Canadian Rappers That Aren’t Drake

Hip hop may have been born in the fires of Harlem and the Bronx, but, more than thirty years later, there’s hardly a spot on Earth that doesn’t have its own scene. From Japan to South Africa, Germany to Australia, and everywhere else in between, the spread of hip hop has been remarkable not only for its speed, but also for the wide range of styles that each location brings to the genre.

Most American rap fans know (or at least should know) about West Coast G-Funk, trap music from the South, and the New York rap renaissance of the 90s. But have you ever had the chance to take a look at what is happening above New York? Up in Montreal, Canada a group of pioneering hip hop heads grabbed the styles they loved from New York and the West Coast and threw their own culture, ideas, and experimentation into the mix to create something new.

French-Canadian hip hop originated in Montreal before spreading to Quebec City and throughout the rest of the French speaking province. Many artists rap in both English and French, and some throw in lines from other languages as well. We can’t possibly cover all of the music coming out of the area over a 25+ history, so we’ll focus on a couple heavy hitters and the kids who are making waves today. (And, by the way, this is a Drake-free zone; the man is from Toronto and only raps in English.)

One of Montreal’s most famous hip hop groups is Loco Locass. The three person group formed in 1995 and has been fighting for nearly twenty years to preserve the French language and for Quebec’s sovereignty from the rest of Canada. In 2004, they had a hit single with the extremely political “Libérez-nous des Libéraux” (Liberate us from the Liberals).
[youtube width=”720″ height=”405″ video_id=”Xrgl5bBckus”]

If politics aren’t your thing, don’t worry, the recent spate of French Canadian hip-hoppers have been more concerned with starting the party and throwing down some very intense beats. Dead Obies formed in 2011 and just released their hard-hitting first album, Montréal $ud, last year. Check out the title track {youtube}https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLgsSG_jSC0{/youtube}; you may not understand what 50% of the song is about, but you’ll definitely understand things like, “Fuck me? Fuck you!” and, “Mother fucker, fresh like us!” and when they rap their verses in English. The dark, well-crafted beat paired with the speedy, serpentine rhymes (in either language) make for a combination perfect for a party or a destructive fight.

Alaclair Ensemble may look like the Canadian version of LMFAO, but in their mannerisms, videos, and rapping style, they’re actually a lot closer to Das Racist. The video for “Teflon Dons,” {youtube}https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTS0bUEo42Q{/youtube}released in 2011, is a hilarious look at the group. Bizarre retro special effects, weird toys, and pop culture references abound in this awesome look at their goofy personalities. Most of the song is in French, but the charismatic rappers and brilliant visuals make it a video you won’t soon forget.

If you’re in the mood for controversy, then perhaps Manu Militari is your man. His 2012 track “L’attente” [youtube width=”720″ height=”405″ video_id=”rjwm_GsNYds”]followed Afghan attacks on Canadians in Afghanistan and was seen by some as a glorification of the Taliban. The video was pulled for a while, but seems to be readily available on YouTube now. His critics were especially displeased because he received more than $100k dollars from the government to pursue music; a fact that became difficult to swallow since he was seen as offering support for the enemy.

There are, of course, many other excellent French Canadian artists, but this should give you a sample until you get a chance to head up to Montreal and check out the scene for yourself.


Dominick is a lover of many things: fine writing, obscure electronic/rap mash-ups, and having sex with women who aren’t from New Jersey. In the mornings, Dominick can often be found staring at his computer and screaming profanities. He says it helps with the creative process, but recent reports reveal that his mother Does. Not. Approve. Between bouts of indecision and self-hatred, Dominick has somehow managed to produce work that has been featured in places such as Vibe, mxdwn, Punchland, and a number of other places you may or may not have ever visited. As the editor of the viral video site, lilHub.com, he has the pleasure of uploading one horribly inappropriate video for every five cute cat clips. Check out his sexy writing at dominickjgrillo.com and holla @DominickJGrillo on Twitter.

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