A couple of weeks ago, I had the immense pleasure of being afforded a one-hour slot during a special day of programming organized by McGill's Black Students' Network in collaboration with CKUT 90.3 FM. This 2016 edition of Black Talk continued where past editions had left off: offering 13-hours of exclusively Afrocentric programming, as part of a series of Black History Month events organized by the student service. With topics ranging from sexual health in the black community to the legacy of black female rappers, Black Talk 2016 provided a much needed outlet for McGill's – and even Montreal's – Black community to look back on its history, discuss issues pertaining to its present, and celebrate its effervescent future.
Considering all the great programming that had already been scheduled, I knew I had to find a way to make a markedly distinct contribution to this terrific initiative. Thus, as someone who believes in championing the local Canadian scene in any way possible, I knew this was the best opportunity to showcase the talent of the many Black-Canadian artists that are pushing the boundaries of what is traditionally considered "Canadian Content."
As part of my radio show, I have been slowly compiling an ever-growing playlist of exclusively Canadian artists, so as to meet my weekly requirement of 35% CanCon. Although, for some, such a stipulation may seem like a restriction on their creative liberties, I've always been grateful that Canadian radio stations are mandated to promote the artistry emerging within the country. Naturally, this certainly helps in precluding American cultural imperialism. But, it also means that musicians – young and old – who dedicate their time and livelihood to honing their craft can get the recognition that they rightfully deserve in their own home.
So, when it came to showcasing exclusively Black-Canadian artists, I already knew I had far too much talent to choose from.
Indeed, I see these musicians as the artists who are constantly challenging and redefining the rather trite – and white – notions of "Canadian Cool." Although Canada still retains the image of being the reputed home of maple syrup, hockey, and excessive politeness, these artists are proving that there's so much more to being Canadian than having a Prime Minister with luscious hair.
Maybe it's just me, but prior to the past few years, I had never really imagined Canada as being a breeding ground for musical innovation in genres such as Hip-Hop, R&B, Electronic music, and even World music. Luckily, with the groundwork laid by many pioneers before them (S/O to Kardinal Offishall, Deborah Cox, Shad, K'naan, and Jully Black), the following musicians profiled in my Black Talk 2016 mix are reinvigorating Canada's place on the global music scene. True to the Canadian myth of diversity, they are the real face of diversity: from a Somalian-Canadian rapper challenging gender norms in Somali culture, to a Congolese artist breaking down the reductive constructs of "World Music," this new vanguard of Canadian Content has never been any more beautiful and diverse in its blackness.
Admittedly, my list is plagued by a number of subtle (and some glaring) omissions, such as The Weeknd, Roy Woods, Sean Leon, Littlebabyangel, Keita Juma, BNJMN, Maurice Moore, Green Hypnotic, jamvis, Strange Froots, Tshizimba, Shash'U, Shay Lia, a l l i e, BIZZARH, and the prolific Nigerian-Canadian beatsmith WondaGurl. But hey, I tried! Maybe I'll just have to do another mix dedicated to these artists. (** hint, hint **)
At least, I did play some 6 God though – albeit a Grime refix.
As you listen to the mix, I sincerely invite you to take the time to explore the plethora of Black-Canadian artists listed above and below. If you're from Montreal, Toronto or even Ottawa, you've definitely heard of many of them. But, even if that's the case, true talent never loses its lustre. Plus, supporting local talent will never not be cool.
Also, if you'd like to suggest some Black-Canadian artists that I may have missed (especially from cities that aren't the above trifecta), please, please do. I'm always looking to expand my musical horizons.