Sarah Jay’s Picks: Top 20 Up-And-Coming Canadian Hip-Hop Producers of 2015
Calgary, AB – Originally published Dec. 28, 2015 – To wrap up 2015, our team members here at HipHopCanada are crafting up a series of Top 10 lists for 2015. I just posted up my Top 10 live show photos of the year. And now I’m hitting you with a list of my top up-and-coming Canadian hip-hop producers.
Full disclosure: I actually set out to write this as a Top 10 list but I wound up with a list of nearly 25 producers which I eventually (…and PAINSTAKINGLY) narrowed down to a list of only 20.
These are the guys who have made some major moves this year who I’m keeping tabs on for 2016. They’re not neccesarily as established as producers like 40 or Boi-1da or WondaGurl or Kaytranada – who are basically all household names at this point – but they are well on their way. This list bodies the next generation of super producers who are bearing the torch for Canada’s hip-hop scene.
20. Kid Mellow
Kid Mellow is an up-and-coming Calgary-based producer who I was fortunate enough to meet through the Feedback Friday sessions at the Beat Drop production and DJ school in Calgary. While Kid Mellow hasn’t worked with any notable artists (yet) he DID release a monster beat tape titled Heaven Below back in August. If you f**k with Soulection, you’ll f**k with the Kid. He sticks to dusty soul samples thrown into FL studio, and used along with an Akai MPC.
19. Rayne Drop
Photo by Troy Junker
Rayne Drop is a Prince Albert, Saskatchewan-based producer who I’ve been following for a few years. I initially met Rayne because he was producing for the Wolfpack rap crew. But Wolfpack took a bit of a hiatus this year so Rayne took the opportunity to hone his production and expand his reaches. This has been a year of crazy progression for the homie. He went from solely making sample-based beats to creating 100% original compositions. He recently went out to Toronto to do some networking, and word on the street is that D.O. Gibson is working over top of one of Rayne’s beats right now. Get stoked on that one.
This Montreal-based producer cranks out some of my most FAVOURITE remixes. A quick peep through his SoundCloud reveals a slew of remixes from the likes of Drake, Migos, Jeremih, Janet Jackson, and more. He also collaborated with RAW Records producers Thomas White and Dear Lola for WASIU’s remix of Drake’s “No Tellin’” which was a dope lil’ release that happened this year.
FrancisGotHeat is one of John River’s go-to producers (he cooked up that beat for John’s Redway tribute titled “BLVD”). He’s got a knack for crafting atypical hip-hop beats (i.e.: the kind of beats that you wouldn’t necessarily peg as hip-hop beats), and working with artists who turn them into these soulful emotive R&B-tinged rap songs. Case in point: Roy Wood$. Francis had such a major year, after cooking up beats for OVO’s Roy Wood$ on the EXIS project. In case you didn’t know, he worked on “Innocence” and “Jealousy.” Guy definitely got the heat.
16. Prezident Jeff
Photo by Nick Spector
Toronto producer Prezident Jeff actually got on my radar through his work with up-and-coming Ottawa rapper VNCHY. His beats were so hard-hitting. The kind of beats that hit you on an emotional level. PJ also dropped a monster five-track EP titled Laurie over the summer. Even if you don’t think you f**k with beat tapes, I think you’ll seriously enjoy this one. Plus, the project came accompanied with some stunning visuals – so it was quite the visionary project. PJ’s beats have also been placed with Roy Wood$, Little Simz, Kevin Gates, and more. Guy ALSO teamed up with Daniel Worthy to do some production for B-Town’s Derin Falana (formerly The Flan) on “Bout That.” That was one tight jam.
Photo by Maggie Elizabeth
One half of the Bass6 production duo, SMMG affiliate Welldone does a load of solo work for up-and-coming Toronto artists such as DillanPonders, Johnny Darko, and more. He also branched out this year to work with up-and-coming T-dot songstress, TEA. Welldone is a super-talented and diversified beatsmith who can crank out some ridiculous 808 drum patterns. I particularly liked a lot of the beats he cooked up over the summer… I’m ‘a call them new wave porch stoop jams.
14. J. Ricky Beats
Photo by Glen Co
J. Ricky is a Calgary producer and vet who’s been on the scene for a minute but he’s only starting to get his due shine on a more national and global level. He doesn’t post his beats on SoundCloud because apparently he had guys tryna copy his beats by recreating them. So his online presence isn’t as big as it could be. But guy’s got his beats placed with ONYX, Madchild, Obie Trice, Honey Cocaine, and more. He even had Ice Cube freestyle over one of his beats when Cube came through the studio in Calgary while he was on tour. Apparently Drake’s management was also considering one of J. Ricky’s beats for What a Time to Be Alive.
Photo by Harsimran Sira
Eestbound is the Toronto-producing mastermind behind Travi$ Scott and Tre Capital who finally got huge daps for his work on Travi$ Scott’s hit track “Antidote” this year. He also does a lot of production work with Canada’s own WondaGurl. But let’s be real, here – Eestbound’s best work was the beat he cooked up for “81” by Sean Leon. THAT SHIT WAS SO TIGHT. Also, he low-key produces for B-Town up-and-comer Milly Manson. Those are some of the guy’s best beats.
While most of us know Junia-T for his bars as a rapper, the guy also has a solid following for his work as a producer. He’s worked with Blake Carrington, TassNata, and YGTUT, as well as Rich Kidd, Tanika Charles and Slakah The Beatchild. He’s also one half of the Chef’s Plate duo along with LordQuest, as well as a part of Smash Brovaz. A lot of guys try to pull double duty as a rapper and producer and very few can execute it with the level of polish and skill that translates through Junia-T’s work – especially his self-produced songs. Eye See You dropped at the end of 2014, and it still stands as one of my favourite rapper-producer projects. I’m glad Junia-T got some due shine on that project in 2015.
It’s been a quieter year for LordQuest after last year’s monster success of his beat for Schoolboy Q’s “Blind Threats” (featuring Raekwon). LordQuest has also produced for the likes of Asher Roth, Dom Kennedy, Talib Kweli, and more. Actually I first caught on to the guy because he did a bunch of work with a guy out of the US that I LOVE named ScienZe. I didn’t even know LordQuest was Canadian. But he is and that gets me giddy AF. I got to watch him do a Q&A in Calgary at the Beat Drop production and DJ school in Calgary this year and he delivered gems upon gems upon gems of knowledge bombs. He also does work in the Chef’s Plate duo with Junia-T. The beats that those two guys cook up together are arguably some of my favourite beats ever.
10. Substance (Moose & Jasper)
Substance is a Toronto-based hip-hop and R&B production duo out of Toronto. Real talk: I know these guys because they do the bulk of producing for Allan Rayman. And Allan Rayman is one of my all time favourite artists. And this year Allan dropped his Hotel Allan album and it was insane and part of the reason it was so insane was because it was produced by Substance. These guys have a knack for crafting up beats that you wouldn’t necessarily assume are hip-hop or R&B beats. Yet, every beat they’ve ever made has been an overdose of soulful soul. And that’s pretty much why they are dope AF.
9. RAW Records (Dear Lola & Thomas White)
(From left) Thomas White, Montreal rapper Wasiu, and Dear Lola
Two of Montreal’s finest, producers Dear Lola and Thomas White are the guys behind the RAW Records label. The reason I caught on to these guys was because of all the work they were doing with up-and-coming MTLien rapper, WASIU. Individually, Dear Lola and Thomas White each have their own sound. But when they get together on a beat, their approach is really collaborative and usually consists of sending a beat back and fourth and back and fourth and back and fourth. Their sound embodies all the chill with some massive drumlines and basslines. This is the music of the future.
Montreal-based Fool’s Gold signee Shash’U has pretty massive following and has shown at SXSW, Be Street Weekend, Low End Theory, Fool’s Gold Day Off, and more. He calls his genre “PWRFNK” (i.e.: power funk) and has a signature M.O. of LOTS of bass, ’80s synth sounds, and some funk and hip-hop influence. He is one of the guys who I credit with Montreal’s huge come-up over the last few years because he does a lot of low-key work with up-and-coming Montreal rappers including WASIU, Karma Atchykah, and more. Shash’U has helped Montreal hone a sound that I been describing as the “concrete jungle” (full disclosure: WASIU coined that term – all credit for that goes to him).
7. M Mac
M Mac is one of the in-house producers for the SmashMouth Music Group. Most notably, he’s done a ton of work with DillanPonders, Toronto’s exalted drug lord. He produced the entire RETOX project, lacing it with his signature provocatively eerie sounds. DillanPonders the kind of rapper to rap about drugs while making you feel unsettled about your feelings. He pokes at this inner loneliness and self doubt that everyone seems to have. M Mac is the same way with his beats, which is probably why is chemistry with DP is unf**kwitable. I never thought a beat could make me question myself to such an extent. That right there is the work of a brilliant beatsmith. Also – in case you missed it – M Mac did a wicked remix of “Beverly” by Allan Rayman this year. It was one of my favourites.
6. Tay Lewis
One of the go-to producers for the SmashMouth Music Group squad, Tay Lewis has been riding the wave for a few years now. Guy has produced for Smoke DZA, Mr. MFN eXquire, DillanPonders, Derek Wise, Van Hill, Jimmy B, and more. Many of my favourite up-and-coming Canadian rappers have worked with Tay at some point along the way. In 2014, Tay dropped his Coke & Cool EP and I still feel like that project title bodies what Tay’s production is about. It’s turnt druggy cocaine-fuelled sounds with a chilled out “cool” mellow edge. That’s Tay Lewis for ya.
5. High Klassified
Photo by Sarah Jay for HipHopCanada
High Klassified is another Montreal Fool’s Gold producer who’s had an exponential rise this year. I was actually fortunate enough to see him do a DJ set in Calgary at Sled Island over the summer. Dude is insane. He also dropped one of my favourite EPs of the year – Kronostasis – a five song EP of supremacy. It ALSO had a dope lil’ Mick Jenkins feature… in case you missed that. HK has a signature sound that can only be described as future booty groove. He utilizes lots of synths so his beats always have a new wave digital sound. He’s another dude who I credit with a lot Montreal rap’s growth this year. He’s worked with guys like Blicky, Harvey Stripes, and more. One of my favourite HK offerings this year was a song he produced for Naadei and 2 Chainz titled “Lisa.” 10/10 on that one.
Lantz is the dude behind the brilliance that was Jazz Cartier’s Marauding in Paradise album. Everyone hailed Jazz Cartier as one of THE up-and-coming Canadian hip-hop artists of the year. And part of the reason why he’s been so predominant is because he has the “Jazz Cartier” sound – a sound that’s credited to a slew of Lantz beats and engineering. I know guys are thirsting for Lantz to branch out and work with more people but I’m not holding my breath on that one. I’m glad Jazz snatched him up. Their chemistry is A-1.
3. Daniel Worthy
Photo by Brandon Jordan
If you don’t know Daniel Worthy by now, you’re sleeping. He’s been around for a hot minute (he actually celebrated a decade in the industry this year) but I’m including him in this list because he’s finally getting a lot of the recognition he deserves. One half of the MostHigh duo, Worthy has produced for everyone relevant ever. He’s got credits with Drake, PND, Juicy J, Yo Gotti, Ab Soul, T.I., Tory Lanez, The Game, Roy Wood$, AND THE LIST GOES ON. Daniel Worthy has a supremely diverse production style. He’s just as able to crank out a turn-up beat as he is a sexy drumlined slower jam.
2. Chef Byer
Chef Byer first got some shine after he produced “Steve Nash” for OVO signee OB O’Brien back in 2014. Guy was one of the first producers cooking up that “Toronto sound” that everyone’s trying to body right now. He crafts up some of the most turnt basslines and drumlines and he’s always innovating his sound. Since y’all are on that “Toronto sound” kick right now, he’s been pushing his sound to new limits – experimenting with different tempos, drum sounds, and more. He’s continuing to pave the way for the underground Toronto sound. This year he did some massive work for Immerze, Yours Truly, T.Y., CJ Flemings, and more. I’ve never heard a Chef beat that didn’t blow my mind. I’ve also never heard a Chef beat that I didn’t almost immediately recognize as a Chef beat.
2015 was actually the year of Nineteen85. Think about that statement for a minute. The Scarborough producer has been low-key creeping up on the scene since the late 2000s. He’s worked with the likes of R. Kelly, Juicy J and – OF COURSE – Drake. But he didn’t really get on to people’s radars until this year when he basically just BLEW SHIT OUT OF THE WATER. At the end of 2014, Nineteen85 produced “DNF”, “0 to 100/The Catch Up”, and “Truffle Butter”; all hit songs by OVO squad and affiliates. Guy came in to 2015 with production credits on “My Love” by Majid Jordan (featuring Drake) and arguably one of the hottest songs of the year – “Hotline Bling.”
2015 Recap Coverage
Tags: 2015 Year In Review, Chef Byer, Daniel Worthy, Dear Lola, Eestbound, FrancisGotHeat, High Klassified, J. Ricky Beats, Jasper, Junia-T, Kid Mellow, Lantz, LordQuest, M Mac, Moose, Nineteen85, Prezident Jeff, RAW Records, Rayne Drop, Sarah Jay's Picks, Shash'U, Substance, Tay Lewis, Thomas White, Welldone, WYLN