Best New Canadian Songs: Smiley, Drake, Belly, Chiiild, and More

As we await the release of 'Certified Lover Boy,' there's been no shortage of northern heat to keep us vibing. Here are the best Canadian songs of July 2021.

The best Canadian songs of July 2021, from Drake and Smiley to Sidhu Moose Wala to Amaal
Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

The best Canadian songs of July 2021, from Drake and Smiley to Sidhu Moose Wala to Amaal

We’re deep into the dog days now and there’s still no clear consensus on the song of the summer. No “WAP” or “Blinding Lights” booming out of every car window, stadium speaker, and gym bro’s headphone. Maybe it’s because, deep down, we’ve all been holding out for Drake and Kanye’s new albums—which now look like they could drop at the very same time next week. But until then, there’s been more than enough northern heat to keep the vibes high this July. There was an XO and Thugger link-up, a surprise bop from Drizzy and a Toronto rap up-and-comer, and some slow-burners from a couple of the country’s most promising chanteuses. Here are the new Canadian songs we’ve had on full blast at the home office.

Smiley f/ Drake, "Over the Top"

View this video on YouTube

Drake has been co-signing rising Toronto rapper Smiley for years, so it was only a matter of time before they’d hop on a track together. In fact, they already did two years ago, on a number called “Organization,” which leaked before getting a proper release. “There’ll probably be another one soon,” Smiley hinted when we spoke earlier this year. Sure enough, another one is here.

“Over the Top” sees The Boy and OVO Sound’s latest signee trade verses over a coruscating Tay Keith-produced beat. It’s a flex-fest the whole way through. Drake flaunts his lucrative endorsement deals (“Nike don’t pay me to tell you, ‘Just do it’/They pay me to show you, I do it again”), Smiley boasts about his recent glo up (“Back in the days life was so hard in Pelham trapping backyards/I didn’t even know ‘bout Goyard”). Yes, we’ve seen all the memes about how the track would sound better with Smiley’s parts edited out, but I disagree. His off-kilter, soft-spoken sadist flow—delivered in a classic Toronto man accent—complements Drake’s airtight rapping in a unique way. It’s different than what we usually hear in hip-hop. And Smiley knows better than most that being different comes at a cost.

“The other day, I was actually taking in comments and I was like, ‘Yo these people actually really hate me,’” he told me. “Some people like me, but the people that don’t know me just don’t understand how I can make it. I have no chains on, no nothing. They’re just like, ‘Who is this fat kid?’ They just don’t understand, and they don’t want to understand. They hate, but I don’t let that break me.” —Alex Nino Gheciu

Sidhu Moose Wala f/ Blockboi Twitch, "G Shit"

View this video on YouTube

I kid you not, “G Shit” might be the biggest hit on this list. At the time of writing, Sidhu Moose Wala’s track has 16 million views on YouTube; Belly, The Weeknd, and Young Thug’s “Better Believe” has 12 million. Born in Mansa, Punjab, Wala moved to Brampton in 2016 to pursue an electrical engineering degree; today, he’s one of the hottest and most controversial stars in Punjabi music. You can say things took a turn. “G Shit” sees the artist link up with Toronto rapper Blocboi Twitch for a bilingual bop about their respective streets-shaped-me stories. Over a G-funk-lite beat laced with South Asian influences, Wala’s inventive, irresistibly contagious vocal lines make the track, while Twitch acts as a nice foil with his hardened, no-bull bars. The single is off Wala’s new project Moosetape, on which he perfects the union of bhangra and gangsta rap. I don’t know exactly what he’s singing about, but I do know it sounds hard as hell. —Alex Nino Gheciu

NorthSideBenji and DJ Charlie B, "30,000 ft"

View this video on YouTube

After a two-year hiatus, Toronto’s NorthSideBenji has finally returned, delivering a new track with DJ Charlie B called “30,000 ft.” The breezy, chilled-out tune sees NorthSideBenji back in top form, delivering the same undeniable hooks and bright melodies that captured the city’s attention a couple years ago. Over an airy, leisurely beat produced by DJ Charlie B and Breeze Inc, Benji fills us in on what he’s been up to since 2019. He reflects on how far he’s come, from the streets to balling out on international trips on private planes. We can’t wait to see where he goes next. —Alex Nino Gheciu

Chiiild, “Hold On Till We Get There”

View this video on YouTube

Chiiild’s new album Hope For Now will definitely be on heavy rotation for the foreseeable future thanks to the stunning instrumentation and the Montreal artist’s smooth vocals. It has a number of songs on it that I love, but the third track, “Hold On Till We Get There,” grabbed me within the first 10 seconds with its bass and effortless build up into a sweeping, hazy melody. The lyrics inject the track with a healthy dose of optimism, for when you need a moment of refuge from news of COVID-19, wildfires, and pretty much everything else: “And when you feel out of touch/Hold on till we get there.” It’s got the psychedelic, funky R&B sound that Chiiild has begun to perfect, as he eases into a moment of smooth, euphoric bliss around the 2:52 mark that captures joyful, trippy transcendence. —Natalie Harmsen

untradition, “flower child”

View this video on YouTube

Hip-hop meshes with psychedelics and wailing guitar on untradition’s “flower child” for an experimental listen that is exactly what rock ‘n’ roll should sound like in 2021. It’s a modern mash-up that sometimes swerves into ecstatic territory, but ultimately it thunders with defiance as he sings, “Do it cause I can/Or because a hater said I won’t/They gon’ know my name/Scream it when I pull up on you.” It’s one of those songs that has been bouncing around my brain since I first heard it, slick with the bravado and confidence it radiates. —Natalie Harmsen

Belly, The Weeknd, and Young Thug, "Better Believe"

View this video on YouTube

The term “underrated” is rampant these days. It seemingly applies to any artist that’s not in the mainstream. That being said, if you’ve got Belly on your list of most underrated rappers, I wouldn’t be mad. He recently appeared on Power 106 and bodied his L.A. Leakers freestyle, then followed up with this jam-packed collab. From his flow to punchlines to “High For This” reference, he more than holds his own against two chart-topping superstars. I’ve also gotta give a shout-out to The Weeknd for carrying all of 2020, and now 2021. In classic Abel fashion, he boasts about his accomplishments, invites his haters to continue their antics, and exposes his side chicks for wanting more. We just don’t notice the shade because he does it in such a melodic manner. Give this Zaytoven-produced track a listen if you somehow missed the release. (I also invite you to come out of the rock you’ve been living under.) —Brian Park

Myles Lloyd, "Counting Days"

View this video on YouTube

I first found Myles Lloyd through his 2019 album, Goodbye—a project with tracks I still bump today. So, when he started releasing new singles for his upcoming album, I had to tune in. Lloyd, as an artist, is yet another reminder that excellent music exists outside of the four walls of Toronto. The Quebec native’s latest R&B track, “Counting Days,” has a dark atmosphere, deep 808s, and moody flows that are reminiscent of fellow Canadian artists Roy Woods and 11:11. The song is wide open to interpretation: it could be about feeling indecisive and alone, a cry for self-control as life passes by, or literally counting the days down until the pandemic is over (or, most likely, all of the above). But one idea the artist makes explicit is that we are not alone. No one is. And we all could use that message. —Brian Park

Keys N Krates, "Brazilian Love Song"

View this video on YouTube

This fresh track from Toronto electronic trio Keys N Krates sets the vibes for the long weekend. “Brazilian Love Song” is here to let you loose with an eclectic wave of various sonic styles: beach house vibes, trails of disco, Bollywood strings, trap, and of course, Brazilian funk. It’s basically Toronto’s rich multicultural community incarnate. But it will also transport you to a far-flung exotic locale in an instant. Make sure to add this one to your summer playlist and blast it on your speaker at max volume. After all, it’s still park hang season. —Beatriz Baleeiro

Alessia Cara, “Sweet Dream”

July was a big month for Alessia Cara fans, as she dropped some new music from her upcoming third studio album. The Brampton artist recently told me she spent a lot of time during isolation writing and creating for the new project. The first single, “Sweet Dream,” explores Alessia’s struggle with quieting the thoughts that keep her awake at night. After living through a pandemic, it’s something many of us can surely relate to. The slow, melodic opening with light percussion that resembles a ticking clock seems appropriate for a song about trying to catch a sweet dream. But a few seconds in and the production ramps up with an upbeat tempo, abandoning the notion of any rest as you start nodding your head to the beat. If you’ve anxiously been awaiting new music from the “Here” singer, this is just the beginning. Rest easy, maybe even have a sweet dream—Alessia would want you to! —Alex Narvaez

Amaal, “Honey”

View this video on YouTube

Amaal’s definitely got that honey and she’s not afraid to let you know. Produced by Grammy-nominated duo Nicky Davey, the metallic percussion combined with Amaal’s smooth vocals are a perfect match. It reminds me of the late great Aaliyah singing over a Timbaland beat—an undeniable pairing, much like this one.

Amaal has taken to her Instagram live over the last few weeks to engage her fans and dive into casual discussions about her music. In one conversation, she talked about bravado being prevalent and accepted in music by male artists. With “Honey,” her goal was to create a space of celebration for herself and all women. Being the first single off the upcoming EP, Milly, Amaal’s “Honey” has me exited for more new music. —Alex Narvaez

Kenny Uppercutz, f/ Fito Blanko, Esco, and Bunlo, “Sancocho Remix"

View this video on YouTube

Latin music has been on the rise all over the globe with artists like Bad Bunny claiming Spotify’s most-streamed artist spot last year in 2020. Canada’s no stranger to Latin music with some of our biggest artists—Drake, The Weekend, and Jessie Reyez, to name a few—making crossover Spanish language hits. But what about the Latin music scene in Canada? Let me tell you: it’s alive and well!

On the “Sancocho Remix,” four of the country’s most promising Spanish language artists have come together on one track to showcase the unity in the community. DJ and MC Kenny Uppercutz invites some heavyweights onto this remix for a surefire banger. The variety of voices—from Latin Grammy-nominated Fito Blanko’s signature flow to Bunlo’s effortless and bassy delivery—showcase the breadth of talent Canada’s Latino community has to offer. Esco kicks off the track with a melodic intro to set Kenny up for a bang when the reggaeton beat drops. This anthem delivers the turn-up energy we all need for the rest of the summer. —Alex Narvaez

Latest in Music