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  • Alex Kuchma

Top Canadian Hip-Hop Albums of 2022

There's a lot to be said about Canada's presence in the hip-hop landscape this past year. On one hand, the Toronto camp of Daniel Son, Futurewave, Asun Eastwood, Finn and others have been steadily gaining notoriety south of the border and making waves in the dominant underground hip-hop thread of the culture. At the same time, new movements from the likes of Raz Fresco and BKRSCLB are beginning to solidify; terraforming their roster from 6th Letter, Brisk and Raz to a powerhouse of some of the most creative and promising emcees the country has to offer. Montreal's Nicholas Craven has continued his run with projects from the usual suspects in Fahim, Mach-Hommy and Droog, but has furthered his position in the game with the joint Fair Exchange No Robbery with Griselda's Boldy James.

It wasn't a bad year for Canadian hip-hop royalty either. Toronto's Thrust released Broken Arrow as well as Like It's 1994, both under a new moniker "Thrust OG" and entirely produced by BoFaat. Saskatoon Folk Rap Records have continued the Prairie rap tradition with releases from Rove, a fun music sampler and the long overdue re-release of 8:30 in Newfoundland by Epic. Moka Only continues to fail his retirement efforts by giving us project after project. This year Moke gave us the vaulted Summer 2002 Vol. 2 as well as the next installment in his Martian Christmas series Martian XMAS 2022. Perhaps the biggest surprised-return this year was Buck 65, a staple in Halifax hip-hop lore who's been absent in recent years. In 2022, he released three projects. One of which, he teamed up with Tachichi for their collaborative Flash Granade album; giving Tachichi an album with both Sebutones artists in the past few years (the Sixtoo joint was old material, never released). Additionally, Buck 65 put out The Last Dig with Canadian legend Birdapres. Lastly, Buck's solo joint King of Drums is exactly what you'd expect from Buck 65; 21 tracks without track-names and just as odd and adventurous as he's ever been.

Hand'Solo Records, URBNET and Black Buffalo have continued to supply the demand of the Canadian sound and giving a viable home to much of the indie rap scene that has defined Canada's since before the turn of the century. From The Dirty Sample, Mickey O'Brien, Primal Winds, Ambeez x Uncle Fester, Ghettosocks x DK, DJ Moves, Fresh Kils, and Moshiri of Sweatshop Union to two albums from Swamp Thing. Peanuts and Corn have also made an impact, with mcenroe dropping multiple projects and Pip Skid releasing his album, A Really Nice Day with mcenroe on the boards.

We cannot end this discussion without acknowledging that Backburner has delivered their third studio album release with Hand'Solo Records, Continuum. Dropping earlier in the year, the Canadian supergroup features: Thesis Sahib, Jesse Dangerously, Ghettosocks, Toolshed, Wordburglar, More or Les, Ambition, Fresh Kils, Frank Deluxe, Savillion, Ginzu and Mister E. If you've never heard of Backburner, they've been around from the early 2000s and represent much of what the East Coast hip-hop scene has been since their formation. Now scattered across the country, crew albums are rare. Continuum is a record many have been waiting for.

Lastly, this is my list. Of course, these things have some subjective qualities to them. I'm a supporter and a fan of Canadian hip-hop and I hope that a list like this puts people on and celebrates what we have. My intent is not to divide.

 

A note on the list:


Canada has a wide array of hip-hop artists; producers, rappers and DJs. I've decided to allow entries onto the list which only reflect Canada in one part of the record. Essentially, if a Canadian is named in the artist credits, then it qualifies. This means that projects like DNTE and Onaje Jordan's, African Medallions can feature despite it being produced by Chicago native Onaje Jordan. This also means that Your Old Droog and Nicholas Craven's, YOD Wave can see inclusion, as Craven, the beatsmith, is from Montreal. Oh, and lastly, alphabetical by project name. Sorry but not sorry. Listen to them all. It's worth it.

 

African Medallions DNTE x Onaje Jordan

This year I've grown to love cats like Hus Kingpin, Willie Da Kid and Smoovth who all have adopted this laid back, pimpish, cigar smoking rap music modelled after cats like Roc Marciano. Unfortunately, the criminal fate of hip-hop culture has led to a severe lack of appreciation for Toronto's addition to this camp: DNTE. DNTE, previously Al-Sham from the group Al-Sham and KP (they released Street Visions in 1999, check it out) has been on a roll the last handful of years with some of my favourite cuts. This time he links up with producer extraordinaire Onaje Jordan for a full album. Conscious street rap with that suave persona that I have grown to love. Don't miss this. And add DNTE to your list of favourites, his back catalog is well worth exploration.

 

A Really Nice Day Pip Skid

Mcenroe and Pip Skid are back together for a whole album. What's not to love? Or hate? The grumpy but comical Pip Skid is an absolute gem as always. The album starts off with the title track "A Really Nice Day" with a hook that chants 'What a shitty day,' but hey, at least he's white. None of these guys take them themselves too seriously. Peanuts and Corn never really has. These aren't street dudes, but they are mad hip-hop lovers and fun and quirky personalities that you just grow to love. It's hard to sell this with an honest description, but out of all of these albums? This might be my favourite release of the year on a Canadian tip. Listen to this, and enjoy the little Farm Fresh reunion we got on our hands.


 

As the Crow Flies Futurewave x Daniel Son x 36 Cypher


I had never heard of 36 Cypher before this album. Hell Sweet Home was released elsewhere in the year also entirely produced by Futurewave, however, As the Crow Flies with the wav.god staple Daniel Son, is easily the preferred project of the two. Songs like "Riot" and "PTSD" are some of the hardest anthems of the year. If you like dirty, grimy, and sludgy hip-hop. This is what you need to listen to next. Apocalyptic gutter rap and my favourite joint from all three personalities this year.





 

Blood on the Bills UFO Fev x Finn


Step aside Futurwave! You are no longer such an anomaly in the Toronto production space. Finn has been on the rise in the coming years working with the same cast of characters as his contemporaries: Asun Eastwood, Lord Juco, Daniel Son, Family Gang Black, etc. Recently however, his name has expanded. This year he dropped with HWY 308, UFO Fev and his Gold Era brethren Saipher Soze and Sibbs Roc and he's already planning an upcoming release with Umbrella's Snotty in the new year. Out of all of these, Blood on the Bills stands out. A modern staple in underground hip-hop, Fev delivers some of his most polished verses yet as he continues to build as a song writer. This is a standout of the year even outside of a Canadian context. Listen to it.

 

Bokleen World Mike Shabb


I heard a lot about Mike Shabb this year and it took the release of Bokleen World to finally pull the trigger and check him out. This is something special. From the jump, the track "JB Speaks (RIP)" cements the audiences comfort. You're in good hands here, this is going to be quality. And it is. Features from Raz Fresco and Chung, this is poetic, adventurous boom bap. For fans of Mach Hommy, Raz Fresco, and something brand new. You'll become a fan of the emcee after first listen. I certainly did. Mike Shabb might just end up being Canada's next star in this thing. He's THAT good.



 

The Bush Doctor Daniel Son


Two projects with Futurewave. An EP with MichaelAngelo, an LP with Kostia AND a solo album? Yep, Daniel Son absolutely buried another year. The Bush Doctor represents growth for Daniel Son's discography. As an emcee known for the grimiest beats and rhymes known to date, this album shows maturity in beat selection and a new brand of confidence for the emcee. Even the album cover is proof that Daniel Son is confident in his brand, departing from the imagery of his genre in place for a collage of his personal life. Tracks like "Don Sonzarelli" show the Toronto emcee experiment with new patterns and backdrops, while songs like "Cartel Wheels" with Eto show you that Daniel Son is still the dude you fell in love with. Because that's the thing, this album may show maturity, but it's not an overt departure from his sound - this album is GRIMY. There's no mistaking. I'm excited to see the direction he goes for 2023. That BBM shit!

 

Burgonomic Wordburglar


If you're not already up on the Wordburglar, then you should change that. It may sound silly, but it's rooted in a real authentic hip-hop aesthetic. And hey, there's nothing wrong with a bit of silliness. Wordburglar is one that just gets better with time. I first heard this album deep into a chess game at the house. Rapid chess immerses you in the tangled adventure of the board, when the Buck 65 joint "Wordburglair" kicked in, we both looked up from the board and smiled. The song had changed the setting of the game. That may not resonate with anyone, but it's a huge compliment, trust me. This whole album sparked frisson from beginning to end. Fantastic, fun and just really really dope music. Wordburglar is always creative with the concepts and rhymes, this is no exception. Just give it a listen, become a fan.

 

Burial Plots x Pyramid Schemes IM'PERETIV


IM'PERETIV has been on a run ever since he released "Bricks" and later Under the Scope with Benny and Rick Hyde. These were some of the hardest anthems of 2021, both of which made it onto his 2022 solo producer album Burial Plots x Pyramid Schemes. This is no joke. Hard hitting rhymes from the likes of Daniel Son, Falcon Outlaw, Pro Dillinger, Starz Coleman, Asun Eastwood, Benny and more. If you're looking for a new beatsmith to add to your favourites, look no further. He also dropped an album with Chayna Ashley during the year called The Precedent. You don't want to miss these.



 

The Complex Asun Eastwood x Wavy Da Ghawd


Asun Eastwood released two albums this year that got heavy rotation on my end. This, and the new album with DJ Merciless and Benny the Butcher (I need to return to Don't Reach). That's right, Asun Eastwood did a joint with Benny this year. Well, kinda. Benny's not on the title, but Benny's on 7 of the 12 songs. Anyhow, check that too, but this album with Wavy Da Ghawd is maybe my favourite joint that Asun has ever put out. Features from Rigz, Smoovth, Rim, Daniel Son should give you a hint of what we're getting. The grimy, twisting beats by Wavy Da Ghawd are exactly what the recipe called for. Favourite joint off here is "Fish Fry" with Daniel Son. Peep it.

 

Continuum Backburner


Backburner returns in 2022! It feels like we've been waiting for Continuum for ages. As Canada's largest collective matures, they've become swampier! Slightly darker, slightly more moody, but the personalities still carry that throw-back boom bap fun that Backburner has always fucked with. Favourite cut on here is "Mystery Machine" with the Thesis hook or maybe "Press Eject"... or maybe all of it. Have fun with this one, it was worth the wait.






 

Craven N' 3 Nicholas Craven


I missed this when it was first released. Thank god for mid-year lists because I was quickly made aware of this gem. The Montreal producer has become a favourite in recent years for his work with Ransom, Droog, God Fahim and Mach-Hommy. Well, here is the third installment of his producer album series. No skips. It starts off with a Stove God solo track. Can we wish for more? This is my favourite producer (non instrumental) album of the year; with Buckwild's Diggin in the Tuff Kong Crates being a relatively close second. As Stove God says... 'We wonnnnnnnnnnn.' This is Craven's victory lap.



 

Ducking Indictments HWY 308 x Finn


I never heard of HWY 308 before this release. Later in the year he dropped the S As in Slime EP with Jesse Green Beats which was also dope, but this Finn release is MAD dope. From the jump this is some of the hardest music of 2022. HWY 308 made me an instant fan the first 30 seconds of the album and he's someone I'll be checking for in 2023. 20 minutes, features from Juco and Asun Eastwood. You're in for a treat. Gold Era.







 

Eight Quarters Bigmcenroe Ft. Yy


Yy and mcenroe! Or shall I we say bigmcenroe... This is great. Fun throwback boom bap hip-hop, all dope. For real, Peanuts and Corn makes some of the best music. And maybe this is a controversial take, but I think these cats are getting better? Yy's second run of albums since An Uneven Eleven has been absolutely top notch, and I can say the same for mcenroe. Burnt Orange might be my favourite mcenroe release and that's way late into his career. This album holds up to both of those modern Canadian classics. Every song is golden but my favourite cuts are "Compound Interest" and "Carry the One," both with Yy.


 

ePIFFany The 6th Letter & ALS


I've been a fan of 6th Letter for a minute now and ALS has been a staple producer in the BKRSCLB camp for some time. This LP however, blew me away. This might be my favourite BKRSCLB release yet, and that includes all of Raz Fresco's discography. The song "Too Much" is quite possibly my most listened to song of 2022. If you haven't heard it, stop this, and check it out. Classic boom bap hip-hop but made by perfected songwriters. This BKRSCLB is more than just Raz Fresco, and this proves it.


Say they got drip but it ain't the same fluid.


 

Fair Exchange No Robbery Boldy James x Nicholas Craven


Boldy back at it again! He released four albums last year, and although Fair Exchange No Robbery is not exactly my favourite of the bunch, it's undoubtably one of the biggest looks for Canada this year. The cut back, soulful production stands out amongst a discography of hard Alchemist and Real Bad Man beats. Instead, Nicholas Craven elevates Boldy's position on the mic. The melancholy backdrop emphasizes the pain in every syllable the emcee spits.. There's something special about this one. True art. "Stuck in Traffic" is my favourite track. That vocal chop? A+.



 

Grim Day Allah Preme x Uncle Fester


Allah Preme had one hell of a year in 2022. Releasing dozens of projects and dumping more music on the culture than Tha God Fahim in 2017. Two of those projects were produced by Nova Scotia beatmaker and DJ Uncle Fester. Fester, known best for his role in the Backburner collective, also produced albums for Ambeez and Swamp Thing this year, but his work with Allah Preme stands out. Not only is it a departure for Fester into a new terrain of underground rap, but it's one of Allah Preme's best albums of the year. And that says a lot.




 

Grim Night A.P. Da Overlord (Allah Preme) x Uncle Fester


Where to begin. This is the follow up to Grim Day earlier in the year. Preme and Fester are a match made in heaven and a great look for both artists. "String Beans" with TYRNT is one of my favourite cuts of the year, so is "Grim Night," also with TYRNT. So is "Ice Tea" with Indigo Phoenyx. Damn, another stellar project from AP Da Overlord and Halifax's Uncle Fester. Pure excellence. Do a deep dive into both of these cats' discographies and you'll see two vastly different careers, but you'll find a ton of new gems. Do it, you're welcome.




 

Griptape Gritfall


Another new addition to BKRSCLB. Where to begin? This cat is young but one of the nicest you'll find. Remember that feeling when we first heard 1999 by Joey Badass and it felt special? Like who was this KID who had that 90's sound so authentically, but pressing for mainstream attention? Gritfall feels that exciting. Without perhaps the commercial push of Joey, Griptape is a debut album to be proud of. Super jazzy, dusty production handled by Raz Fresco and Eric Right. This cat is nice. As an emcee, Gritfall is promising. I'm excited to see the directions he takes and I can't help but encourage that exploration. BKRSCLB is really onto something. Always. Marvelous!


 

Her Loss Drake x 21 Savage


This might be my first Drake project I ever truly loved. I heard the first four songs of this joint when it was released on my way home from campus. I was loving what I heard but had to pause it. By the time I would have resumed the album, I had been inundated with reviews and opinions on the joint which all claimed that the album got wack after the first four songs, complaining that there wasn't enough 21. Well, it took me nearly a month to listen to the rest of those joints due to that feedback, and I'm left dumbfounded by the response. I never knew I wanted anything from Drake, but apparently, this is what I needed. Drake is talking shit on here and actually sounds good doing it. Did Drake have more shine than 21? Sure, but did Drake out perform 21? He sure did. This was a Drake album and it was for the best in my books.

 

If Not Now Rove


Oh damn, this was cool. A producer album from Rove that flew completely under the radar. A fun, diverse collection of interesting ideas. 2Mex, Subtitle, AWOL One, Sole, Jihad the Roughneck MC, Epic, Megabusive... Real gems on here by a cast of absolute legends of indie rap. My favourite cut on here is "Pieces of Blue" with Epic. BTW, Epic also re-released his 8:30 for Newfoundland tape this year. Check that out too. Desperately waiting for a new Epic LP over here. I'll take another from Rove too. Saskatoon Folk Rap, pay attention.




 

The Introduction EP Axel & E.J.


The Introduction to two new cats from BKRSCLB. Stepping into Toronto underground royalty is big shoes, but these cats, and Gritfall have all nailed it. This is 6 songs, full of creativity, and DOPE hip-hop. Raz comes in on the intro "Macatia" with perhaps my favourite Raz Fresco verse of the year. "Tonight" with Mike Shabb, and "Liminal Sound" are some of my favourites. Oh and "GODAMN" too with Kevin Na$h. I like this whole thing, it's 10 minutes, add it to your list. And follow BKRSCLB. They are not disappointing and are ACTIVELY expanding their roster. Raz seems down to track down the illest talent. No idea where he finds em, but he does.


 

Life and Times of BriskInTheHouse BriskInTheHouse


Apparently Brisk is out of BKRSCLB. But that shouldn't stop you from following the dude. BriskInTheHouse is continuing a strong run of releases with the Slick Rick inspired cover Life and Times of BriskInTheHouse. Produced partly by Raz and partly by Max Melanin, a producer which I was not familiar with prior. This dude is clearly inspired by Dilla and embraces the chaos on the beats - but is waaay dustier and filthy. Brisk sounds dope on here and there are a lot of highlights for a short run project. 26 Minutes, with my favourite cut being "Aloha" with The 6th Letter.



 

The MacGuffin Device Wordburglar


More Wordburglar! Are you familiar with Ugly Duckling? The rap group with Dizzy Dustin and Andy that was on Fatbeats in the late 90s early 2000s? That quirky, fun, silly yet boom bap and authentically hip-hop group? Yeah, Wordburglar is like that, but way more eccentric, and he embraces both ends of the spectrum. The McGuffin Device might even be better than Burgonomic. Actually, I think it is. This album is loud, bombastic, energized and epic. With the same witty rhymes that Wordburglar is known for. Unapologetically Burgie, someone should give this man his flowers. Favourite cuts are "Input Blitz," "Barter in Nostalgia" and "Verbserker." All with DJ Irate, who laced numerous cuts on the record.

 

Magnetic Raz Fresco


MARVELOUS! This is a thing of beauty. Years in the making, this exclusive piece of vinyl was unlocked only for those who had purchased Magneto Was Right volumes 1-9 through Tuff Kong Records, with each piece representing a puzzle piece with all nine forming together like Voltron. Magnetic however is more than simply a sum of its parts. The 13 song LP is entirely new, and works as both a celebration of the series to date, as well as a continuation of the grind that brought Raz to this point. This is an exemplar piece of art and is exactly what we can expect from the BKRSCLB unit.



 

Mr. Ten08 Boldy James x Futurewave


Boldy! Futurewave appears elsewhere on this list, but can we take a moment to appreciate Boldy's adoption of Canadian talent this year? Between the projects with Futurewave and Nicholas Craven, Boldy James has legitimized a Canadian production scene in an impactful way. Heads were aware of Futurewave before, especially with his work with Rome Streetz for both Razor's Edge and Headcrack - but despite the underground's fandom, nothing yet has quite competed with the level of notoriety and weight that Boldy James carries. Maybe the Pitchfork fans will start eyeing the Toronto scene now, we'll see. Anyhow, this album is great and is my second favourite Boldy album of the year (behind the Real Bad Man Joint.) Hard beats and hard raps, delivered in the typical monotone fashion that Boldy has been celebrated for. Futurewave also laced this with some of his most colorful and eccentric beats yet.

 

Pam Grier's Kids DJ Moves


Another full length Moves produced album. One of the most impressive discographies for any producer in hip-hop and Moves is still killing it in 2022, some thirty plus years after his beginnings in Hip Club Groove. A lot of diversity on here, but a LOT of greatness. Just dope shit. The Blaq Poet track "Loyalty" is a standout of the year, plus we get some classic Stinkin' Rich material on "StankinSpechledSocks" with Jeff Spec and Ghettosocks. Also, Governor Bolts! When's the new Bolts album coming? I want that. Great album, and my favourite thing from Moves of the year.



 

Pocket Operations Raz Fresco


I first heard the instrumentals to this joint and didn't realize there was another version with Raz on the mic. This thing was entirely made with a Pocket Operator, a drum machine that literally looks like a calculator. I thought the novelty of the gimmick was interesting enough to check it out but was instantly surprised when I started hearing some of my favourite beats that Raz has produced. Creativity at a high. The fact that Raz is a fan of cats like Dibiase, shows on this album. All this said, listen to the OG version with raps. Raz carries the 18 songs with just two guest verses. One of which being a particular favourite from Lord Juco on "Toothpaste." Fantastic. Check it. BKRSCLB.

 

Son Tzu and the Wav.God Daniel Son x Futurewave


This started the year off. We don't often get this kind of stellar material the first few weeks of the year, but Son Szu and the Wav.God was an exception to that rule. Daniel Son and Futurewave were back at it again. This got overshadowed I think by Bush Doctor later in the year, but this is arguably even more of a highlight. "Field Trips" with Rome Streetz, "Death & Taxes" with Pro Dillinger and "Stove Dance" are strong takeaways for the year. Yet another high-quality release in the discographies of both artists. The best rap music out of Toronto you can hope for.




 

Supervillain Team Up: Injustice for All New Villain x Onaje Jordan


One of my favourite discoveries of the year was New Villain. A recently established part of High Heat Records alongside Falcon Outlaw - New Villain has proven this year that he is hungry and willing to compete with the rest of them. Joining forces with Onaje Jordan is a good look. Not only is Jordan's production exciting and as hard hitting as ever, but the brand of Onaje Jordan brings the necessary weight and credibility to a project such as this. Along with dope art work, I think this album introduced many to what New Villain has to offer. Other albums from the emcee this year included