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Why was 2017 so important for Canadian hip-hop?

The main reason that I wanted to write this article is because I truly believe that 2017 was an incredible year for Canadian hip-hop and it points to a new chapter in the Canadian scene which should be remembered forever. With all the great Canadian music releases and new artists that we were spoiled with in 2017, it is clear that the year has been special, but I think what really sets it apart from years in the past is the huge strides in Canadian music infrastructure that has developed throughout the year. Looking back, hip-hop music in Canada has often been overlooked or underestimated, not for lack of musicality or talent, but rather for lack of infrastructure. In 2017, we saw a dramatic rise in both start up companies designed to drive the culture as well as large scale organizations who realized that hip-hop music in Canada has a heartbeat of its own and deserves to be put on display.

One of the main pieces of infrastructure that the Canadian hip-hop culture has been blessed with in 2017 is the emergence of high quality local showcases. Local hip-hop shows have always existed, but unfortunately in the past, there were too many shows that were poorly organized, or were created with the wrong intentions. I can pretty much guarantee that everyone has had at least one experience in the past at that dark ugly venue, on the weird side of town with 30 people in the crowd and a poorly curated lineup. In 2017 however, with companies like UNCRWND, Soundstock, Jesso Media, Crescendo1 and uTOpia Fest, artists and hip-hop heads have been treated to high quality shows, that highlight incredible talent, in beautiful venues that are packed from front to back. People are realizing that it is okay to support local artists, and these local shows are really a driver for that culture.

Another piece of infrastructure that has impacted Canadian hip-hop culture in 2017 has been the incredible amount of brands that have started to put Canadian artists at the forefront. This year more than ever, big name brands from various backgrounds have given Canadian artists their co-sign. Some great examples from 2017 have been the Roots campaign with Daniel Caesar and Jessie Reyez, Hennessey’s artistry tour with Roy Woods, The Perrier tent at Wayhome which featured artists like Derek Wise and 88Camino, Redbull’s #3DaysInTO with Jazz Cartier among several others. For Canadian artists, these brand partnerships have opened many doors and in some cases, funded various projects which would not have been possible otherwise. Whether you want to call them partnerships, sponsorships or co-signs, these brand activations have been a crucial part of the Canadian music landscape in 2017.

Another factor for making 2017 such an important year has been the impact of music technology in the Canadian scene. Streaming has become engrained in the culture and has dramatically changed the way that we all consume music. Companies like Spotify have made it easier for us to discover new Canadian artists and have designed playlists which are specifically built to develop those Canadian artists. Playlists like Northern Bars or Sarah Jay’s Weekly Picks have been a crucial part of 2017 as a whole and have really helped break certain artists into new markets.

Whether it be the development of start-ups growing the culture on a local level, or large companies bringing the culture to the forefront through sponsorship and technology, 2017 has definitely been a defining year for Canadian hip-hop. It will be remembered as the year of Sean Leon’s sold out show at Mod Club, the year of Baka’s “Live Up To My Name,” the year that Daniel Caesar sold out 5 shows at Danforth Music Hall, the year that Tory Lanez and Drake squashed their beef, the year of 88Glam, the year of “Killamonjaro” and the year that shaped the future of Canadian hip-hop.

That’s why its so important.

Written by Stefan Calabrese for HipHopCanada

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