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Top 10 Greatest Canadian Hip Hop Artists of All Time

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Can you guess who took the number one spot?

Canada is known for its many contributions to the world, from maple syrup to insulin, The Wonderbra and of course being the best at hockey. Yet one of the most overlooked contributions of Canada to the world is Hip Hop music. Canadian Hip Hop artists have made a grand impact on the rap game. That is why today, we here at The Daily Scrum News have rated the top 10 Canadian Hip Hop artists of all time based on their influence on the genre.

10. A Tribe Called Red

Starting in the number ten spot is A Tribe Called Red. Hailing from Ottawa, Ontario, this multi-talented group of musicians combine electronic and Hip Hop beats with Indigenous elements, such as traditional singing and drumming styles. These styles blend to create phenomenal instrumentals. A Tribe Called Red has been known to throw Electric Pow Wows that keep Indigenous culture alive within communities where historically its involvement has been erased. Music from the popular group such as “Black Snakes” and “R.E.D” are heard and celebrated throughout festivals and arenas across North America.

9. Belly 

At number 9, Born in Palestine and raised in Ottawa, is Belly. Belly’s instrumental always have a vibe with wavy electric piano type beats. Belly has been known to work with popular artists such as The Weeknd, Travi$ Scott, Young Thug, and many more. Since 2005, His lyrics continue to flow seamlessly, furthermore, the man has pipes and has been know to drop a few R&B joints. Rapping about his lavish life as a celebrity, Belly consistently delivers bars about the Hip Hop lifestyle. This can be found in “Ballerina” and “P.O.P.” To this day the tracks of Belly remain on replay on radio stations across North America.

8. Nav

Spot 8 belongs to Rexdale’s own international chart topper, Ontario born and raised Nav. Though new to the rap scene, debuting in 2015, Nav is an artist from the new age of rap genre. His new Hip Hop beats are produced with smooth chords alongside clean drum lines. And, with Nav working amongst the likes of Future, Lil Uzi Vert, and Young Thug, his name is definitely known around the rap industry. Yet Nav’s beginning started with him co-producing with Drake’s “Back to Back.” Now, however, Millions of Spotify users each month stream his songs in which he raps, about his fame, money, and women. Most recently on his newest album “Good Intentions.”

7. BrassMunk

From Scarborough, Ontario, number 7 on our list goes to BrassMunk. BrassMunk was a Hip Hop group most active in the late 90s and early 2000s and arguably one of the top beat makers in the game. And, if you ain’t bumpin to a BrassMunk jam, that’s straight up whackness. Their in-your-face rap style paired with their humorous videos became influential in subverting the genre of rap, showing the more fun side of Hip Hop. The song that brought them the most notoriety was their 2000 track “Big.” Years later, their influence still remain a staple of Canadian rap culture and can be heard in homes and reminisce about the golden area of Hip Hop.

6. Dream Warriors

At 6, Toronto’s 90s Hip Hop duo, Dream Warriors, known most for their clean verses over unique instrumentals. The group’s use of jazz samples in both “Wash Your Face in My Sink” and “My Definition of a Boombastic Jazz Style,” introduced and eclectic fusion of sounds unparalleled at the time. Ushering a new style of Hip Hop, Dream Warriors were international pioneers that took chances with their creativity and influenced the world.

5. Michie Mee

Number 5 goes to Michie Mee. All hail the queen! This Jamaican-Canadian artist is known for her beautiful use of dance-hall reggae, and Hip Hop on her tracks. She is a pioneer of Canadian Hip Hop music and still remains the top female MC to come out of Canada many decades later. “Jamaican Funk—Canadian Style” is exemplary of her works, and to this day her music remains monumental in the Canadian Hip Hop industry. We also rank Michie Mee as the greatest female Canadian Hip Hop artist of all time. 

4. Classified 

Easily, 4th on this list goes to King of the East, Classified. His influence on Canada’s music industry has been massive. Though he has been producing since the 90s, Classified’s rapping career really took off in 2006 with the release of “Hitch Hikin’ Music.” To say this album was a gem, would be grossly underestimating the work of a genius. Classified’s songs are soulful and at times are lighthearted and fun, such as songs like “Oh Canada” and “Inner Ninja.” His music also covers more serious issues from bullying in his song “3 Foot Tall” to the missing and murdered Indigenous woman in his song “Powerless.” Classified is one of Canada’s top lyricists and easily can go verse to verse with the likes of Jay Z and Jadakiss.

3. Drake

Drake, of course, had to be on this list, and we think it’s fair to put him at number three. Since 2001, Drake has been making music and has since evolved to be a gigantic international megastar and one of Canada’s most recognizable music icons. His tracks are melodic with a smooth ice cold delivery often mixed with R&B. Drake draws you in with his bars and can instantly flip it on you with a hard beat like the “In My Feeling” that spawned an internationally dance craze or Hotline Bling.

Drake is often credited for leading the “Canadian Invasion” into American music charts on a level that has never been achieved. Some of his most popular albums include “Views” and “Scorpion.” It is near impossible to find someone who hasn’t heard of Drake. He has set the standard for Canadian Hip Hop music in a new era.

2. Kardinal Offishall

Born in Scarborough, and raised in Toronto, the number two spot on our list goes to Kardinal Offishall. From DJing in ‘94 to becoming an international superstar, Kardinal has been Canada’s Hip Hop Ambassador for the last two decades while being a catalyst for having Canadian artist gain recognition on a global stage.

Kardinal is well known for his distinct dance hall and reggae sound and well sot out for collaborations with the industries biggest names like Akon, Keri HilsonRihanna, Bounty Killer, Pharrell Williams. Lindo P and Jully Black.

Kardinal is a lyrical assassin and know for killing sound bwoys back in his Djing days. The ambassador has comprised a catalog of number hits other artists can only dream of having. His songs Numba 1, Dangerous, and Northern Touch have spent months topping Billboard and various music charts around the world.

1. Maestro Fresh Wes

Finally, our number 1 position goes to Maestro Fresh Wes. Born in Toronto and raised in Scarborough, Maestro is quite literally the “Godfather of Canadian Hip Hop.”

Maestro debuted on the scene in 1987 and not only took the Canadian Hip Hop scene by storm, he laid the foundation for Hip Hop in Canada. The Godfather changed the climate for Hip Hop in Canada when he first performed “Let Your Backbone Slide” for the first time. This song became the first single from a Canadian Hip Hop artist to go gold, followed by Canada’s first platinum-selling hip hop album, Symphony in Effect.

Let Your Backbone Slide would later go on to become the first rap song inducted into the Canadian Songwriters’ Hall of Fame.

Maestro’s Symphony in Effect Album in 1989, also became the first Canadian rap album on the Billboard Top 40 chart. “Let Your Backbone Slide.” In 1991, he collaborated on the one-off single “Can’t Repress the Cause”, a plea for greater inclusion of hip hop music in the Canadian music scene.

Over a thirty year career, Maestro has put out a total of nine studio albums, which averages out to be one every three years. In today’s industry, “artists” are pumping out new music sometimes weekly all in the name of streams.

In Maestro’s era, it was always about the music and the message, which is precisely what is lacking in many of today’s Hip Hop performers. A generation where Spotify and Youtube streams are what measures success, not quality and longevity.

Maestro’s contribution to Hip Hop and Canadian Culture has cemented his place in history as pioneer, mentor and a great steward for advancing and curating the Hip Hop culture.

Criteria used for determining the greatest Canadian Hip Hop artist of all time were based on: Quality of Music / Beats, Message, Culture influence, Lyrical flow, Ambassadors, Image/style and longevity.

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