Love hip hop and R&B? Amanda Parris has made you the essential Canada Day playlist
Drake, Kardinal Offishall and beyond: 9 must-play tracks to take you into the long weekend
Canada Day is fast approaching, which means that my Twitter feed is being filled with articles celebrating various aspects of Canadiana. I've decided to do my part by creating a hip hop and R&B-inspired Canada Day playlist for you to enjoy. From celebratory odes to critical questions, tracks about urban slang to songs about violence against women, this playlist illustrates the beauty, the pain, the possibilities and the ongoing struggle that is part and parcel of this place we call home.
Rascalz, "Northern Touch feat. Kardinal Offishal, Choclair, Checkmate, Thrust"
I was a new immigrant to Canada when this song burst onto the airwaves, and I taped the music video onto a VHS tape and watched it repeatedly, viewing it as my sonic ticket to understand this strange (and cold) country. Connecting rappers across Canada, "Northern Touch" is a high energy, bombastic sound that I think should be a mandatory play at every Canada Day party.
Arguably the most patriotic Canadian hip hop track ever written, I would be remiss to not include a song that name drops our healthcare system, poutine and the beaver. Classified's anthem also comes with a music video that's jam-packed with every Canadiana reference you can think of. It's a no brainer for any Canada Day celebration.
Michie Mee and L.A. Luv, "Jamaican Funk — Canadian Style"
I cannot overstate how important this song was to hip hop culture in Canada. Michie Mee was not only the first Canadian hip hop artist to sign to a major label deal, she also brought with her an unapologetic fusion of Caribbean and Canadian influences that would become the hallmark of our sound. Credited as the woman who inspired the godfathers of Canadian hip hop, no Canada Day is complete without some "Jamaican Funk — Canadian Style."
Kardinal Offishall, "Bakardi Slang"
A classic to this day, "Bakardi Slang" introduced the world to an up-and-coming rapper named Kardinal Offishall — and to his home, the screwface capital of the world: the T-dot. The song is a tutorial in a very particular Toronto slang, providing definitions for various words and exploring its roots in the Caribbean diaspora. Slang is always evolving, so this song is a snapshot in time and an ode to a Caribbean-Canadian community few knew existed before this track hit the airwaves.
Drake, "Know Yourself" / "City is Mine" / "Weston Road Flows" (I could go on...)
Yes, I know, this is not one song but several, and yes, I realize that almost all of them are about Toronto and that Toronto is not the same as Canada. However, Drake has put Toronto on the global hip hop map, introducing many around the world to the fact that there is such as thing as hip hop in Canada. Throughout his storied career, Drizzy has been dropping cultural, linguistic and sonic tributes to the city he loves. In the video for "Started from the Bottom" the opening scene includes the city of Toronto logo and Drake working at Shoppers Drug Mart (insert Canadian flag emoji here). It's the reason so many in the 6ix and across the country are ready to raise their OVO flags with pride this Canada Day.
Shad, "Fam Jam (Fe Sun Immigrins)"
I dare you to watch this next video without smiling. Shad's beautiful exploration of the immigrant experience is a toast to Canadian diversity, but it also calls for a more nuanced examination of those journeys. The song is celebratory but also retains a nuanced and critical lens that asks questions about colonialism, immigration policy and the ongoing discrimination many face once they've arrived.
Iskwé, "Nobody Knows"
Cree/Dene and Irish singer-songwriter Iskwé channelled her horror at the murder of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine into a powerful song aimed at disrupting the pervasive silence surrounding the violence against Indigenous women. It's not a celebration song, but on Canada's 150th birthday, I think it's a necessary indictment on a national culture that has avoided the difficult conversations for too long.
Above Top Secret, "Bang feat. Lido Pimienta"
When the experimental rap and electro group Above Top Secret collaborated with Afro-Colombian singer songwriter Lido Pimienta, the result was a haunting soundscape that will leave you reflecting on hard truths this Canada Day. "Bang" is a piercing interrogation inspired by the stories of missing and murdered Indigenous women across this country. Their demand to know where all the women have gone will resound in your mind long after the song is done.
Tika, "All Day All Night"
Tika Simone's ode to freedom is a must-play this Canada Day. Inspired by Nina Simone's belief that it is an artist's responsibility to reflect the times they live in, this song is an anthem for black women especially. It is a call to survival in the midst of difficult times and a song about the enduring hope that we can build something more than what currently exists.