There’s lots of good music emerging out of the T-Dot urban music scene right now, which seems to be indicating something interesting about the city’s profile with respect to talent, at least in that scene. Toronto has a notoriously coarse urban music culture, known internationally as “The Screwface Capital” – in the analogue world, we used to get the music early from our cousins in New York and play it out just so that we could be over it first. We can’t wait to be apathetic about your music. Especially if the artist is out of the GTA. Something about that metabolism has always devoured artists from the area before they could break international ground. And yet within the last few weeks or so:
K’naan released his hotly anticipated album Troubadour yesterday:
Drake has been generating quite a bit of buzz around the recent release of his “Mixtape” So Far Gone:
K-OS single called 4 3 2 1 from his forthcoming Yes! album has been picking up steam with the release of the video:
And Zaki Ibrahim’s recent EP Eclectica (Episodes in Purple) has just received a Juno nomination for R&B / Soul Recording of the Year – she’s making noise in the UK and other places around the world as well:
So here’s a question: How many of these artists, each of whom has been experiencing great success abroad, and represents Toronto not only on their MySpace pages but also in their lyrics and music, were born in the GTA or even the province?
The answer: Only K-OS.
And while K-OS represents something of the “old guard,” one of the last monuments to the early 90s scene, K’naan, Drake, and Zaki Ibrahim are arguably some of the strongest talent cultivating some of the strongest international buzz out of the city. And they are all imports – K’naan from Somalia, Drake from Tennessee, and Zaki from… well… all over, starting with Vancouver.
While each represent the city in their own way, they are unapologetically hybrid – much like Toronto itself. These artists have been able to come to the city, call it home and find the right people, layers of connectivity, and industry infrastructure to launch their careers into the national/international stratosphere.
So what is it about Toronto’s music scene – at least the urban music scene – that international talent has found so enabling? Why has it seemed to be less kind to its “native” artists? Why haven’t we seen this kind of talent-spiking in Halifax, or Vancouver, or even Montreal? What is it about a city that gives it the capacity to not only attract and incubate such a diversity of talent, but the capacity to launch it as well?
I know there’s already enough music in this post, but here’s some more.