"So don’t dance or prance, move your head to the rhythm/As we scan this land that we live in is plagued with racism," Maestro Fresh-Wes rapped on his song "Nothin' At All," which came out 29 years ago. The land he was referring to? Canada.
Even as protests against racial injustice and police brutality continue to rage on across North America this weekend, there are still some who like to claim that systemic racism somehow doesn't exist north of the border. We don't have to tell you how idiotic that statement is—just ask Maestro, or the many other Canadian hip-hop artists who've been speaking out about these issues in their music over the last three decades.
Echoing these sentiments, the North Side Hip Hop Archive—an ever-growing digital collection of Canadian hip-hop history and culture, spearheaded by Mark V. Campbell, a Toronto professor—recently shared an incendiary playlist showcasing tunes of resistance by Canuck artists over the years. "This is not optimism nor entertainment, " tweeted Campbell. This @nshharchive playlist is fuel, the not today colonizer edition...."
The playlist is rife with socially conscious CanCon bangers relating to the oppression of black and Indigenous people in this country. There's everything from Kardinal Offishall's anti-cop jam "Everyday (Rudebwoy)" to War Party's "Feelin Reserved," which takes aim at settler-colonial genocide. Campbell, who teaches music and culture at the University of Toronto, told us he also wanted to include other tunes that weren't available on Spotify, namely Shing Shing Regime's "We Strive" or anything by underground Toronto collective Freedom Writers. Some of these are big-time throwbacks, but they're as relevant now as ever. Listen to the playlist below.