If you’re listening to mainstream music right now, it's easy to generalise Toronto music as moody, dark and rap-influenced. But if you take a closer look, there’s a world of R&B and soulful rap artists that are bringing a new definition to the Toronto sound.
So what is Toronto sound? I don’t think there’s an easy way to answer that. That’s because the underground scene is diverse, collaborative and always changing. From the sweet soulful sounds of a l l i e (pictured above), to the electronic beats by Harrison, a new wave of artists have made their mark on the city’s music scene. These new changes may end Drake’s reign over the city, and place new faces to represent Toronto music.
Unsurprisingly, Drake is a bit of a controversial figure in the underground music scene. His track record for stealing dance moves from underground musicians and the notoriety of his jafakin music has earned him a bad reputation. While he will always be known for putting the city on the map, there is no doubt in his lacking relevance in what’s unfolding in the city.
Rising northern stars
Last fall, Soundcloud did a video special uncovering the alternative sound in Toronto. They profiled artists who brought a new style to Toronto. “If you’re in the Toronto music scene right now you’ve got to milk it, because this is a very special moment in time,” said producer Harrison to Soundcloud. Harrison’s music is a mix of electronic and funk, and he’s collaborated with many artists in Toronto, like Madee, Clairmont the Second and a l l i e.
The rise of northern stars is transforming the city, bringing a new collaborative spirit to the cause. As uncovered in Soundcloud’s “The Next Wave,” artists in Toronto are connecting together in an effort to uplift their sound. “When I see someone new, especially someone young, and they’re doing something dope and they’re from the city, I just want to help them,” said top Toronto producer Birthday Boy to Soundcloud.
The music community of Toronto is small and inter-connected. Everyone knows somebody through somebody. Which makes it very easy to get a lending hand to help uplift one another.
Paying homage to the city that brought you up
There is no denying the special connection between Toronto artists. The last few years we’ve seen artists flourish and make it to the global spotlight. Artists like Daniel Caesar, BADBADNOTGOOD and Charlotte Day Wilson have moved from the city and onto the global community of music. Even though these stars have made it big, they are always ready to come back home with open arms.
In the fall, a l l i e had her first headlining show in Toronto at Adelaide Hall. Next to opening with M.I. Blue and McCallaman, her show featured surprised guests including River Tiber, Harrison, Birthday Boy and Charlotte Day Wilson. Some of which had just released albums with millions of listens on Spotify and are starting their first international tours. Yet they always seem to make it back to the city, and be actively a part of the growing underground scene.
“[Drake] definitely have had a huge influence, especially in the hip-hop and R&B scene,” a l l i e told Soundcloud, “but there’s so much other stuff happening in the city, and there’s all of these different scenes coming up.”
Artists reclaiming the city
Some artists are revamping their burrow in Toronto, like rapper Clairmont The Second. His music is a fusion of hip-hop and mellow R&B, and he is all about represent Toronto’s west end. “How do we build Weston up to be the illest spot in the city?” he said to CBC, “That's one thing I really want to do, I want to be that guy. But also to make great music.” Clairmont recent release of Lil Mont from the Ave was named the new west end anthem by many critics.
On the other side, rapper and songwriter Stretch is making waves in Toronto’s east end. His latest release: The Ballpark Tape has made waves on Soundcloud and planted the grassroots to Scarborough music.
There’s no denying that the evolution of Toronto sound has sprung a new sense of pride to the city. Rappers like Stretch and Clairmont are successful because the city is now ready to hear them and listen to their music. The movement has gone beyond Drake and OVO, and has transformed into something greater. There’s now an open and collaborative music space in Toronto. It’s filled with caring and supportive people, and the artists and creatives are working towards putting Toronto in a new light. One where Drake takes a seat and lets the new up-and-comers do their thing.