(WWETV Network) DJ Vlad and Lord Jamar released an interview discussing Vlad’s top 50 rap groups. Lord Jamar, who is a member of one of the more successful rap groups in history, stated he needed time to create his list.
Well, the resident, WWETV historian and blogger, Venom, that I am, will provide a top 10 list for Toronto’s greatest rap groups of all-time. Starting with the top of the heap.
#1. The Dream Warriors
Jane and Finch is currently known for its hard hitting street rap by the likes of Robin Banks, Pressa, and Houdini. However, the greatest rap group to come out of Toronto had a different approach to creating hip hop. King Lou and hailed from Jane and Finch along with Capital Q. The two combined to make jazzy rap with their debut And Now The Legacy Begins. The album ended up winning a Juno and going gold Canada, and was well received in the United Kingdom music scene. A trend that would be followed decades later when Drake would crossover in Europe.
The group would expand by adding Spek and DJ Luv in 1995. They would go on to release Subliminal Simulation featuring Butterfly of Digable Planets and Gangstarr. The group is apart of Canadian hip history and it was only fitting they performed at Nathan Phillip Square for the 150th birthday of Canada.
#2. Sunshine Sound Crew
Now many who know Toronto history may be asking how the originators of the rap game in the city are not in the number spot. Well, this is up for debate, but Dream Warriors in my observation have done a better job at procuring their history. There are different eras of the “Sunshine Sound Crew” and it is hard to pinpoint who exactly are the greatest in the bunch without slighting the creators.
For instance, Ryan Lord aka Top Secret was a founding member of the crew with Tony Duncan. However, many second generation “Sunshine Sound Crew” hip hop fans know him more for his solo efforts in the late 80’s and him helping to cultivate the newer 90’s street rappers such as The Smugglaz. In a rare interview, WorldWide Entertainment TV got an exclusive with Ryan Lord.
Some who know the history of Toronto may not classify the crew as a rap group due to how they were very connected to radio and would sell out parties. In an article on Red Bull, Amini Bin Shakhin, he explained the atmosphere of the time.
Even all the other DJs were like, “yeah… if Sunshine’s having a party, don’t have a party that day. There’ll be 4000 people there.” Remember: you can’t hear it on the radio, you can only hear it on Ron Nelson’s show, you can’t see it on TV. You can’t experience it unless you go to a concert.Amini Bin Shakhin
Still it can’t be argued that “Sunshine Sound Crew” brought that element of rap to the city that was likened to Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five. Tony D and Brother Different give their take on the history of the crew below.
For what it’s worth, the group got inducted into the Stylus Awards Hall Of Fame in 2006.
#3. Ghetto Concept
The Juno award winning Ghetto Concept comes in at the number two slot. The group was groundbreaking in the 1990’s as they won two Juno awards for singles “Certified” and “E-Z On Tha Motion”.
In a different era of Toronto hip hop, there was no outlet such as Spotify, Itunes, or Google Play where the hip hop artists who were unknown to the world could upload their music. This was mainly the reason why this group was formed in 1988, but didn’t get an official album release until 1998. In those days, it was either official cassette tape or vinyl for hip hop listeners to get their copies. They also had one of the biggest collaborations in Canadian history with Maestro, Snow, Kardinal, Ironside, and Red 1 with “Still Too Much”.
In Toronto, the local college radio stations would burn your favorite artists singles that would not receive airplay elsewhere. Outlets such as Project Bounce or CHRY 105.5FM. This is what makes this list of the all time greats from the city of Toronto all the more amazing. They reached outside of their city onto international fame due to their underground buzz. Ghetto Concept helped to set off the second wave of hip hop groups after the success of “Dream Warriors”. Infinite who is a founding member of the group with Kwajo and Dolo talks about the group in an exclusive interview with WorldWide Entertainment TV.
#4. MAIN SOURCE
It can’t be denied how Main Source influenced the rap scene in the 90’s. In a crossover mix between Toronto and New York were Sir Scratch and K-Cut (Toronto), teaming up with NYC’s Large Professor, then Mikey D. For those that don’t know, one of the greatest rappers of all-time got his on record premiere on Main Source’s album entitled Breaking Atoms in 1991. Nas spit on the track “Live at the Barbeque” and the rest is hop hop history and rap’s hottest underground act was taken to the next level.
The followed this up with ’94’s Fuck What You Think, Main Source also attracted mainstream acts such as Madonna with 1994’s album “&^(% What You Think” that she had sampled “What You Need” for track called “Human Nature.” K-Cut went on to work as a producer for Maestro Fresh-Wes, Queen Latifah, and Shaquille O’Neal.
#5. Baby Blue Sound Crew
Now this group became the second wave of The Sunshine Sound Crew. When Baby Blue Sound Crew released their mixtape it was game was over as they were on fire in the 90’s and everyone wanted to cop their work in the record stores. Kid Kut, KLC, C-Boogie, and Singlefoot made this entertaining group a historic one. Too bad the government came in and shut down the mixtape wave in the mid 2000’s.
Just as Main Source had helped to expose Nas to a larger audience, Baby Blue Sound Crew assisted in providing dancehall artist, Sean Paul to a new audience. In early 2000, the group released their first single “Money Jane” off their debut album , which featured Kardinal Offishall, Jully Black, and Sean Paul. The music video won a MuchMusic Video Award.
The single “The Day Before”, featuring Jully Black featured another future household name dancehall artist in Baby Cham. The song was nominated for a Juno the following year. The album which the single was released on, Private Party Collectors Edition Vol. 2, reached #11 on the Canadian Albums Chart and was certified gold by the CRIA in October 2001.
#6. The Circle Crew
The top 6 in the six rounds out with The Circle. A collective of Kardinal, Saukrates, Choclair and Tara Chase, were a sight to see in shows, but unfortunately like many of the early days of Toronto’s rap scene things were not documented or recorded officially. The group also never had an official music video either, but one of the top songs in history belongs to Kardinal, Tara Chase, and Jully Black.
Kardinal was starting to become one of Toronto’s original worldwide mainstream stars and was the target of the underground at the time, but he stayed fast with his style representing The Circle Crew. Invariably, by sticking to old school rap rules, Kardinal also raised the profile of the street rappers by addressing the city on the song “Sunday”. Whether this was by design or not, but “celebrity face” in fact brought exposure to the underground.
#7. The Smugglaz
The Jane and Finch rap group of Sticky Green and Benny Blacc that paved the way for the new street rappers coming out of the region. In the late 1990’s, the crew caught the attention of CBC News and were documented on critically acclaimed CBC The National in a documentary entitled after their controversial “Street Rappers” music video which was originally banned on MuchMusic Rap City (until a re-edit) and brought light to the city’s ailing troubled areas. Mainstream outlets in the city such as NOW Magazine wrote articles on the group’s effect on the communities.
That’s my top 6 for the 6ix, but things get a bit muddy from here. By this I mean, the groups in Toronto history who really made waves also didn’t have a lot of “official” releases like the ensembles above. This is due to the lack of real infrastructure in the hip hop scene in the 6ix before the modern era of online shops and the Drake effect.
In 2005, there was a whole new way of promoting and reaching the hip hop audience in Toronto. Street DVDs were the rage and many of the groups who were frustrated with the lack of outlets to get exposure exploited the DVD industry.
These groups get lost in time in terms of certification or stats because the entertainment industry during the middle part of the 2000’s were shying away from hip hop. Although, it was a lucrative industry across the border, it was a risk in the 6ix due to rising crime that was seen as being connected to the music.
They were two groups that were leading the pack at the time and they could be interchanged by many historians, but here is the rest of the top ten.
The rap group was presented to the country via Top Secret Records after a bad record deal with Alchemy Records in their debut with “Norpo”. Sticky Green and Benny Blacc would later catch more mainstream attention in the city in 2005 when they became the cover story for The Toronto Sun with “Local Voices Of Hip Hop”. They would later sign a management deal with Chris Mckee which led to having “Jane & Finchin” on the movie soundtrack for Paramount Vantage MTV Films movie “How She Move”.
#8. Point Blank
Those who know why this group is controversial know and this is not the article concerning that. This is about who came down the pike in hip hop history for Toronto and a list without Point Blank would not be complete.
Now some may question their ranking here, but before the new era of rappers who hit over a million views on youtube, there was Point Blank in 2006 and 2007 with “Born and Raised In The Ghetto” hitting over a million clicks.
The group helped put Toronto reality rap into stores such as HMV through their distribution deal with Koch Records. Their love of their neighborhood of Regent Park raised awareness in articles with esteemed newsprint such as the Toronto Star article “We Puttin The Hood In HMV”.
The late King Reign was apart of one of the greatest rap groups in Canadian history. Brass Munk consisted of S-Roc, Clip, and DJ/Producer Agile. Their project first EP was called Dark Sunrise which was released worldwide through Virgin Music Canada. In 2004, Dark Sunrise got a nomination for Best Rap Recording at the 2004 Juno Awards. FEWturistic, was the follow up release in 2007 and by 2008 the group got another Juno nomination.
#10. Wass Gang
With the passing of their close friend, Wassi, the rappers from the Jane and Finch corridor united for the single “Wass Gang”. The members run deep, but the true shining moment that made Toronto history was the rise of Pressa and Robin Banks during the time.
Their music video would be one of the first rap videos in the new generation to hit the million mark on youtube in Toronto. The song would also catch the attention of mega rap star Drake and kids in the city as explained by Pressa in a VladTV interview below.
The only way you can get local hip-hop is from independent artists, because it’s not on the major labels. Back in the day, we had to pay for it and tape it off the radio. Now the value has decreased,” he says. “I guarantee you, a lot of us are making superior albums, but no one knows about itDan-e-o
Honorable Mention Monolith
Coming in the number nine position is Monolith. Dan-e-o who recently released a new music video, is apart of one of Toronto’s greatest rap crews. As I mentioned earlier, the mid 2000’s saw a vast change in the rap scene with more street rap taking center stage due to the rise of the street dvd industry, but Dan-e-o with Monolith were making noise as well for their lyrical content.
In a 2008 article with Now Magazine entitled “Toronto Hip Hop’s Bad Rap”, Dan-e-o eloquently explained the hardships that befall the Toronto hip hop scene post record deals of Michie Mee, Maestro Fresh Wes, Choclair, and Kardinal Offishall.
HONORABLE MENTION TNT
Toronto’s street rap was on fire during the 2000’s, but it seemed to be lost in time. Another Regent Park group that made a lot of noise was TNT. There was also controversy surround this rap crew, but as stated above this list would be remiss not to include this ensemble. They were a new breed that came along and challenged the elite rappers in their day which in turn led to some of the biggest songs in Toronto history with “Missing You”.
Other groups that need a mention include S.L.U.G. that was headed by rappers Bishop Brigante, Scandalis(now going by the name Tony Ranks), Camoflauge/Gangis Khan and more. Empire was also a street collective that gathered a following.
Yours truly, Venom, also needs to make a mention for the groups that are overlooked or either didn’t get a chance to reach their potential due to circumstances. Redlife out of Rexdale is a group that had street lyrics and flow that probably would have been more accepted in the mid 2000’s or even in this current day.
Tough Dumplin with producer Triss and rapper Kwesro perhaps had the greatest freestyle session in Toronto radio history below. Unfortunately, Kwesro passed away in 1999 just before signing his record deal that was allegedly with Warner Records.
It would be nice to see some collaborations or even a one time rap group with rappers such as Drake and Kardinal to take the rap group niche to the next level. Will we ever see it?