Running Through The Six: A Look at Toronto's Emerging Artists

When compiling a list of things Canada is known for, a few answers are commonly expected — maple

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When compiling a list of things Canada is known for, a few answers are commonly expected — maple syrup, bacon, ice hockey and Céline Dion. However, thanks to Drake’s global rise to prominence in the last few years, and his adept ability in seeking other local talent such as The Weeknd and PARTYNEXTDOOR, Toronto and the surrounding GTA has garnered a reputation as a hotbed of contemporary musical talent, breeding some of the country’s most promising acts in hip-hop and R&B.

Until now, the city has remained relatively quiet while cultivating a slew of domestic urban music icons, including the likes of Maestro, Kardinal Offishall and Choclair. This generation demands a new caliber of attention and power in the industry as Drizzy continues his surge as a global hip-hop icon with Abel trailing close behind. Together they are leveraging their popularity to propel Toronto to global awareness as a city with untapped creative potential. This article aims to highlight some of the city’s brightest up-and-comers, whose own time in the spotlight is not a matter of “if,” but rather “when.”

Take a look at some of Toronto’s offerings here.


Photographer: Noah Kendal

Jazz Cartier

First to be profiled is Jazz Cartier. Coming off his debut full-length release Marauding in Paradise, the 21-year-old often draws comparisons to another buzzing artist, Grand Hustle’s Travi$ Scott; a point further emphasized by Cartier’s alias, La Fleur (French translation of The Flower). While there are similarities, Jacuzzi presents something that is unique; an originality that can be easily observed as he juxtaposes his grittiness in “New Religion” and “Switch“ beside beautiful poignancy in ”Rose Quartz/Like, Crazy” and ”Feel Something.” Extending beyond his sonic profile, Cartier’s lyrical abilities exhibit a surprising level of sophistication. He is unafraid to shift thematically from bravado to vulnerability, focusing on subjects such as fame, fortune, loneliness, depression, relationships and legacy — a daring counter-narrative to others in his genre.

Instagram / Twitter


Photographer: Sharmarke Abdi

SAFE

The next artist to be profiled is still largely unknown. He releases music under the moniker SAFE, and has a SoundCloud page with only two songs, titled “Feel” and “Now,” both exhibiting a remarkable amount of promise. Using immensely haunting undertones, the young crooner fully embraces the sounds of his hometown – a fact that is manifested both lyrically and musically in the two arrangements. SAFE is a musical persona that fits the gifted, eclectic mold within a new lineage, which comes as a direct result from his predecessors in Toronto.

Instagram / Twitter


Photographer: Thomas Ridout

Roy Wood$

Roy Wood$ is an emerging Toronto artist who effectively blurs the line between R&B and rap, bringing a broad range of sounds into his creations. The 19-year-old refuses to be confined into specific genres, harmoniously transitioning between singing and rapping in his music. His experiments have led to a newfound dimension within the merger of R&B and hip-hop — imagine a new-wave Michael Jackson over a variety of ominous off-kilter instrumentals. The Brampton native is preparing his debut EP, titled EXIS, which is expected sometime this year. He’s already created a respectable amount of buzz in the downtown Toronto scene with his tracks “All Of You” and “Talk To Me.”

Instagram / Twitter


Photographer: Sharmarke Abdi

Derek Wise

Derek Wise creates music reflective of his imposing stature, with dark and intimidating songs that often feature assertive and brooding lyrics. He is now signed to XO, and has a cameo appearance in The Weeknd’s “King Of The Fall” music video. Like most creatives, Wise credits his surroundings and experiences as the inspiration to his compositions. Wise has shown a vast maturity in his music as he continues to grow as a person and an artist, exhibiting a more well-rounded and polished sound with each release.

Instagram / Twitter


Drew Howard

Managed by Toronto’s SEE YOU NEVER team, Drew Howard presents an unorthodox mixture of components in his productions, channeling his eccentric personality directly into his music. He layers, juggles and cuts his own vocals to create an atmospheric effect, experimenting with melodies and sounds to piece together calculated cadences which result in (at the risk of sounding pretentious) an almost avant-garde form of hip-hop. Howard’s unusual harmonies and lighthearted lyrics, along with his unique appearance translate into a pleasantly individualistic blend, different from the common generic offering.

Instagram / Twitter


Photographer: Devon Little

Clairmont The Second

Superficially, Clairmont The Second is just a 17-year-old high school student, who cycles the same monotonous routine as any teenager. However, what’s not so easy to discern is the incredible potential and maturity in his songwriting, unmistakably demonstrated in his full-length mixtape, Project II. His style is faintly evocative of Chance The Rapper, and reasonably so — the musical prodigy cites Acid Rap as one of his major influences. Clairmont personifies the current age of musicians who’ve grown up with the internet, drawing inspiration from sources outside of popular media. The outcome is a refreshing delight, unlike the boring, typical themes that have been rehashed over and over again on the radio and television.

Instagram / Twitter


Photographer: Devon Little

Daniel Caesar

Listed on our “10 Artists to Watch In 2015,” Daniel Caesar is a singer-songwriter who takes R&B and applies his own affinities towards it. He grew up with a colorful fuse of musical tastes, scattered throughout rock, soul and gospel music. Caesar now uses this as a foundation, transfering its proclivities directly into his catalog. The compositions are exceptionally powerful, capable of evoking acute emotions from listeners. Surprisingly, the virtuoso attributes his rebellion against a religious upbringing as the catalyst for his creative endeavours, despite its benefits in helping him grow as an artist through an exposure to church music.

Instagram / Twitter


Photographer: Devon Little

Sean Leon

The merit of each artist listed may be a debatable matter, as art itself is largely subjective. However, while their value is incalculable, an artists’ dedication and drive may be used as an indication of worthiness. Sean Leon is one who fits such guidelines. The 23-year-old demonstrates an unwavering diligence to his craft, persevering through many obstacles in life to realize his dream as a self-sufficient musician. In the last two years, he has released two full-length projects, with another one due later this year, titled Black Sheep Nirvana. Leon’s 2014 effort, Narcissus, The Drowning of the Ego, is considered one of the most highly regarded albums of the “New Toronto” era. With just a brief discography, Sean Leon has already garnered a loyal online following.

Instagram / Twitter


Photographer: Sharmarke Abdi

Jimmy Johnson

The final artist to be mentioned is Jimmy Johnson. He occasionally works under the moniker Jimmy Prime, and works closely with buzzing producer Eric Dingus, whom he previously shared a manager with. Like the aforementioned musicians, Johnson’s loyalty to his city is strong, arrayed in songs like “NORTHSIDE,” “Sun Goes Down” and “Trip To The 6.” However, the 22-year-old offers a distinct product – an amalgam of autotune hooks inbetween cohesively rapped verses — which separates himself from the rest of T.O. With support as strong as his, Jimmy is definitely an artist to watch.

Instagram / Twitter


Notable Mentions:

Photographer: Sharmarke Abdi

Ramriddlz

New track. Mixtape out soon.

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