The year is 2042. You wake up, dress your better-looking avatar in its cleanest metaverse fit, and head to the virtual boardroom. At work, your mind wanders to date ideas that could rekindle the spark with your robot partner. Maybe you’ll take the hyperloop to L.A. to catch the Raptors-Lakers game; it’s just a half-hour from Toronto and Bronny’s still a sight to see at 37. Actually, scratch that—the smog outside looks especially poisonous today and you need a new gas mask. There’s that AI-generated Tupac concert happening in Decentraland tonight. Deepfake and chill it is.
Predicting the future is an unpredictable business. People have historically been terrible at it (shout-out Einstein, who once said nuclear energy would never be a thing). Nevertheless, there’s value to thinking about the future you want to see, and devoting your attention to the things that reflect it. After all, that’s what Complex did 20 years ago, when it was a nascent magazine invested in the Venn-diagram overlap of hip-hop, street art, skateboarding, sneakers, and punk rock. Back then, its founders saw a future in the convergence of subcultures, and decided to champion the people who best represented that vision. People like Kanye West, a hard-to-define rapper with a radically eclectic range of influences, who they’d feature heavily and collaborate with over the years. Today, the fringe movements Complex espoused have gone mainstream, genre lines in music and fashion are blurrier than ever, and Ye is a billionaire cultural titan who has changed everything.
While flying cars and brain-computer interfaces are hard for us to prognosticate on, we’ve got a pretty good idea of where the culture here in Canada seems to be going, and the direction we’d like it to keep moving in. For Complex’s 20th anniversary, we’ve identified the artists, creatives, athletes, and activists who embody our vision of that future. Some are people who’ve already had a tectonic impact on our culture—not to mention the world’s—profoundly altering its course for many years to come. Others are emergent rogues in their respective fields who are just beginning to move the dial. None are augmented reality rappers. But all of them are primed to mould the things we’ll be watching, listening to, wearing, and conversing about over the next couple decades, while we’re posting up in space colonies and interacting with each other through VR headsets. Like Ye, they’re people with the potential to change everything, even as everything changes.
Here are 20 Canadians who will shape the next 20 years of the culture. AI Tupac’s got nothing on them.