The welcoming energy of Toronto rapper Smiley precedes him.
Standing outside his trailer handing out cups and drinks, he takes the time to ask his team if they need anything just before entering the main stage of Rolling Loud, an international hip-hop festival that premiered in Canada last weekend. held.
Smiley was grateful for the change to perform an entire set before a large crowd gathered at Toronto’s Ontario Place for the three-day festival.
“I hope the audience is excited today. I hope they come with that energy,” he said before his performance.
“This means a lot of growth because it’s never happened before. So I just hope everyone does it right so it happens again and it keeps happening.”
Canada has a long – albeit complicated – history of rap music and hip-hop culture.
In the 1980s, Canadian rappers Michee Mee, Maestro Fresh Wes and Bobby Deemo first started gaining traction in the U.S.
But even after decades of success from top Canadian artists like Drake and Nav, it can be an uphill battle for others to find enough space to showcase their talents and build support.
Some women in the industry say it’s even harder for them.
Women in industry say support is needed
Rolling Loud’s lineup over the weekend included Future, Dave, Wizkid, A Boogie Wit da Hoodie, Rae Sremmurd, Roddy Ricch, Trippie Redd and Canadian talents Baka Not Nice, Killy, Nav, Pressa, DJ Charlie B and Haviah Mighty.
Earlier this year, some critics cited the lack of female headliners in the lineup.
And for their part, women in the industry say that there are few rappers to gain fame.
Toronto rapper Paris Richards says she’s dreamed of moments like the one when she took the stage with Canadian R&B legend Jully Black on Saturday to perform their heartfelt song I have got you from her latest album Queen of the 6ix.
“Everything I’ve ever wanted in this field of music all came together and it was just amazing,” she told TBEN News, while also acknowledging the difficulties she faces as an independent artist in a male-dominated scene.
“I don’t get love on the radio and the blogs, but I love my music,” she said.
“I think it’s really important to empower women because we’re in the minority when it comes to hip-hop culture. We can do everything the men do and even better.”
Richards worked closely with producer Dub Jwho says he sees why the female rapper scene is different, noting that music blogs and social media sites often feature men involved in industry politics.
For him it was historic to see Richard’s preform with Black.
“Seeing Paris and Jully there was a year in the making. We made that possible,” he said. “Getting that co-sign from the Queen of R&B.”
Montreal’s SLM (pronounced slim) also took the stage at Rolling Loud in Toronto on Sunday, expressing her eagerness to tap into the Toronto market.
“I definitely don’t get a radio play in Montreal because my music is considered provocative and it’s English, so they don’t rock with that,” the rapper said.
Triumphs and Complications
An important aspect of getting ahead in the industry is also having the opportunity to perform in front of a new audience. Rolling Loud provided space for both up-and-coming artists and household names to take the stage, and for some artists it became a career first.
Although Drake’s OVO Fest made history when the multi-day hip-hop festival in Toronto kicked off in 2010, Rolling Loud brought a host of artists to three separate stages.
But setting up a festival with dozens of artists and three days of concerts is not without complications.
Some performers saw set times changed or delayed, Toronto rapper Chromazz was booed loudly during her Sunday set, overcrowding was common near the stage, and some performers didn’t show up for their sets.
On Saturday, Toronto police said on Twitter that they were responding to reports of gunfire at the festival. Police released a statement on Sunday confirming that a firearm was discharged and a weapon was found in the area, but no injuries were reported.
Growing Canada’s Hip-Hop Community
But for artists who got the chance to take the stage, the impact of the festival is long-lasting.
Toronto rapper TV Guccianother rapper closely associated with Drake’s OVO camp recalls a time when a festival like Rolling Loud would have been unimaginable for local rappers.
“It gets better. The fame is insane. Now I introduce myself and people know who you are,” he said, noting that social media has allowed Canadian artists to manage and grow their own careers.
Both Richards and SLM invest heavily in promoting their music on social media, but to further the careers of Canadian rappers, SLM says the industry in this country must continue to create these spaces.
“Allowing artists to have stages to showcase their talent when it’s deserved, especially if they’ve done the work underground to get to that point. It’s a lot to support yourself in this game, especially as a woman, ” she said.
“Support local talent. If you believe in someone, tell a friend to tell a friend.”