16 Canadian Rappers You Might Not Have Heard Of (But Need to Listen To!)
You need to listen to these artists before they blow up.
There’s nothing wrong with Drake. Say what you will about Aubrey, but he’s fire more often than not, and he’s more than happy to rep Canada as he dominates the charts.
Still, true music fans know there’s more to Canadian hip-hop than October’s Very Own.
Highlighting the best and brightest in Canadian hip-hop, these two playlists combine to run for just over 10 hours, so calling them comprehensive is an understatement - but they’re also curated. As in-depth as they are emerging, these playlists feature a mix of established rap royalty and the next generation.
Don’t know where to start and afraid to just hit shuffle? No sweat, we’ve got you.
Here are some of our favourites from both playlists.
One of the best rap collectives in Canada, this supergroup spits in both French and English, and have been known to dabble in alternate Québécois histories. But whatever they’re rapping about, they do it with enough style to put them on top of the Québec City scene.
There’s a brightness to Derin Falana’s music. The beats are big, the punchlines are pristine, but he’s not writing for the sake of showing off. One of those rare rappers who can spit a smart verse without sounding like he’s showing off, Falana’s got more than enough hooks to back up his rhyme book.
We’re not exaggerating when we say hip-hop saved DillanPonders, and the once-homeless Toronto rapper has made the best of his new lease on life. The kind of MC who drops Dragonball Z references as easily as he does political commentary, Ponders is a true hip hop enigma.
FouKi can change his sound on a dime. With frequent collaborator Quiet Mike in tow, he’s as likely to spit to boom bap as he is a modern trap beat; one minute he’s repping reggae, the next a looping acoustic guitar. No matter the approach, FouKi’s got everyone’s attention.
Not even a rare and debilitating illness could keep this Mississauga-born artist down - he brought that experience right into the recording booth with him. River’s tracks are a punchy mix of hope and raw emotion, serving up critical bars on issues like gun violence and the justice system.
It’s impressive that KILLY went viral - it’s even more impressive that he’s only gotten better since. Initially lumped in with the ad-libbing Soundcloud scene, KILLY quickly pulled away from the pack with super-producer collabs (his last album featured both Boi-1da and WondaGurl) and a flair for writing hook-heavy bangers.
Political and outspoken, Koriass wears his emotions and his opinions on his sleeve - but that’s not to say he doesn’t also make bangers. “Cinq à sept” has a distinct Cali-bounce, but it sounds right in line next to the piano-driven “J-3000.”
Americans aren’t the only MCs blowing up on hip-hop forums. After his popularity spiked on Reddit, Lais - a Pakistani-born, Toronto-based talent who has also spent time in Virginia - has been making a name for himself with a smooth sound that still packs a punch.
Sleep on Layla Hendryx and you’ll wake up regretting it. She’s got an incredible ear for melody but more than enough bite to rap circles around you. It’s rap and R&B, but it’s also so much more at the same time.
He’s only 17, but his talent is far beyond his years. Repping Toronto’s Regent Park, Lil Berete has an ear for melody that’d make the hugest hitmakers jealous, and a confidence and charisma that’s almost unmatched right now. Get on the hype train because this kid’s about to blow up.
The artist formerly known as “Kaytranada’s little brother” has carved out his own identity over the last year, emerging as one of Montreal’s top talents. Lou’s collaborated with Jazz Cartier, Innanet James, and, yes, his brother, but we’d start with The Celestics-produced cut “Miss Phatty” to get a sense of what he’s about.
If you haven’t heard of Nate Husser yet, you’re about to. After cutting his teeth with the Posterz, Husser came out hot out of Little Burgundy and onto the charts. He pegs his sound as grunge-inspired, but there’s more than a little hope in his songs.
Signed to the same label that broke Young Thug, Migos, and Fetty Wap, Nue’s apple doesn’t fall far from the trap tree. But there’s a vulnerable confidence that sets the Toronto rapper apart. He can make you turn up or look inwardly depending on the track, and it’s that unpredictable realness that’s got hip-hop heads excited.
Sean Leon might be the next man up in Toronto. More than just a rapper, Leon’s a visual artist, producer, and director whose releases are the total package. His newest project is billed as a single 32-minute track, and he’s got the chops to back up his high concept cuts.
At first spin you might want to say Tommy Genesis sounds like Peaches by way of M.I.A., but it won’t take long before you’re captivated by what makes her unique instead of what reminds you of other established icons. Genesis is a self-proclaimed fetish rapper, a Calvin Klein model, and a sexually charged superstar in the making that you better get familiar with fast.
It says a lot that a list like this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Canadian hip-hop. From Toronto to Montreal and back to British Columbia, the internet has opened doors Canadian rappers have been quick to walk through, and Spotify has had its fingers on the pulse from day one.