'We didn't know we were pioneers': Jully Black's My Junos Moment
The R&B star looks back at an all-hits Black music tribute at the 2001 Juno Awards
Hip hop has been around in Canada since the 1980s, and while it has enjoyed peaks of popularity over the decades, it seemed to hit a new stride in the 2000s. "Northern Touch," released in 1998, became a cultural touchstone and helped to kick down the door for a new wave of young artists.
In 2001, the same year that Flow 93.5 became Canada's first radio station for "urban" music — an outdated blanket term used to describe any music created by Black musicians, mostly hip hop, soul and R&B — the Juno Awards organized an urban music tribute to what presenters Gerald Eaton of the Philosopher Kings and R&B singer Tamia called "the voice of Black Canada."
"From the streets to the clubs to the radio stations … our community is being heard," Eaton told the audience. "Now in its second generation, we pay tribute to the pioneers and the poets."
What followed was a greatest hits medley featuring Michie Mee, Kid Kut of Baby Blue Soundcrew, Snow, the Dream Warriors, Maestro Fresh Wes, Jacksoul, Deborah Cox, Ghetto Concept, Choclair, Rascalz, Kardinal Offishall, Sean Paul and, of course, Jully Black.
"I have butterflies watching my young self," Black tells CBC Music as she revisits the tribute for My Junos Moment. "We didn't know we were pioneers. My message … especially the next generation, is know that you are laying in the pages of history. The things that we do now are really significant for the future."
Black says that looking back on the moment makes her realize that the Junos need to do it again, but this time showing the intergenerational growth of Black music in Canada, or what she calls "Canadian maple."
"I'm happy that there's that content to measure our growth," she adds. "You don't know how far you've come until you look back. And it's so easy to sit in complacency and not celebrate the true journey."
You can watch her full My Junos Moment above.
Wherever you are in the world, you can watch the 2021 Juno Awards on Sunday, June 6. You can watch live on CBC TV and CBC Gem, listen on CBC Radio One and CBC Music and stream globally at CBCMusic.ca/junos.