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The Influence of Black Culture in Toronto’s Music Scene



Toronto’s signature sound – a combination of rap, smooth R&B, and hip hop – is emblematic of the Black artists that have created, developed, and catalyzed the evolution of music throughout history.

Rhythm and blues originated in African-American communities in the 1940s, with the newfound combination of soul and gospel music with electric blues. Original R&B themes often centered around the quest for liberty and joy, along with the heartache, desire, love, and loss found in romantic relationships. Moreover, in the late 70s and 80s, African-American musicians were pioneers of hip hop.

The influence of Black creatives is palpable in almost every modern hip hop, rap, and R&B track. It’s impossible to imagine music without Black influences, and Toronto artists have injected these genres with smooth vocals and striking lyrics, building on the beauty of Black culture with their own individualized sounds.

This is necessary to consider and recognize as the Black Lives Matter movement gains traction, and structural change is demanded in both the United States and Canada. Modern Toronto music and Black culture are intertwined; Drake’s resurgence of mainstream R&B, which catalyzed a huge cultural revolution in Toronto, could not be possible without the innovative Black talent that inspired him.

Mustafa the Poet, a spoken-word artist and rapper, called on his fellow Toronto artists to be a part of the revolution by donating to Black Lives Matter. After posting his receipt for donating $400 to National Bail Out on Instagram, Drake and The Weeknd showed solidarity and support by each contributing $100,000 to the same cause. The Weeknd took this one step further by donating $200,000 to the BLM Global Network and The Colin Kaepernick Know Your Rights Camp Legal Defense Initiative.

In these painful, emotional, and inspiring times, understanding the history of Black culture as it plays out in the music we download is imperative to recognize why Black lives are necessary to our creative and cultural development. The Toronto music scene is so wildly successful because artists build on the historical contributions of Black creatives in order to create music that flows, inspires, curves around our edges and makes us feel. Toronto’s music scene is a reminder of the indispensable role of Black artists as they continue to push creative boundaries, inspire the masses, and connect us through the collective experience of music.


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