Toronto has been getting a lot of “views” from the world in regards to Hip Hop over the last several years. Those that only know Toronto for it’s mainstream artists like Drake and Tory Lanez have missed the foundation of Toronto Hip Hop forming into what it is today. The DJ, was focal to this emergence by breaking records and being the main platform where you could hear Hip Hop music.
We all know how easy it is these days to find and consume music. Streaming music and digital sales have made it easy to listen to music from anywhere. Years ago, before this digital revolution, listening to the radio, going to clubs, parties and other events were the only ways to listen to new music and experience emerging artists and styles of music.
Jwyze hosted a panel discussion called “I Ain’t No Joke: Hip Hop DJs & The Evolution Of Toronto Hip Hop” in Toronto featuring Deep2theSoul (DTS), K-Cut, DJ L’Oquenz, and DJ DISSPARE who discussed:
- The presence of Soundsystems and their Caribbean connection
- The emergence of DJs and DJ Crews
- Turntablism and Toronto as a breeding ground of Turntable excellence
- Community radio and its role in building audiences
- Events and radio shows critical to the culture’s growth in Toronto
Deep2theSoul (DTS) hosts the Masterplan Show and talked about his 30 years running the show and how the genre has evolved from his perspective. He was involved in Hip Hop at its earliest stages. The Hip Hop sounds of the city came from basements parties and community centres. The DJ was responsible for providing all the music for these events.
DTS is Jamaican and when he came to Toronto he brought with him, like many others, the Soundsystem culture. Soundsystems were responsible for not just the music, but the actual sound equipment that played the music. Sound technology has advanced leaps and bounds where relatively small speakers and amplifiers can provide big enough sound for parties. Before this, people made their sound systems, creating speakers and connecting them together to accomplish this. The soundsystems from back in the day were huge, filling up a whole wall from top to bottom. The soundsystem consisted of the equipment, DJ, Selector and a person on the mic. Creating the biggest and best sound was an aspect of pride for the crews. Sometimes you would have 4 DJs and 8 turntables set up to rock the party. This is the same way that Hip Hop emerged in New York.
K-Cut is a DJ that lived in Toronto and in New York. He was part of the rap group Main Source. He talked about seeing DJs like DTS as he was growing up and how it pushed him to become a DJ. He was young when the Soundsystem culture was big so this influenced him. K-Cut grew up in the music industry at 16 and had a lot of knowledge to share about what it was like then and how it has changed. He also talked about how he was a part of the first track that Nas was on “Live At The Barbecue” where the legendary Queens rapper was featured on this Main Source track.
DJ L’Oquenz was a DJ on the Masterplan show and spoke about her experiences. She grew up hearing Hip Hop at parties and seeing DJs playing all the best music and controlling the crowd. This drew her to become a DJ and had the chance to learn from one of the best, DTS. She went to a party in Toronto where DJ Red Alert played. That must have been amazing. Hip Hop was growing organically at that time and this would have been a rare opportunity to experience live Hip Hop from a New York perspective, in Toronto.
DJ DISPARE shared some stories about some of the records that he broke like, “Simon Says”, “Ante Up”, “Tear Da Club Up” and “Whoa” in Canada. He’s a true entrepreneur, running all aspects of the events that he puts on, taking care of the promoting, managing and DJing. He also saw parties in New York with huge soundsysytems, witnessing the early stages of the genre.
Each DJ that spoke contributed to the emergence of Hip Hop in Toronto in their own unique way. They all agreed that Toronto DJs are one of a kind in the world. Because of this culturally diverse city, you had to know how to mix different genres of music. There are so many aspects and influences that contributed to what we call Toronto Hip Hop today. The DJ has been an integral part of the evolution of the genre in the city and will continue to do so.
Respect to the DJ!