keep making what I make which represents that future. Much love to everyone, especially Theology 3.

    Good lookin out, family.
    These are our growing pains. But our destiny is great. Let’s rise and shine in 2008.
    Mindbender loves you all

  3. To The Voyce: Thank you, respect, and all the power to you. But I have to disagree with you with regard to the slavery analogy. With all due respect, they’re completely different – slavery requires healing from trauma (among many other things) for movement to happen, while developing the industry requires a change in attitude. Also, what the music scene’s going through isn’t limited to one race.

    To Addi: Thank you for responding.
    1. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t have been on the cover – the article should have been presented as blatantly coming from one of the performers in the showcase that was being put on. I’m going to chalk that one down to a poor editorial judgement call.
    2. I can appreciate the limitations imposed by working to a deadline and the restrictions placed on a journalist by circumstances over which s/he has no control. But with regard to the point that you made: really?! And did you need to bring my gender into it? I didn’t expect that from you.
    3. OK, so it’s great that NOW put on a hip hop showcase. Props. But would this whole thing have gone down like this if the genre had been rock? I’m just asking.
    4 (#3, part 2). I’m going to have to take issue with this point as well because it represents the mentality that we need to move away from. It’s beautiful when Canadian artists are recognised internationally, but we must consciously refuse to let recognition from outsiders become our litmus test for success.

    Thanks, Addi. There’s a dialogue now. Let’s carry this momentum through and create positive change.

  4. The vicious cycle that is the Screwface Capital embodies the Canadian hip hop scene; we don’t believe are artists are good enough, as a result they wallow in self doubt and resort to predictable rhymes, patterns, beats and ploys to somehow be like what they believe their public wants “American”; only to further chastize them later for selling out. How can we ask ourselves why this or why that when as a community we are not true to ourselves? And it can’t be just lip sevice, Maestro is quoted throughout the article preaching solidarity, power of the canadian movement yet he was quick to reach out to Showbiz and Ag in search of his “American Dream” and is currently a faux Britney’s manager on TV. Kardinal was a host on a VJ search show for Much, signed to Akon’s label twice removed from his childhood friend because the BIZ got to personal? Dan-E-O’s last video was that hunger commercial for pizza pops “yo yo it’s the stomach” Masia One a respected artist doesn’t ask what this article might do for the movement but complains that she didn’t get a soundbite? And these are our role models? What happened to the Grass Roots? the Rascals refused to collect a Juno they won until the award show had a category in it to honour urban music; they did the following year. They ressurect K-os who previously had a video that could only be described as a Qtip plagarism, he repays finding a voice and an audience with a shot out !!! where are the Dream Warriors blowing up in Europe Where is our collective soul? this article asks questions, mostly of the people you would think it should… or at least Much Music would think it should But Hip Hop in Canada is not that unlike what it is in the US; we overlook the gourmet (Roots, Pharoah Monche, too many others) for fast food (50 Cent, G unit) then complain it tastes like shit…

  5. I don’t personally know Addi.. just of the man, I truely believe he has positive intentions, I’ve labelled him toronto’s biggest hiphop fan. I’ve seen him front stage countless times reciting every lyric (local or intl act). but I TOO, have an oppinion on this.
    Addi.. you point out you’re not a professional journalist, and things got cut out. As well, that the magazine doesn’t know much when it comes to the genre… there is something wrong there. AND that very thing is an ingredient that holds progression back in this city. People not researching and helping people to find the best solutions. Everyone wants to do it on their own, and be the hero. My man jonbronski said something to me last night, all it takes is a little “dialogue and trust” . Hooking up your friends can only go so far. This is how qualified people lose jobs, or in toronto’s case…sometimes never get any.
    If they really cared, and wanted this to be covered in the most effective way… why did they just reach out to you? why not look for the right journalist? I mean, they made this a cover story. Shouldn’t it get written by a calibre writer? and should it not get the proper/ample amount of research it deserves? but no, they called a friend and asked him to do the piece. And personally, I did think it was odd to have you on the cover, when you wrote the article.

    Addi, if you read this… I’d still shake your hand cuz I know you care. accept this more as a discussion to learn from rather then a criticism to get mad about.

  6. by the way.. the magazine lack of knowledge on the subject, throwing it on the cover, and having the local artist/amateur writer they know of do the peicce reminds me of something else we know very well in t is country… it is called MUCHMUSIC.

  7. Nehal,
    I appreciate the level of respect we share even though we disagree. I wish more people could learn from us, LOL
    Okay, down to business.
    1) I don’t think there was any nepotism, corruption, impropriety or favortism shown in the article or the showcase. I tried to spread the love and the shine to everyone, and the article only refers to me in the first person twice. It’s not like it was my distorted version of Toronto/Canadian hip hop history, I wasn’t even quoted in the article!

    2) Whoa. I think you are being over-sensitive as far as the gender issue. If you were Jesse, I’d say “dude”. It’s not sexist to refer to you as a woman, you are a woman. And I swear to all the Goddesses I worship that “dear” was NOT a chauvinist remark. It was me showing a term of endearment in the midst of less positive dialogue. If you know me, you know by now that I NEVER EVER disrespect women on any level of life. Hell, I don’t ever say the ‘b-word’, just like I never say the ‘n-word’. And sure, I guess I can see how you can interpret it offensively, but you should also know that was the opposite of my intention.

    3) I don’t know if it would have happened if it was Rock. I can’t think of the last time Now has done that for any other genre of music, so I know they aren’t exploiting hip hop or us independent MCs just for credibility. They wanted to do it for Toronto hip hop, I didn’t ask them to do it. I love and respect them forever for having the faith in us to go this far. “Toronto Hip Hop’s Bad Rap” is the largest article in Now’s 20 year history. How can anyone be mad at them or me?

    4) I understand that non-Canadians shouldn’t be used as a measuring stick for success, but at the same time, heroes are heroes. I have many rap heroes in NYC and LA, and if they are loving what we do, I’m not going to say their praise is less valid because they are American, and I don’t need American praise. Love is love. Americans and British musicians work with Kardinal Offishall cause he is dope, period. I want Canadians to realize the gold mine they are living in more than anyone. But if the people still want to sleep on their own local legends, I will focus on those who DO love Toronto artists… which sometimes are Americans more than Canadians!

    DJ Kevvy Kev from NYC started his set at the RZA show with one of his favorite records: “Dial Tone” by Tona, and nobody cared. He was disappointed that the Canadian crowd wasn’t wyling out to this Canadian rap record that he loved…

    I’m with him.

    I’m SICK of trying to convince Canadians that we’re world class. Most of my American friends know already. Anybody who knows dope music, I’m down with. In 2008, most Canadians may know that we got some good music here, but they don’t ACT LIKE THEY KNOW.

    the American appreciation isn’t for validation, it’s just fact. If they recognize something dope from Toronto that a Canadian doesn’t, then I don’t give a fuck about that sleeping Canadian’s ignorance.

    I’m down with whoever in the world is down with creating the dream we’ve been struggling to build since 1989.

    I don’t play politics, race, gender, class or culture. Hip hop is my religion, and if you feel the same, no matter where in the world you are from, you and I are connected, and I will respect you.

    nuff said. and nuff love!

    peace from Adhimu “Mindbender” Shabazz Stewart

  8. Addi, you and I will remain in respectful disagreement. But here’s what I have to say next: where do we go from here? What are our next concrete actions? What will we need to do to stop the self-pity trip?

    Let’s move on to a more productive discussion.

  9. I started writing a piece about the similarities and differences between Toronto and London (UK) hip-hop, talking about how London’s ‘grime’ scene had made it onto the city’s music map independently through a group called So Solid Crew going double-plat with nothing but themselves to push their work… but while writing that, came across something more fundamental: we all talk about wanting TO to ‘blow-up’, but this isn’t as straight-forward as it might seem… is that what we really want?
    Check it…
    Lots of Canadians/Torontonians have dropped dope records independently, but the general public hasn’t had a clue that it’s going on. Whose fault is that? We can debate all day, but maybe it’s not an issue of fault…
    Most of us (as Canadian hip-hop artists) have not been able to sell our own neighbors on the concept that our shit is worth supporting. Why is that? All of us have been to CRAZY shows in TO – that’s the reason most of us love the culture like we do – but a lot of us (myself included) have this divide in ours heads – do we REALLY want TO hip-hop to blow-up?
    On some level, of course we do. But I think a lot of us fell in love with the city/culture because you go to shows and you DO see the same people over and over again – you feel a part of something and on some level – we enjoy that exclusivity – we want to know that we’re a part of something unique – a community… and if FLOW starts playing it – if MUCH gets on board, we might actually lose some of that.
    Maybe New Yorkers felt like this in the late-70s; they wanted to see hip-hop (and all the work they’d put into it) get out of the ‘hood, but still come home to them at the end of the day… they learned that it wasn’t always that straight-forward.
    I think that’s where a lot of the in-fighting and accusations of ‘selling-out’ have come from over the years – the artists who succeed are jeopardizing ‘our spot’ – threatening it with infiltration by masses of Torontonians we don’t know and who haven’t put in the blood-sweat-n-tears that we have… and maybe that scares us – maybe it won’t be ‘our’ spot anymore… We want the city to be respected, we want our labour to yield fruit – but we also want to feel like it’s still OURS…
    Maybe, like Kamau said in the article, our definition of ‘blowing-up’ has to change – TO hip-hop HAS blown-up – ask hip-hop community activists all over the world about TO and you’ll hear a lot of local names bounced back at you with heavy respect. We ARE making our mark – it’s just not on the same target that these discussions usually take aim at…
    I know this is not the whole story… just one piece of it that I don’t think we have managed to come to terms with… maybe if we can get this figured-out, some of the bigger questions will be easier to answer…

    Thoughts always welcome…

  10. Where do we go from here?

    I’ve told the same people this from time..just continue making music…plain and simple.

    Look, as much as you feel editorials of this nature are re-hashed…Artists formula to break on the scene are…re-hashed. We shouldn’t figure out the answers, nor build upon the questions..that’s almost like the blind leading the blind. After a decade, we all can agree it leads nowhere.

    W/ the article Addi made. All it is, is his 2 cents, and to add on top of that, This is just the first of what’s to come..consider this article a foundation for ppl to get introduced to hip hop based in Toronto. I’m pretty sure if we were all here to make an article on the same, we’d all have diff. perspectives..but somewhere along the line…we’d gripe @ the 1) infra-structure, 2) lack of support/unity and 3) looking @ US culture.

    Where Do We Go From Here?
    – Ask the urban promoters in Toronto (which is getting smaller as the years go by)

    – Ask the artists fanbase

    – Ask the people who swear ‘support the scene’, but aren’t even willing to lend a hand to keep the support there.

    – Get rid of this stupid ‘Do It Yourself’ mentality that we’re forced to have, and instead collaborate on ideas…help out finding each other shows..BUT MOST OF ALL..DEVELOP EACH OTHER AS ARTISTS..forget the infra-structure..who’s developing us for the stage we wanna go? US.

    – Understand that Canada will never be in acceptance of our hip hop culture, just continue making music and see where it leads. The roads aren’t paved in gold, opportunities are not born as easy.

  11. Btw…to add to my last section…don’t ask yourself or others, YOU pick up the torch and take lead. if you’ve done so, it’s all you need to do.

    i need to go on record and say that addi, has the right to make an article any way he pleases. In this current generation, he’s probably the one in Toronto who’s made things happen the most on a supportive note.

    I mean, after In Divine Style went down, which one of us even bothered to take lead/action?

  12. 9THUNO




  13. Royce Birth speaking truth.

  14. 9THUNO – give me a date when “Unassociated Press” is coming out. The production team looks heavy!!

  15. it’s always so interesting to me how people love to focus on the negative attributes of something intended to be so positive. i work at now magazine and was around when we were putting together this issue. i was also responsible for putting together the next shit show.

    these are my thoughts.

    what’s wrong with you guys?

    a) we did mention addi was mindbender and that he was in the now showcase – see big letters crossing the middle of two full pages for reference.

    b) addi is right when he says that was probably the biggest one topic (music) cover story that now has EVER done. regardless of whatever you think about now that STILL means that because it was in now it was READ by over 400,000 people!!!!! And that doesn’t even include an online count!!!!

    c) criticizing now magazine for neglecting the scene is lame. you know how much music is out there? you know how many things we wish we had the space to cover? have you noticed that almost every week we have a hip hop/rnb article? do you have any idea how much real estate that takes from every where else?

    d) artists complaining about being interviewed for the story and then not getting their quotes published is bullshit. it wasn’t about being the star it was about contributing to the overall content for the framework of the story. for all the community participation people preach they sure as fuck are not getting this point.

    e) the next shit show was put on by now because no OTHER promoter stepped up to the PLATE and offered to do it. PLUS it’s hard to have others putting on a show and make it diverse with regards to having no personal agenda.

    reading over all the commentary in response to the story is interesting and good – don’t get me wrong. it’s important to have dialogue about it.

    it’s all so disappointing. you seem to all be missing one major point. WHO WILL BE THE ONES TO ORCHESTRATE A PLAN. There are enough people in hip hop community in Toronto and across Canada to initiate MANY complete SYSTEMS>


    mary zondanos
    now magazine.

  16. 9THUNO “UNASSOCIATED PRESS” is dropping early august. For media ppl and dj’s that want a copy of the advance, email your request to;

    Much Respect

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