Hip Hop’s story in Toronto (the epicenter of the culture in Canada) begins as early as the mid-to-late 1970s. In neighbourhoods such as Jane/Finch, Flemingdon Park (Flemo), Regent Park and 400 (Scarborough), Toronto youth engaged with the elements (graffiti writing, breaking, deejaying, and emceeing) and curated expressions of the culture that uniquely represented the locales and multi-ethnic and multi-racial demographics of the city. College radio broadcasters who were eager to promote local and international Hip Hop, created community engaged platforms that became hubs for the scene’s growing pool of artists. Promoters hosted events that pit local talent against Hip Hop stars from the American market in ways that levelled the playing ground and honoured Toronto’s unique Hip Hop identity. Television broadcasters – acknowledging the growing interest in Hip Hop’s social and political value – created programming that elevated the scene to national and international visibility.
In the midst of Hip Hop’s momentous fiftieth anniversary, we have curated a list of 50 of the most influential figures of the Toronto Hip Hop scene (between the years 1980-2000) – with an added list of honourable mentions. While there are certainly more than 50 architects who have built Toronto’s scene and contributed to the culture’s impact across the globe, we believe that the time is ripe to recall the names (both of those who are commonly referenced, as well as those less familiar to the public) of the architects who cultivated the scene and shifted the needle and pulse of Hip Hop expression in Toronto, during its first three decades. Unlike many Hip Hop 50 lists, ours places practitioners alongside those who have worked in industries adjacent to Hip Hop artistry. We hope that “The First 50: Toronto’s Hip Hop Architects” generates conversation, a collective remembering and exchange about Toronto’s Hip Hop history, and inspires our city to see the value in preserving its individual and collective Hip Hop stories.
The First 50 Didactic
Created in 1992 by Garie “Miles” Adamson, 100 MILES was influenced by urban culture and a desire to push the creative limits of fashion. Worn by the likes of Tupac Shakur, Notorious B.I.G., ODB (of the Wu Tang Clan) and Drake, the brand’s goal was to create high quality, concept-driven, and original designs that captured the essence of street wear.
Too Black Guys
Founded in 1990 by Adrian Aitcheson and Robert Osbourne, the Black-owned fashion brand Too Black Guys derived its name from African American social activist Malcolm X and his speech “Message to the Grassroots.” Inspired by Hip Hop’s “do for self” sentiment, Too Black Guys aimed to represent the black experience in an unapologetic way by making socially and politically conscious streetwear. They also aimed to serve as an example for other youth who wanted to start their own business. Too Black Guys initially began by producing a small quantity of black tees using their personal finances. After their immediate success, Too Black Guys decided to turn their initial profits into more inventory. They also decided to open up a small store in Toronto’s historic Black neighbourhood of Blackhurst before eventually opening up a store in NYC’s lower east side. Worn by the likes of Spike Lee, Leaders of the New School, Drake, and perhaps most famously Mary J. Blige in her “Real Love” music video, Too Black Guys is considered one of the most important Hip Hop fashion brands of Hip Hop history.
Born Richard Coombs, and also known as Richard Rude and Richard Rudimental, 2Rude is a Toronto Hip Hop, Rhythm, and Blues record producer who also owns his own independent record label (Rudimental Records Inc). Perhaps most known for his collaborations with Snow, Smoothe tha Hustler, Glenn Lewis, and Jully Black, he is a Juno and MuchMusic award winner.
Baby Blue Soundcrew
Baby Blue Soundcrew is a Rexdale-based DJ and producer crew that began professionally working in the scene in the early-to-mid 1990s that specializes in Hip Hop and R&B music. Composed of Kid Kut, KLC, C-Boogie, and Singlefoot, the crew first became well known in Toronto for their parties and mixtapes; and by 2000 they became the official sound crew for the Toronto Raptors. Most known for their first single “Money Jane” – a collaboration with Toronto emcee Kardinal Offishall, R&B songstress Jully Black, and Jamaican dancehall artist Sean Paul – the recording won the 2001 MuchMusic Video Award for Best Rap Video. The group would go on to release their debut album Private Party Collectors Edition (2000) Private Party Collectors Edition Vol. 2 (2001), and Baby Blue Soundcrew Presents: Urban Nostalgia (2001).
Craig “Big C” Mannix began his career in Toronto’s Hip Hop culture by writing reviews for Street Sound magazine and interning at Much Music during the network’s prime years. His career as a music industry voice began in the early 1990s working for Tommy Boy Records as an street representative. He later went on to work at Sony BMG as a marketing manager, Columbia Records as an urban marketing manager, EMI Music as a director of urban marketing and promotion, a director of artist and label development, and at Sony Music Entertainment as a manager of talent acquisition and scouting. He was responsible for developing Canada’s first fully functional Black Music department and has been pivotal in the careers of K-os, Kardinal Offishall, Choclair and Pressa. In 2022, Big C was promoted at Universal Music Canada (UMC) from Senior Director of Urban Marketing to Vice President of Black Music. In addition to his work in music, he is a founding member of Advance (Canada’s Black Music business collective) and sits on the Board of Directors for the Remix Project as well as the Massey Hall/Roy Thompson Board.
Brassmunk is a Scarborough-based crew formed in 1997 by emcees S-Roc (Dwayne King), Clip (Jason Balde), May One 9 (Randy Brookes) and DJ/producer Agile (Ajene Griffith). In 2006, the group would replace May One 9 with King Reign (Kai Thomas) who would later pass in 2016 at the age of 40. Best known for their singles “Big” (produced by Mr. Attic of Da Grassroots) and “Oh Supaman” (produced by DJ Agile), Brassmunk independently released their first EP One, 2 / Stop, Look, Listen 1999, which was then followed by four other EPs [Live Ordeal! in 2000, Push Up / Get Right (Bring It) in 2001, Dark Sunrise in 2002, and El Dorado in 2002]. The crew’s two albums – Dark Sunrise (of the same name as their 2002 EP) and FEWturistic – were released in 2003 and 2007.
Born in Scarborough, Kareem “Choclair” Blake began his career as an emcee at the age of 11 – inspired by his older brother. While attending St. John Paul II Catholic Secondary School he began performing under the name “Choclair.” Choclair released his debut single, “Twenty One Years,” in 1995 on his own independent label, Knee Deep Records. Two years later he released the EP What It Takes, which was accompanied by a music video featuring Jully Black. By 1998, Choclair had released eleven records, including the first international releases for Saukrates, Kardinal Offishall, Jully Black, Solitair, Marvel, and Tara Chase. He is perhaps most well-known for his contribution to the recording “Northern Touch'' which received two Juno Awards and a MuchMusic Video Award. By 1999, Choclair signed with Priority Records, and released his debut album Ice Cold, produced by Saukrates. Certified gold in Canada, the album produced the hit single “Let’s Ride” which was produced by fellow emcee Kardinal Offishall. He would go on to subsequently release Memoirs of Blake Savage (2002), Flagrant (2003), My Demo (2003), and Flagship (2006). After parting ways with his record label, Choclair would go on to start his own independent label Greenhouse Music.
Scarborough-based Hip Hop duo Citizen Kane began their professional emceeing career in the mid-1990s. Made up of emcees Jeff “J-Spade/Spade” Duke and Rob “Blye’ Paris. Citizen Kane was managed by Adrian Perry and released their debut single, "Soul Survivor" in 1995. While they began their professional Rap career in the mid-1990s, Spade began in Hip Hop culture in the 1970s as a b-boy (dancing for Rebound Breakers, Intrikit Crew, Michie Mee, Dream Warriors), graffiti artist (Graffiti Knights as Crazy Roc), cutting Hip Hop hairstyles (Cut Creator) and creating fashion items for B Kool, Michie Mee and Maurice and Bolton. As an emcee, he and Blye would release their first EP “The Epic '' in 1997, and later their full-length album “Deliverance” in 1999 (under their independent record label Treehouse Records). Citizen Kane’s efforts to promote “Deliverance”, in the face of Canadian hip hop's struggle to gain commercial and critical attention in that era, was filmed by Duke's sister — Alison Duke — for the National Film Board of Canada’s documentary Raisin' Kane: A Rapumentary (released in 2001). The duo was also nominated for a Juno Award — first in 1999 for Rap Recording of the Year for their EP “The Epic”, and then again in 2000 for their album “Deliverance”. In May 2020, Citizen Kane teamed up with TopLeft Recordings to put out the “Scartown Unreleased Classics” mixtape - a collection of past recordings from 2001 to 2005 that were never released - which was mixed by DJ Law and mastered by Quarter Inch Kings.
Author / Publicist / Journalist / Course Instructor
Dalton Higgins is an award-winning journalist from Toronto’s “Little Jamaica'' neighbourhood who first began writing for publications such as The Source Magazine – “the Bible of hip-hop music culture and politics” – where he penned the magazine’s first major interviews for many iconic artists – everyone from J Dilla to Nelly. He would go on to author six books – two of which centered the subject of Hip Hop (Far from Over: The Music and Life of Drake, which is carried in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame & Museum’s collection and his best-selling book Hip Hop World which is used in dozens of high school and college curriculums and is carried in Harvard University’s Hip Hop archive). As a broadcaster, Higgins has hosted his own digital cable TV show “Urban Groove'' on BPM TV, and has co-produced and co-hosted podcasts for the CBC (This Is Not A Drake podcast) and Rogers Media (Black Tea). As a well-known Toronto publicist, his company roster includes clients that have won a wide range of awards and accolades including: Grammy Awards (USA), BET Awards (USA), Emmy Awards (USA), The Mercury Prize (UK), Victoires de la Musique/French Grammy’s (France), and Juno Awards (Canada). More recently, as the Toronto Metropolitan University’s Music-Pro-in-Residence, Higgins created and teaches the university course “Deconstructing Drake and The Weeknd” that has been featured on CNN, New York Times, NPR, BET, Revolt TV, and 6ixBuzz among many other media outlets.
Daniel Faraldo a.k.a. Dan-e-o
A Scarborough-based emcee, Daniel “Dan-e-o” Faraldo first won a Rap-Off Contest on Toronto’s “Electric Circus” dance show at the age of 13. Five years later, in 1996, his first single “Dear Hip Hop” (considered a Canadian Hip Hop classic) was featured on Beat Factory’s Rap Essentials Volume One compilation. In 1997, Dan-e-o established his crew, Monolith by co-founding One Rock Records and independently releasing the EP, The Long Awaited... the following year. He would go on to release a number of other albums: The Book of Daniel (2000), See No Evil, Hear No Evil (2004), Immortal(2013), Inevitable (2013), Dear Hip Hop: 20 Years Later (2017), The Day It All Changed (2020). Together fellow rap veteran Promise Dan-e-o formed the duo “Perfeck Strangers” and released their debut album Series Premiere in 2012. Dan-e-o has also worked as an actor, appearing in the series Breakout Kings as well as the feature-length films Anything Goes, Tapped Out, Lifechanger and most recently, World’s Best (streaming on Disney +).Website
David “Gordo” Strickland
Scarborough-born David “Gordo” Strickland is an award-winning engineer, mixer, producer and DJ. Known for being behind the boards on iconic Hip-Hop and R&B records, Gordo has worked on seminal tracks by the likes of Pete Rock, Erick Sermon, EPMD, Keith Murray, Redman and Method Man, k-os, Ghetto Concept, Jelleestone, Kardinal Offishall, Jully Black, Choclair and Drake. Of Mi'kmaq, Innu and Beothuk lines, Gordo’s latest album - Spirit Of Hip Hop (2020) - highlights the teachings, art, traditions, and music aligned with his Indigenous heritage. From control room to canvas, Gordo is also a prolific visual artist who has been featured at galleries such as the McMichael Canadian Art Collection and on platforms such as Apple Music.
Devon Martin (known mononymously as Devon) was an emcee who rose to prominence in 1990 for his recording “Mr. Metro” which featured a critique of the Toronto Police Service and was inspired by incidents of police racism and brutality across North America. Including his own detention by police in Redondo Beach, California. Born in England and raised in the Mississauga suburb of Malton, Devon formed his first band, Shock Waves, at the age of 14, releasing an independent single in 1977. In response to his recording “Mr. Metro”the Toronto Police Service threatened to arrest him on defamation charges, forcing him to black out parts of the video which might have been perceived as identifying Toronto police officers. The video went on to win a MuchMusic Video Award in 1990. He was also a part of a second political record released in 1990 titled "Can't Repress the Cause” by Dance Appeal – a supergroup of Toronto-area musicians that included Maestro Fresh Wes, Dream Warriors, Michie Mee, B-Kool, Lillian Allen, Eria Fachin, HDV, Dionne, Thando Hyman, Carla Marshall, Messenjah, Jillian Mendez, Lorraine Scott, Lorraine Segato, Self Defense, Leroy Sibbles, Zama and Thyron Lee White. After releasing his debut album It's My Nature in 1992, he decided to relocate to Vancouver in 1997 and signed to indie label Rated-R Recordz where he released the EP Pressure.
Film Director & Anti-Violence Advocate
Initially known to the Toronto Hip Hop community as ‘Little X,’ Director X (Julien Christian Lutz) of the Brampton region is one of the most iconic directors of our time. Having directed over 100 music videos, he is most known for his music video work with artists such as Drake, Rihanna, Jay Z, Kendrick Lamar, and Kanye West. Prior to moving to New York City where he became the protégé of pioneering hip hop director Hype Williams, Director X first worked as an intern at MuchMusic’s RapCity. As a filmmaker, Director X has directed three feature films [Across the Line (2015), Center Stage: On Pointe (2015), Superfly (2018)] and works for television October Faction (2020), The Imperfects (2022), and Robyn Hood (2023). As an artist, Director X has created art installations for Toronto’s Nuit Blanche: Death of The Sun, which was also featured in Drake’s “Boy Meets World,” European tour and “Life of The Earth,” in collaboration with the Ontario Science Center. In recent years, following an incident where he was shot at a 2015 New Years Eve party, Director X founded Operation Prefrontal Cortex, an initiative created to reduce Toronto’s gun violence through mindfulness and meditation.
DJ Power is a DJ and music producer who is one of the co-founders of the longest running Hip Hop college radio shows in Canada – The Masterplan Show (1989) – alongside John “Jonbronski” Adams, Wendy “Motion” Brathwaite, and Dave “DJ D.T.S.” Clarke. In addition to his work in college radio, DJ Power has worked with international artists such as Sean Paul, SL, Vybz Kartel, Walshy Fire (Major Lazer), Wyclef Jean, Machel Montano and more, and is the official Tour DJ for Reggae superstar Junior Reid.
Born in Vancouver, and living for a time in Bermuda before moving to Toronto, Adrien “DJX” King is a radio host, mixshow DJ, event DJ and record producer. A mentee of DJ Ron Nelson while working at CKLN 88.1 FM, he is most recognized for his role as DJ and host of CKLN’s influential show “The Power Move Show” where he debuted countless Canadian, American & international Hip Hop records. In addition to introducing the popular series “Live at the Barbeque,” during his time on The Power Move Show, DJ X also introduced a popular freestyle segment known as “Eat the Beat” where he showcased many emcees and curated a central community hub at CKLN. In addition to his work at CKLN, DJ X also worked for other prominent radio broadcasters including the CBC, KISS 92.5 FM, and FLOW 93.5. He has also worked as a music producer, making music with artists such as Toronto’s Wio-K. In addition to working as a SOCAN member relations representative, he has also served as a composer for CBC’s Drop the Beat.
Hailing from the Jane & Finch and Willowdale neighbourhoods, Louis “King Lou” Robinson and Frank “Capital Q” Allert formed Dream Warriors in 1988. That same year King Lou made his recording debut by appearing on Michie Mee and L.A. Luv's single “Victory Is Calling” which also featured American artist MC Lyte. The duo officially began working on their own music in 1989 when they joined the Beat Factory Productions team. In 1990, they Dream Warriors collaborated as part of the super group Dance Appeal (Devon, Maestro Fresh Wes, B-Kool, Michie Mee, Lillian Allen, Eria Fachin, HDV, Dionne, Thando Hyman, Carla Marshall, Messenjah, Jillian Mendez, Lorraine Scott, Lorraine Segato, Self Defense, Leroy Sibbles, Zama and Thyron Lee White) to record “Can't Repress the Cause” which was a plea for greater inclusion in the Canadian music scene. In 1991 the duo signed to 4th & B'way/Island Records and released their jazz-influenced debut album And Now the Legacy Begins which spawned the hit singles “Wash Your Face in My Sink,” “My Definition of a Boombastic Jazz Style,’ and “Ludi.” In 1994, the duo recorded their follow-up album Subliminal Simulation. At the same time they also added emcee Hussain “Spek” Yoosuf and Phillip “DJ Luv” Gayle (formerly L.A. Luv) – turning the duo into a four-man group. The album featured an appearance by Butterfly of Digable Planets and Gang Starr (Guru and DJ Premier) as well as production by Da Grassroots. In 1996, the duo released their third album The Master Plan, and in 1997 Spek and DJ Luv left the group. Two years later the group released a greatest hits compilation on Priority Records. And In 2017, Dream Warriors released their second compilation album.
Dave “DTS” Clarke is a DJ and co-founder of the Masterplan Show on CIUT 89.5FM (at the University of Toronto) —Canada’s longest running Hip Hop radio show. A noted tastemaker in Canada’s music scene due to his efforts to elevate Canadian Hip Hop music, DTS has won the Justco Mixtape Award for “Best Mixtape” (for Soul Controllers Reggae Meets Hip-Hop Vol 8), and was a finalist for the Toronto Arts Foundation Roy Thomson Hall Award of Recognition.
Eugene Tam founded Play De Record – an independent record store – in 1990. Born in Trinidad, Eugene Tam and his family moved to Toronto in 1981 where he built Play De Record after pitching the idea of a music store to his parents. Tam opened the store in the Yonge and Dundas area – the store was considered an essential stop for anyone closely following dance music and hip hop. Play De Record became a hub for crate diggers of all stripes who hung out for hours on drop days, hunting through the store’s one-of-a-kind selection. Every Thursday Tam would drive down to Buffalo at six o’clock in the morning to pick up all of the latest records from the US and then would rush back to Toronto to get new records to the store early (in order to ensure that all the DJs would come to his store first). In addition to selling international music and supporting local and Canadian Hip Hop talent, in 1993 Play De Record started a label - Steppin’ Bigga - to produce and distribute their music.
Born in London, England, Farley Flex began in the music industry as the original manager of Canada’s Godfather of Canadian Hip Hop – Maestro Fresh Wes. Farley Flex was instrumental in founding Toronto’s first Black music-radio station in Canada – FLOW 93.5 – when it first went on the air in 2001. At the time Farley Flex served as the station's first Music Director and Vice President of Business Development. His success as an artist manager, radio personality, and radio executive prompted Canadian Idol's (a reality television program) producers to select him as a judge before its 2003 launch. After his work on Canadian Idol, Farley Flex took several former Idol contestants under his wing to promote their albums, such as Gary Beals and Toya Alexis. In addition to work in the music industry, Farley Flex is the founder of R.E.A.L. School - Reality Education & Applied Life Skills – which is a not for profit organization that engages primarily youth from inner city and marginalized communities worldwide.
Born in Jamaica, and mentored early on in his career by the legendary King Tubby (a Jamaican sound engineer who influenced the development of dub music in the 1960s and 1970s), Noel “Gadget (also spelled Gadjet)” Campbell worked with a number of key Toronto Hip Hop artists as a sound engineer. In more recent years, Gadget has worked as one of the main mix engineers for OVO Sound.
Hailing from Rexdale and Lawrence Heights, Ghetto Concept formed in 1992 and is made up of Kwajo “Kwajo Cinquo” Boateng and Lowell “Dolo” Frazer” – and for a short time Desmond “Infinite” Francis as both the group’s DJ and later one of its emcees. The group’s first single “Certified” was released in 1993 by independent label Groove-a-Lot Records. A year later, the group would go on to release their second single “E-Z On Tha Motion.” In 1995, following the murder of his brother, Infinite decided to leave the group and pursue a solo group. In addition to their music, Ghetto Concept would go on to create their own independent label 7 Bills Entertainment Inc. in 1996. Two years later, Ghetto Concept would release their self-titled debut album along with the singles “Krazy World” and “Precious Metals.” In 1999, they received gold certification for their single “Too Much” which was featured on The Baby Blue Soundcrew's Private Party album. By 2001, the dup would sign a licensing deal with BMG Music Canada. A year later, they released the sophomore album Ghetto Concept Presents...7 Bills All-Stars: Da Album.
Raised in Rexdale, Desmond “Infinite” Francis is an emcee best known for his time as a member of hip hop group Ghetto Concept. In his early career, Infinite served as a DJ for Ghetto Concept and later debuted as an emcee on the group's 1994 single “E-Z on tha Motion” – which won a Juno Award for Best Rap Recording. In 1995, Infinite decided to leave the group after learning of the death of his brother. In 1996, Ghetto Concept released the single “Much Love” which was Infinite's final appearance with the group. The following year he began a solo career and started a record label – Lockdown Entertainment – with his brother Cain. That year, he released his first single “Gotta Get Mine” – which appeared on his 1998 EP titled 360° EP and earned him a second Juno Award nomination for Best Rap Recording. In 1999, Infinite was chosen by Capcom to contribute to the soundtrack for the video game Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike, performing voiceovers, as well as three songs. He also held a small acting role in the 2004 biopic Redemption: The Stan Tookie Williams Story.
Co-founder of independent record label, music management and production company Beat Factory alongside songwriter Rupert Gayle in 1982, Ivan Berry has managed the top Hip Hop artists throughout the 1980s and 1990s. In 1988, Berry signed Michie Mee to an international record deal with Atlantic Records, making her the first Canadian Hip Hop artist signed to a major label. Beat Factory's biggest success was the Dream Warriors – a Hip Hop duo who sold 800,000 copies of their debut album And Now the Legacy Begins which was released in 1991. In 1996, Berry founded Beat Factory Music Inc., a record label division of Beat Factory, which was distributed by EMI Music Canada and BMG Music Canada. The label released a series of compilation albums – known as RapEssentials and GroovEssentials – which included a series of first singles by artists that ranged from Hip Hop artist Kardinal Offishall to R&B artist Glenn Lewis
Raised in Rexdale, David “Jellestone Carty began performing as an emcee with the rap groups PNP and ORB before contributing the solo track “When You're Hot, You’re Hot” to the Rudimental compilation in 1997. He then recorded his debut album Jelleestone Thirteen, which was produced by Jon Levine of The Philosopher Kings. While he was preparing to release the album on his own independent label Rex Entertainment, he began attracting label interest in the United States after Nelly Furtado (who he shared a manager with) began talking about his work in media interviews. He then signed to Warner Bros. Records in 2000, and released his debut album with the label in 2001. The album's single, "Money (Part 1)", was a top 40 hit in Canada and reached #75 on Billboard's Hot Singles Sales chart. The winner of a MuchMusic Video Award for Best Rap Video in 2004, he has also been nominated for a series of Juno Awards as well. In 2005, Jelleestone released his second album, The Hood Is Here, which featured a collaboration with Nelly Furtado.
John “Jonbronksi” Adams
Originally from Tottenham, in the United Kingdom, John “Jonbronski” Adams began as a music editor for Street Sound Magazine in 1987. In addition to writing for Street Sound, he was also a featured writer with Source Magazine, Metro Word, and Eye Weekly. Between 1990 and 1995, Jonbronski would co-found The Master Plan Show alongside Dave “DTS” Clarke and Motion and serve as the show’s host and producer. In that same window of time he would also serve as a judge and steering committee member for the Juno Awards. By the early 1990s, Jonbronski would serve as an executive producer on the “Cold Front Compilation” (Canada’s first Hip Hop LP), A&R Manager for Main Source’s 1991 album Breaking Atoms, Saukrates’ “Still Caught Up,” and an urban music consultant with Sony Music Canada. In addition to his involvement with Hip Hop, Jonbronski would also serve as part of dancehall artist Sean Paul’s management. In addition to his time in music, Jonbronski transitioned to the world of film. In 1993, he served as co-producer for director Andrew Munger’s Canadian Hip Hop documentary Make Some Noise, and he has served as assistant director and production manager on music videos for artists such as Shaggy (“It Wasn't Me”) and Rihanna (“Work”).
Jonathan Ramos has worked in the areas of marketing, artists & repertoire (A&R), and event promotion. In 1993, Jonathan Ramos founded R.E.M.G., which grew to become Canada's largest and most reputable urban music concert promoter. While still working with R.E.M.G., Jonathan Ramos began his role as vice president of marketing at Beat Factory Music in 1996. In 2004, Jonathan Ramos became the director of artists & repertoire (A&R) at Sony BMG Canada. R.E.M.G. was later acquired by The Union Ltd. in March 2010 in a merger that created Canada's largest independent national concert promoter. Once acquired, Jonathan Ramos served as director at The Union until 2013. That same year, Jonathan Ramos took on the role live music director at Ink Entertainment which is considered Canada's leading lifestyle and entertainment company – with its music portfolio including Toronto venues such as Rebel, Cabana Pool Bar, Toybox, CUBE Nightclub, and its event series including VELD Music Festival and Digital Dreams Festival. In 2022, Jonathan Ramos took on the role of global touring vice president at AEG presents – which is based in Los Angeles.
Raised in both the Toronto area known as Weston as well as in New York City, Shawn “K-4ce” Morrison, is an emcee who has worked with Maestro Fresh Wes, Michie Mee and Ghetto Concept. He is perhaps most well known for coining the term “T-Dot” - which he argues came from a dub plate he was recording called “Deep Kover” when he returned to Toronto in the mid-1990s. Tired of everyone calling the city of Toronto “T.O.,” he wrote a lyric that officially re-named the city “T-Dot” in an effort to give the scene a Hip Hop identity.
K-Cut and Sir Scratch
Brothers Kevin “K-Cut” McKenzie and Shawn “Sir Scratch” McKenzie are two-thirds of the New York-based Hip Hop group Main Source (alongside Queens emcee and producer Large Professor). Both Toronto-born DJs and producers, K-Cut and Sir Scratch released their first independent 12" single titled “Think”/ “Atom” as Main Source in 1989 under the mentorship of producer/engineer Paul C. On July 17, 1989, Paul C was murdered in his home and K-Cut later stated that Main Source “basically inherited Paul C's style” and strove to “carry the torch” of his sound going forward. During this period, K-Cut helped teach DJ Premier sampling techniques on the E-mu SP-1200. After self-releasing their second 12" single “Watch Roger Do His Thing” in 1990, the group signed to Wild Pitch Records. In 1991, the group released their debut album, Breaking Atoms. In that same year, K-Cut's production appeared on Queen Latifah's album Nature of a Sista', and he produced the bulk of The Black Tie Affair, an album by Toronto rapper Maestro Fresh Wes. The following year, K-Cut produced the Main Source single “Fakin’ the Funk,” which appeared on the White Men Can't Rap film soundtrack. In 1993, he produced the Fu-Schnickens single "What's Up Doc? (Can We Rock)", featuring Shaquille O'Neal, which peaked at number 39 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified gold in the United States. That year, Large Professor left Main Source due to business differences, with K-Cut taking over as the main producer for their 1994 album Fuck What You Think. The album's single, "What You Need", was sampled for Madonna's 1995 worldwide hit "Human Nature", which credits K-Cut as a songwriter. By the late 1990s, K-Cut moved back to Toronto, further contributing his production to the city's hip hop scene. In 1997, he produced the Infinite single "Gotta Get Mine" (featuring Divine Brown) and contributed to Citizen Kane's EP The Epic, both of which were nominated for a Juno Award for Best Rap Recording. He also produced two tracks for Choclair's 1999 debut Ice Cold.
Raised in the Flemingdon Park and Oakwood–Vaughan areas of Toronto, Jason “Kardinal Offishall” Harrow is an emcee, record producer, DJ, and record executive. Known for his distinctive reggae and dancehall-influenced Hip Hop style, Kardinal began his career as a member of the Hip Hop The Circle alongside Toronto artists such as Solitair, Choclair, Tara Chase, Saukrates, YLook. In 1994, he made his first recorded appearance on Saukrates' single “Still Caught Up.” After being signed to a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell Music Canada, he released his first single – “Naughty Dread” – in 1996 on the Rap Essentials Volume One compilation. He also released his debut album (Eye & I) in 1997, and an EP (Husslin') in 2000, before signing with major label MCA Records that same year. In 2001, he released his second album – Quest for Fire: Firestarter, Vol. 1 – which spawned the Billboard hit ‘BaKardi Slang” that popularized Toronto's nickname “T-dot.” In 2005, Kardinal released his third album – Fire and Glory – and began collaborating with R&B singer Akon for the first time. In 2007, he signed with Akon's Kon Live Distribution label (through Geffen) and later released his fourth album – Not 4 Sale – the following year. Its first single, "Dangerous" (featuring Akon), became a top five hit on the Billboard Hot 100. In 2013, Offishall became the creative executive director of Universal Music Canada's A&R team. Two years later, he released his fifth album Kardi Gras, Vol. 1: The Clash. In addition to his role in the music industry, he has served as a judge on the television series Canada's Got Talent.
Scarborough-based emcee Andrew “Kish/Big Kish” Kishino is the first artist in Canada signed to a major label (being A&M in 1990). He is perhaps best known for his 1991 single “I Rhyme the World in 80 Days” featured on his debut album Order from Chaos which reached number one on the RPM Cancon chart. In 1994, Kish released his follow-up album A Nation of Hoods. Both a Juno Award nominee and the winner a Canadian Music Publishers Association songwriting award, as a producer and engineer Big Kish was also instrumental in bringing the vision of artists to life – including Canadian emcees such as Dan-e-o, IRS, Concrete Mobb, Citizen Kane and Down to Erf. In the aftermath of his work as an emcee in the Toronto scene, Kish relocated to Los Angeles to work as both a hip hop music producer and later a voice actor. As a voice over actor, Kish is well known for his work in Lucasfilm’s The Bad Batch and Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Disney’s The Lion Guard, Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe, and video games such as Halo Infinite, Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order, and Fortnite. An Audie Award-nominated audiobook narrator as well, Big Kish has read for titles such as Fonda Lee’s trilogy of Jade City, Jade War, and Jade Legacy, and Traci Chee’s We Are Not Free.
Maestro Fresh Wes
Scarborough raised Wesley "Maestro Fresh Wes" Williams is an emcee, record producer, actor, and author. Considered one of the earliest Canadian emcees to achieve mainstream success, his debut album, Symphony in Effect (1989), was the first certified platinum album by a Black Canadian artist in Canada. At the age of 15, in 1983, Maestro met DJ Ron Nelson who promoted his music (which was under the moniker Melody MC) on his radio show on 88.1 CKLN-FM. Nearly two years later, Maestro met Farley Flex, who he went on to work with Maestro in 1988 as his manager. That same year, he officially adopted the name Maestro Fresh Wes and recorded the independent demos, “You Can't Stop Us Now” and “I'm Showin' You.” While performing on MuchMusic's Electric Circus, Wes met dance artist Stevie B, who connected him with his NYC-based label, LMR. Maestro Fresh Wes’ recording “Let Your Backbone Slide” became the first single from a Canadian hip hop artist to go gold. In 1991, Maestro Fresh Released his follow-up album The Black Tie Affair. He later released two other albums – Maestro Zone (1992) and Naaah, Dis Kid Can't Be from Canada?!! (1994) – though they did not appear to have much traction in the American market. He returned to the Canadian charts in 1998 with the hit singles “Stick to Your Vision” and “416/905 (T.O. Party Anthem)” after a long period of absence. In the years following, Maestro would release Black Tuxedo (2012), Orchestrated Noise (2013), Champagne Campaign (2019), Maestro has also built a career in film and television – with acting roles in series such as Metropia, Instant Star, and Mr. D (which he was featured on for eight seasons), and film roles such as Paid In Full and Four Brothers. In addition to music and his work as an actor, Maestro is also an author – co-writing a self-help motivational book with his wife called Stick to Your Vision: How to Get Past the Hurdles & Haters to Get Where You Want to Be with a forward written by Chuck D of the Hip Hop group Public Enemy.
Born in Leeds, England, Tony “Master T” Young is a Canadian television and radio personality and urban music promoter. After moving to Canada in 1974, Master T grew up in Kitchener, Ontario, and studied television broadcasting at Mohawk College in Hamilton. After finding work as a camera operator at MuchMusic, he would go on to create the Black Music program X-Tendamix (later "Da Mix"). Master T would go on to become a MuchMusic video-jockey (VJ) and host various programs, including Rap City. When he left MuchMusic, his on-air farewell party featured an exclusive live performance by Lauryn Hill. In addition to work as a MuchMusic VJ, Master T was the primary promoter of the channel's Much DanceMix series of compilation CDs, and received a Diamond plaque for over one million in sales. Since leaving MuchMusic, he has produced and promoted his own Master T's series of hip hop and reggae compilations, hosted the syndicated radio program Wall of Sound, and has hosted the online interview and performance series RX Music LIVE.
Scarborough and North York-raised Paul “Mastermind” Parhar radio DJ and on-air personality, mixtape DJ, and music program director. He first encountered Hip Hop at Eaton Center when he witnessed a breakdancing cipher and climbed on top of an electric box to better see the performers. Inspired by DJ Ron Nelson and his college radio show, he visited his show to ask for his autograph and found himself recruited to be a part of Nelson’s street team for event promotion. Mastermind earned his name from Nelson who would frequently quiz him on Hip Hop trivia. At the age of 14, Mastermind began hosting his own show on York University’s college radio station (CHRY 105.5 FM). In addition to his work on radio, he became well-known among his fanbase for creating mixtapes – however in 1999, when the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) became aware of the illegal compilations, they raided all the locations associated with the production and sale of those mixtapes. While the mixtape era ended in that form, and he had created nearly fifty tapes (featuring Canadian artists such as The Rascalz, Kardinal Offishall, Choclair, and Saukrates), he would eventually secure a record deal. In addition to hosting college radio, Mastermind has also worked as a music director (Calgary’s Vibe 98.5). More recently he has returned to his college radio roots where he works as Program Director for VIBE 105.5 (formerly CHRY) at York University.
Emcee, B-boy, DJ
Lyndon “Mathematik” Dash is a multi-disciplinary artist who began as a and eventually became an emcee, DJ and record producer. Beginning his emcee career as a member of the Hip Hop crew Down to Erf, Mathematik has collaborated with K-Cut, Sic Sense, Citizen Kane, Saukrates, Dream Warriors, and Bahamadia. After releasing Down to Erf’s self-titled album, he signed with Beat Factory and released his debut album Ecology in 1999. In 2005 he released his follow-up album No Division, and two years later released No Division 2.1. After more than a decade of recording inactivity, he returned in 2019 with ReAL/iS-HiM. In that same year, he collaborated with S-ky The Cookinjax and Dan-e-o on the single, “Mathuvision.” And in 2020, Mathematik would release his album H2O.
Richard “Maximum 60” Rodwell began in the Toronto Hip Hop scene in 1984 when he served as co-owner and co-founder of Beat Factory Productions (alongside Ivan Berry and Rupert Gayle). Together they oversaw the careers of The Dream Warriors, Maestro Fresh-Wes, Michie Mee & LA Luv, Kish, HDV, Split Personality, and Krush N’ Skad. In addition to his work in the music industry, he has worked as a composer on a series of television shows between 1994 and 2000 (many of which were featured on YTV), including: Uh Oh! (YTV game show), Warp, Alpha 2 Omega, Little Big Kid, My Special Book, and The Very Roger Show. More recently he has also composed for television shows such as Cash Cab Canada and Design To Win and commercial’s such for Coca Cola.
A Scarborough-based DJ, Melissa “MelBoogie” Langley is a radio host, mixshow format and event DJ, and tour DJ. In addition to opening for some of the most respected performers in the world of entertainment (Kevin Hart, LeBron James, Nick Cannon, Major Lazer, Lauryn Hill, Busta Rhymes), Mel Boogie has been the resident DJ for Honey Jam, Canada’s longest-running all female showcase since it launched in 1995. 2023 will also mark her 30th year as a DJ and host on Canadian radio (on VIBE 105, CHRY 105.5, CKLN 88.1, and FLOW 93.5). In addition to touring with a number of artists (The Sorority, Maestro Fresh Wes, Eternia), she has also worked on music with Eternia, Rah Digga, Keysha Freshh, Lola Bunz, Kish, Dan-e-o, and Maestro Fresh Wes. In 2008, Mel Boogie won the Stylus Female DJ of the Year Award, naming her the top female DJ in Canada. Mel Boogie is also the first female Chair for the JUNO Awards Rap Advisory Board, where she took on the role to increase awareness of the JUNOs among emerging artists and served as a liaison to ensure the achievements of artists within the rap music community are recognized.
Michael Williams is a Canadian television personality who may be best known for his work as a VJ at MuchMusic from 1984 to 1993. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Williams moved to Montreal in the 1970s before eventually moving to Toronto. Part of MuchMusic’s core opening team of VJ’s (alongside J. D. Roberts, Erica Ehm, Christopher Ward, and Denise Donlon), Williams hosted various shows including Soul in the City (which was previously a radio show in Montreal), RapCity, Electric Circus, Pepsi Power Hour and The NewMusic. In addition to his television work, WIlliams has also served as a radio personality for Hamilton, Ontario’s College of Musical Knowledge on Wave 94.7, Montreal's CHOM-FM and CKGM-AM, and Toronto’s CHUM-FM and Newstalk 1010. Williams also owns Black Rose Recording Studios in Toronto.
Creator of MuchMusic's RapCity/Artivist/Community Builder
Raised in Kitchener-Waterloo before moving to Toronto in 1985, Michele Geister is a creator, producer, director and feature writer of iconic content for television, radio and print, on international networks in Canada, Jamaica and Europe. Recognized for her contributions toward the development of the Canadian Black and Hip Hop music industries through her MuchMusic series: Soul in the City and RapCity; she is also the creator and original director of Jamaica's beloved morning show Smile Jamaica, and the independent lifestyle series – Island Dreams and Vibes Cuisine. In addition to her work in Hip Hop, she is also a go-to media consultant for veteran and new wave reggae stars. More recently, she serves as Media Director of the Source Farm Ecovillage–an intentional off-grid community in Jamaica that is active in its efforts to combat climate change by prioritizing food security, permaculture design, and traditional plant medicine therapies. Invested in edutainment for young people, she is also the co-creator of the Unuh game app and learning management system that uses neuro linguistic programming principles to assist youth with their personal development.
Michie Mee & LA Luv
The duo known as Michie Mee & LA Luv is made up of Michelle “Michie Mee” McCullock (an emcee) and Phillip “LA Luv” Gayle (a DJ) are most known for making history as Canada’s first notable female emcee. Michie Mee - born in Kingston, Jamaica, and later raised in the Toronto’s Jane and Finch neighbourhood - began performing professionally at age 14. Later discovered by Boogie Down Productions’ Scott La Rock, Michie Mee would eventually team up with DJ L.A. Luv to form their duo. Featured on the 1987 Canadian hip hop compilation Break'n Out, which was produced by KRS-One and Scott La Rock of Boogie Down Productions, the duos first single “Elements of Style” led to the duo being signed with First Priority/Atlantic Records in 1988. In the process, Michie Mee became the first Canadian emcee to sign a record deal with a major American label. Also in 1988, Michie Mee was featured on the compilation The First Priority Music Family: Basement Flavor. In 1991, the duo released its debut album, Jamaican Funk—Canadian Style, which spawned the single “Jamaican Funk” and distinguished Michie on the basis of her style (which was dancehall infused). In the early 1990s, the duo decided to part ways. While L.A. Luv went on to join the group Dream Warriors, Michie Mee pursued a solo career and later became a founding member of the alternative rock band Raggadeath. In addition to music, Michie also began an acting career – making her first film appearance in 1999's In Too Deep. She also starred in the CBC Television series Drop the Beat. After spending much of the 21st century putting out some music and continuing with acting, in 2020 she released her first full-length album in twenty years titled Bahdgyal's Revenge.
Wendy “Motion” Brathwaite is a Toronto emcee, writer, spoken word poet, and activist. A co-founder of CIUT 89.5 FM’s The Masterplan Show (alongside DJ Power, DJ DTS, and Jonbronski) and a member of the Hip Hop crew Nu Black Nation, Motion is most noted in Hip Hop for her album Motion in Poetry: The Audio Xperience and her published poetry collections: Motion in Poetry and 40 Dayz. As a writer she has written a series of theatrical plays including Oraltorio: A Theatrical Mixtape, 4our Woman, Aneemah’s Spot, Loveleigh’s Logue, Nightmare Dream and Rebirth of the Afronauts: A Black Space Odyssey. In recent years, Motion has thrived in television and film, including her work co-writing with Charles Officer (the screenplay for the 2020 film Akilla's Escape, for which they won the Canadian Screen Award for Best Original Screenplay at the 9th Canadian Screen Awards in 2021), A Man's Story (2016) and Theodore (2020), Coroner (2022), and Revenge of the Black Best Friend (2023) for which she received a nomination for Best Writing in a Web Program or Series at the 11th Canadian Screen Awards.
Born in Jamaica, and raised in Chicago and Toronto, Patrick Nichols began capturing images as early as the 1980s - and is considered one of the foremost photographers of the early Toronto Hip Hop scene. With photographs of some of the most notable faces in our society, Nichols counts among his subjects artists such as Mos Def, Tamia, K-OS, Fefe Dobson, Ivana Santilli, Kardinal Offishall, Saukrates, Glen Lewis, and Keshia Chante; sports figures such as announcer Don Cherry, NFL player Ricky Williams and NHL player Brad Richards; and political figures such as Ontario Court Judge Donald McLeod. In 2016, Nichols presented his first solo exhibition "Kushé" at the Black Artists’ Networks in Dialogue (BAND) gallery and cultural centre, and in 2018, Nichols' work was featured in “…Everything Remains Raw: Photographing Toronto’s Hip Hop Culture from Analogue to Digital” at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection (in addition to its accompanying book of the same name). The winner of numerous Communication Arts awards, Nichols has been listed among the top 200 Commercial photographers by Lutzer's Archive, and was also named Canon's Northern Explorer of Lights in 2012.
Ron Nelson is a Scarborough-based DJ, broadcaster, music and concert promoter, producer, educator, and performer. Born in Pembroke Hall, Jamaica DJ Ron Nelson emigrated to Canada in 1972. He first became a performer when he began a mock radio station that would pipe music to the cafeteria while he was attending Victoria Park High School in Toronto. Best known for creating Canada's first hip hop radio show, Fantastic Voyage, on CKLN-FM in 1983. The Saturday afternoon show became popular among Toronto youth and was the first exposure and one of the few broadcast outlets for Hip Hop in Canada. In addition to radio, Ron Nelson soon began organizing concerts and was responsible for organizing the first major rap concert in Canada (in 1987) when Run DMC, Public Enemy and EPMD performed at Varsity Arena. He was the best known Hip Hop concert promoter in the 1980s and 1990s – often staging his events at the Concert Hall at Toronto's Masonic Temple. There he hosted acts such as Boogie Down Productions, Roxanne Shanté, Salt-N-Pepa, Eric B. & Rakim, Ice Cube and Queen Latifah while also giving exposure to local acts with "Monster Jams" and "rap battles." Nelson was also responsible for building one of the first Hip Hop recording studios in Canada – known as Apache – in the basement of his Scarborough home (which also hosted studio space for Beat Factory as well and was where Dream Warriors recorded their first album). By the early 1990s, Ron Nelson decided to transition into the genres of dancehall and reggae, continuing to work on CKLN as well as CHIN-FM. From 2005 through to 2017, Ron Nelson was also the course instructor of "Contemporary Black Urban Music" at York University. In 2023, he released his first rap album, 40 Years Too Late.
Rumble & Strong
David “MC Rumble” Morgan and Jason “DJ Jam on Strong” Charbonneau – known as the duo Rumble & Strong – were a Toronto based duo active in Toronto’s Hip Hop scene of the 1980s. As one of the first Canadian Hip Hop acts signed to a record label (Gee Street Records in 1987) Rumble & Strong released a single EP in 1989 (Crazy Jam) before breaking up. Before forming Rumble & Strong, the duo were members of the early rap crew T.O. Vice and they competing in various battle rap and DJ competitions. Before releasing their debut EP, the duo recorded two songs – “What Other Emcees Sound Like” and “Strong Will Survive” – for Beat Factory's 1987 Break'n Out compilation. On his own, Strong was awarded the first Canadian edition of the DMC World DJ Championships in 1989. Following the duo's breakup, Rumble went on to pursue a solo career. His 1993 single “Safe,” a collaboration with Jamaican reggae musician King Jammy, led to Rumble being nominated for Best Rap Recording at the Juno Awards of 1994.
Karl Amani Wailoo, also known professionally as Saukrates, is a Toronto emcee, vocalist, record producer, and the co-founder of Capitol Hill Music. In addition to his solo work, he is also a member of Redman’s Gilla House collective as well as a member of the Hip Hop/R&B group Big Black Lincoln. In 1994, Saukrates released his first track – “Still Caught Up” – which earned him a nomination for Best Rap Recording at the 1996 Juno Awards. Signed to Warner Bros. Records in 1996, Saukrates was later dropped from the label in 1998 – a year before the release of his debut album The Underground Tapes. By 2000, Saukrates signed another big deal with Def Jam and Gilla House Records (owned by Redman). However, while he remained with Gilla House, he was later dropped by Def Jam. In addition to his debut album, he released two other studio albums (Season One in 2012 and Season 2 in 2017), and two EPs (Brick House in 1997 and The Bigg Soxx Versions in 2010. As an artist he has collaborated with Method Man & Redman, Agile (of Brassmunk), Nas, Jully Black, Andreena Mill, Nelly Furtado, k-os, Classified, Skratch Bastid, and Maestro Fresh Wes among others.
Sheldon Pitt a.k.a. Solitair
Hip Hop Artist and Producer
Sheldon “Solitair” Pitt is a Toronto emcee and record producer, as well as a founding member of the now defunct Black Jays record label and production team. In the late 1990s, Solitair formed as a part of a Hip Hop collective known as "The Circle" alongside artists such as Kardinal Offishall and YLook. In 1998, Solitair released his first 12" single titled “Silver Surfer.” By 2000, he and Kardinal Offishall founded a production company called Silver House and the Girl (S.H.A.G.). Together, they largely produced for various local hip-hop and R&B artists. Solitair's first internationally successful production was Kardinal's single “BaKardi Slang” (2001) from the album Quest for Fire: Firestarter, Vol. 1. By 2004, Solitair and Kardinal renamed their label Black Jays. In 2006, Solitair began to collaborate with Cipha Sounds of Hot 97 – together they produced under the production name “More Fire” for artists such as Nina Sky, Lil Wayne, Busta Rhymes, DJ Khaled, Jim Jones, Elephant Man, and Trey Songz. On his own, Solitair has worked with Nina Sky, Glenn Lewis, Cham, Maestro Fresh Wes, Rascalz, Kardinal Offishall, Ivana Santilli, Jully Black, Choclair, and Sugar Jones among others.
Starting From Scratch
Originally hailing from Montreal, Mark “Starting From Scratch” Gagnon is an event and nightclub DJ, tour DJ, and has worked in radio as well. After moving to Toronto during high school, he was first introduced to the art of DJing – which he explored alongside other soon-to-be well-known Canadian artists – Director X and Russell Peters, the latter of which was DJing himself at the time. He caught his first break at 18 as a fill-in DJ at a Naughty By Nature show in Toronto. In addition to DJing, Scratch worked at Canada’s largest urban radio station – FLOW 93.5FM – from its inception, providing five mixes a day. Along with moving crowds at events and on radio, Scratch has toured with the likes of Russell Peters, George Lopez, Carlos Santana, Usher and Keshia Chante, and has also worked with artists such as Kanye West, John Legend, and Kardinal Offishall – in many instances receiving gold and platinum plaques for his creative input.
Born in Montreal, Tara Chase is an emcee who grew up listening to her father's old rap albums while initially dreaming of becoming a DJ. While she was developing her style and was putting in work opening up shows for major acts with her crew in Montreal, Chase was frustrated by her inability to find a job and moved to Toronto. The 1997 recording “Autonomy” – a track produced by fellow emcee Saukrates – which appeared on the album Rap Essentials Volume 2, was her 1st commercial success.
The Get Loose Crew
Established in 1986, Flemingdon Park-based The Get Loose Crew was initially made up of two emcees (Kory “MC Shadow” Neely and Len “Mix-Master Len” Grant-Stuart) and deejay/producer (Chris “DJ Jel” Jackson). Prior to the release of their first and only album Get Loose Crew (1988), the group would also add a third emcee – Carl “MC B/B Kool” Badwa who would later go on to pursue a solo career (first as B Kool and later as Don Carlito in the early 2000s). After the group signed a distribution deal with Electric Distribution and created their own independent label East Park Productions, the Get Loose Crew became the first Canadian rap group to independently finance, produce and secure distribution of an authentic Hip Hop mini-LP to sell outside Canada. Despite success on local urban music charts, the group did not release a follow up project and would disband in 1990. In addition to their accomplishments as a group, solo emcee B Kool would become the first Canadian emcee to win a Juno Award in 1990 (Best R&B Soul Recording), for his contribution to the group Simply Majestic’s recording “Dance to the Music.”
Christopher “Thrust” France is a Toronto emcee who is perhaps most known for his appearance on the Rascalz' 1998 single "Northern Touch" which also features artists Kardinal Offishall, Choclair, and Checkmate. In the early 1990s, at the young age of 15, Thrust appeared in a 1990 Kids in the Hall skit. In 1996, he released Past, Present, Future, in 2001 The Chosen Are Frew, and then in the early 2020s he collaborated with BoFaat to release “Like its 1994” and “Broken Arrow.” In addition to his own music, Thrust was also featured on one of the biggest Canadian pop hits – “Faded” – by the band soulDecision. In addition to music, Thrust has also served as a music instructor, teaching hip hop production (as well as the occasional history lesson) at Harris College.
Malvern emcee Kevin “Wio-K” Coley is well known for his laid-back patois-tinged flow which first caught the attention of Toronto Hip Hop fans on the recording “Sunlight” – which was produced by DJ X and was featured as part of the groundbreaking inaugural Rap Essentials Volume One compilation album (released in 1996 on Beat Factory Music). In addition to that notable record, Wio-K also gained notoriety after appearing on Kardinal Offishall’s recording “Ol' Time Killin’” (released in 2001). In addition to being a solo artist, Wio-K is also a member of the Monolith Crew alongside fellow Toronto Hip Hop artists such as Grimace Love, Dan-e-o, and IRS (BlackCat, Kory Deez, Tracks).
Jeff ‘Spade’ Duke
Rapper/Recording Artist/B-Boy/Graffiti Artist
Jeff ‘Spade’ Duke is a b-boy (a dancer for Michie Mee), graffiti writer (Crazy Roc of the Graffiti Knights), emcee (Spade of the Canadian Hip Hop duo Citizen Kane), and independent record label owner (Treehouse Records). Raised in Scarborough, Toronto, together with Rob "Blye" Paris, Jeff released his debut single, "Soul Survivor" in 1995, his debut album The Epic in 1997, and then his sophmore album Deliverance in 1999 - a release that was considered to be one of the best Canadian Hip Hop offerings of the ‘90’s. Citizen Kane’s efforts to promote Deliverance, in the face of Canadian hip hop's struggle to gain commercial and critical attention in that era, was filmed by Duke's sister — Alison Duke — for the National Film Board of Canada’s documentary Raisin' Kane: A Rapumentary (released in 2001). The duo was also nominated for a Juno Award — first in 1999 for Rap Recording of the Year for their EP The Epic, and then again in 2000 for their album Deliverance. In May 2020, Citizen Kane teamed up with TopLeft Recordings to put out the Scartown Unreleased ClassIcs mixtape - a collection of past recordings from 2001 to 2005 that were never released - which was mixed by DJ Law and mastered by Quarter Inch Kings.
Jones Amare Au-Duke
Jones Amare Au-Duke is an athlete, a visual artist, a son, a brother, but most importantly, a loyal creative. It takes a genuine commitment to being an artist, which is why Jones Au Duke differs from your average creative person. Jones Au Duke is a local Toronto artist, born and raised in Scarborough. His first step into the art scene began very young but was far from easy. With long nights and days, Jones Au Duke continued to polish his technique. Without his father Jeff ‘Spade’ Duke by his side teaching him how to find his voice creatively, Jones wouldn’t be where he is artistically today. Through the typical
trials and tribulations of being an artist, Jones Au Duke found that his calling to art wasn’t mundane, and before he knew it, he started his journey to greatness. At a rapid rate, Jones built the exhilarating graphic novel “REN” from scratch alongside his few friends. Shortly after, he became one of The Fourth Project’s co-founders - an artistic collective focusing on supporting local and international high-priority communities. His fresh perspective on art and his 80s retro approach keeps Jones’ art demographically flexible while still being insightful and different. After receiving several awards, Jones found peace and contentment in doing art for the rest of his life. With the commitment, technique and personality that Jones Au Duke possesses, he will one day be a name to remember.