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Category: rap


I must have met Masimba, appropriately, at Love Movement. I say must have because, though I don’t quite remember ever meeting him (in my mind, he’s just always been there, an integral part of the city’s scape and air and life and sound, a role occupied by but a few special ones in Toronto), the man put up some photographic evidence:


He snapped this in the basement of Alto Basso on College Street, late in the summer of 2003. I have only a vague recollection of this moment: Love Movement’s resident DJs Fase and Nana hamming behind the decks, me posted up with a Heineken in hand, smiling at them over my shoulder, not realizing I was included in the shot. When Masimba posted it to social media some years ago, I admit to feeling some combination of touched and horrified. The photo is not flattering, y’all, but it was from an important time. I was 21 and had just landed home for the summer, back from a semester abroad in Madrid where my Cuban rapper/DJ neighbours in Lavapiés and I would spend afternoons talking music and race, and weekends dancing til dawn. One of many worlds to navigate. Back in this other world of Toronto, I spent a short summer sneaking out of my (strict, immigrant) parents’ house to hit rap shows, open mics, and weeklies all over the city, often rolling solo because I didn’t yet know many people who were also into the music I loved. I didn’t yet know myself, either. I’d only recently started to DJ (that didn’t last long), started to co-host a hip hop campus radio show (neither did this), and started to freelance for music magazines (my first-ever published review, unpaid of course, was for an Oddities 12-inch I purchased myself). One of Masimba’s friends wrote last week that, pre-Drake, the Toronto rap scene was like a family. The distant sweetness of nostalgia makes me inclined to agree. I was the chubby, frizzy-haired Portuguese writer girl at the rap show, screwfaced, shy, and happy to be there. Nobody made me feel like I didn’t belong. The basement of Alto Basso filled every Monday night with unfamiliar faces that, over time, became friends, nods of recognition became hugs, and some friends eventually became family.

To look through Masimba’s FB albums is to journey through recent Toronto hip hop history. Jokes and candid moments from places that don’t exist anymore or are called by other names: Bamboo, IV Lounge, Movement Culture parties hosted by Sandra and Noah. He captured Fatski’s million-and-one variations on the b-boy stance, TT’s finger-in-di-air holler, Nehal cheesin, and El looking like the coolest cat in the room from absolutely every angle. Sa’ara B’s electric smile. Big Tweeze in his classic lean. DJ Serious on the decks. I love all of these photos.

These were the days of street teams pressing flyers in your palm for the next show as you walked out of the last one, and Georgie Porgy pushing CDs on the corner, all: Do you like real hip hop? The days of shows at Revival and B-Side and The Comfort Zone and The Big Bop and The Hooch and NASA, Planet Mars (before my time still), Peachfuzz, In Divine Style, Never Forgive Action, Cell Division mixtapes. Of making pause tapes to the Mastermind Street Jam on Energy and Real Frequency on CKLN. Of spotting people in Equinox199 ‘Balance’ and Too Black Guys t-shirts. In the winter, a Big It Up toque on every head’s head.

Then there was the Sagittarius Coolout. I think I looked forward to Masimba’s birthday more than my own, to those sweaty dance tangles and happy-to-see-you! reunion vibes that cut through winter’s alienating chill. I look back so fondly on those nights, even as we’ve all changed, moved, grown older, and grown apart. I’ve missed the Coolout the last few years, rolling back into town for my holiday visit a week too late, but I was counting on returning to Toronto early this December. I hoping to catch up on hugs and cut up a dance floor with my people again. Hoping. Was.

It’s been two weeks since Masimba left us to join the ancestors, since the flurry of long-distance calls and messages, since heartful tributes from friends and strangers flooded my timelines. This lovely man who called me young lady or sis, a brother to so many, he himself went by DJ Son Of S.O.U.L., and his presence was love. Revisiting photos and memories, reconnecting with dear ones I’d lost touch with, all of us mutual and willing victims of time and geography, has filled me with gratitude. This aspect of his legacy lives on. Of course, then there’s the music.

I posted a tribute back in 2008 to DJ S.O.S. and his birthday fête, including a link to one of his sets. I’ll happily re-share it here: The Sagittarius Cool Out 2007, Parts One & Two. The download will be live for the next week, so play it, laugh loudly at the ad libs, throw a finger in the air, dance. If you come around late, hit me up and I’ll gladly post it again.

This isn’t a eulogy — there have been too many this past year. Instead, this is a hug. Along with music, hugs are one of the sweetest gifts and most healing blessings he bestowed, and so I’m offering up the biggest, warmest, most open, joyous one I can muster.

Hugs for the past and future journeys, for yours and his and mine, for wherever they may take each of us, whoever may join us, whatever may come. Hugs whenever we may cross. Hugs for magic. Hugs for peace and love. Hugs honouring where you’re from, for the people who made you, for forgiveness, hugs for knowing yourself. Hugs to hold up the ones who need them. Hugs to celebrate dreams coming to life. Hugs to try harder, be better. Hugs, just because.

you’ve got to know where your towel is

I’m late on this. Kardinal was on Jay Leno last week and, oops, he mmmmmmashed it again:

I won’t get into how boring I think Akon is (okay I will: he’s really boring), but I do want to take a moment to profess my love for an under-appreciated hero: the likkle white towel. I got misty-eyed when Kardi whipped out the soca and started twirling that piece of cloth like a helicopter over his head. The sight of it made me sigh with nostalgia.

Oh, the towel.

Hip-hop towel, sweat towel, fête towel, call it what you will. It has long been not only a trapper of moisture but an accessory and a symbol. When you bring one of those towels to a jam, everyone knows you mean business. If a gang of people walk in with them — woowee! Keep your stamina up, kid, cause you know that party’s going to go allll night. I guess it’s something like the equivalent of bringing lawn chairs to a parade. If you’re about it, you’re about it.

Toss it over one shoulder, let it hang around your neck, drag out your back pocket, or flex a two-hand grip and lean into it. Wave your towel in the air when you’re feeling good, or wrap it around someone who’s looking good. It is multi-purposed — though not multi-use. The towel has always got to be fresh.

Big love to all my towel-rockers on dancefloors all over the world. Keep dabbing, yanking and twirling. Don’t stop til the ugly lights come on.


the coolout

Condensation on the window, traffic lights blinking stop-wait-go below. Another January night. Dang it was hot in there.

I don’t have much use for end-of-year top-ten-album lists or record rankings of any sort. Partly because I’m too indecisive to ever be good at compiling them, but also because the way I take in music is far from orderly, stackable, or business-like. (I even once discussed critics’ lists in the same breath as Ursula LeGuin theories on literature, but we won’t turn this into a gendered discussion right now.)

My old editors can attest to my dislike of record rankings. Just getting me to turn out record reviews eventually became a painful process, so I stopped doing them altogether three or four years ago, and stopped reviewing live shows soon after. I had to own up — I’ve always been a far more passionate ref on the court when it came to judging disk jock skill, the strength of a sound system, and dance floor rockability.

The bar was set high early on. While the decks at most school dances are manned by somebody’s cousin, at my high school the cousin happened to be DJ Mikey Sly from the Sunshine Soundcrew, the premier soundsystem north or south of Eglinton Avenue. It was the era of Master T and Roxy on Da Mix, when Mastermind still ran the Street Jam, and DJ Short was making girls sweat blending Black Sheep into Mr Vegas. I still remember my favourite playlists, my favourite mixes, my favourite sets.

I have a critical ear when it comes to DJs, but I’m also generous with my appreciation — and so I’d like to salute some of the stand-out DJs, mixes and limes from 2007. Thank you for giving me reasons to pound the walls of a club in excitement, wile out to your selections, and lose my mind with every white-hot genius-perfected blend. I know I’ll always find a home between my headphones.

Gang of Two & The Peachfuzz Soundsystem

Click here for the gang of Andy Capp and Rod Skimmins, and here for the peachy triad of Skimmins, Mensa and ArowbeX3.

I think I started off 2007 with an early Gang of Two party at The Boat, all over-heated and dancing shoulder-to-shoulder with the spandexed set to hard disco, electro, and generous helpings of Grace Jones. I spent much of the rest of the next eight months around the corner at Peachfuzz, with some of the same faces, a completely different dress code, and a playlist that ran thick with SWV, Tiombe Lockhart, Juice Crew, and a dash of E-Rule. I don’t have any Peach mixes, but you can go here to download Go Bang! parts one, two, and more.

Son of S.O.U.L.

Son of S.O.U.L. (aka Masimba) has been one of my favourite DJs for as long as I can remember. With a sound as warm and unmistakable as his trademark grin (and beanie), he’s been carrying his incredible haul of records from Scarborough to gigs across the city for yearrrs. The highlights for me have been his appearances at the old Movement Culture parties on Queen West. These jams were password-only affairs filled with friendly faces, creative vibes, and tangles of dancing bodies. Movement Culture is no more, not since the eviction party in the spring, but I hear the fete continues over at a certain tea gallery on Adelaide West.

I’m sad that I missed out on Masimba’s annual Sagittarius Birthday Coolout a few weeks ago at Moja, but I have Toronto Fusicology to thank for posting links to his set: parts one and two. Kornflake Saymore handles toasting duties, like the gentleman he is.


This is a mix by DJ Ayres and Nick Catchdubs. When I first moved to New York in August, I remember hitting up a pool party in Williamsburg, where Ayres was handing out copies of this mix. I get handed mixes all the time, and usually I’ll let them live in my purse for a few weeks before I finally take them out and add them to the ever-growing dusty piles of CDs I don’t listen to. This one was different, though. I popped it in my stereo right away, and have been listening to it fairly regularly every since. Full mix and playlist here. Oh, and I caught his set with The Rub at Southpaw last weekend, too. Always nice to see a crew on their home turf.


No, not a soundsystem, and not a mix, but this little nook in the meatpacking district is where I’ve felt most at home in New York so far. It reminds me of the basement at Alto Basso circa 2001 on Love Movement Mondays. I love the dancefloor, I love the crowd, and I love the sets I’ve caught there so far. Here’s a little gift Lovebug Starski dropped (along with some delicious cookies and turkey-themed flower pots) during his Thanksgiving Blowout in November.

Vá Primeiro Você

I can’t remember when I downloaded this, but at some point I followed my mouseclicks to Minusbaby’s new contributions on this site, downloaded Vá Primeiro Você, Pt. 9, and forgot about it. I found the curious folder on my hard drive in December, and boy oh boy am I glad I did. Rich has always had a fantastic ear for soft or endearing sounds, and every note on this compilation is soaked through with his love for Portuguese-language music. It’s part of my personal soundtrack, and had me sighing and singing along all through the holidays. Such a lovely way to wind down the year and cozy up to a new one.

Special mentions: Footprints for their insane and wonderful monthlies, DJ L’Oquenz for a phenomenal poolside summertime set (still waiting on that mix!), the Peer Pressure Crew for actually getting me to step foot in the Drake upstairs lounge, and Bryan from the Legends League for Volume 1, Volume 2.5, and that song by Ox. I seem to have misplaced the download links, but they’re out there somewhere in the interwebs.

I just came across these two dope blogs attempting to chronicle early and recent Toronto radio DJ history: 416 – Before the Bloods and Crips and FM 416. My jaw dropped when I saw some of the gems on there. There’s a lot of material to go through, but if you’re up for it, check out some of the classic sets from Masterplan, Powermove, and others. What better way to kick off 2008 than with a trip back to 1998?

Happy listening, keep your levels right, and don’t forget to tip your DJ.

higher, deeper values

I’ve been spending my days in a dream state.

Physically, I’m preparing to transplant myself from Toronto to New York in roughly a month’s time. Mentally, I’ve been floating about, drifting in and out of conversations and playlists. On the cusp of flying away on dreams of my own, I can’t help bask in the dreams and dream-chasing of others. Old dreams. Dreams that are still formulating. Dreams I thought I’d forgotten…

I mused to a friend recently that maybe this upcoming move (which I’ll talk more about some other day) will do me good. Toronto is my hometown, my first playpen and discovery ground, but as much as I find things and people and colours and places to be excited about and fall in love with here every day, too much about this city has been dragging me down as well. I feel disconnected from things that used to make my heart pound. My memory is slipping. What does freshness feel like again? How does it feel in my ears, between thought bubbles and headnods?

Perhaps this is reflected in the (lack of) recent content here, but it seems I hit a point a while ago where I just didn’t care about Can-Con rap anymore. Hardly a revelation, and likely not a confession that too many people could identify with, but for me —- someone who built the beginnings of a “career” in rap writing and radio due to a near obsessive amour for the sounds and styles of rappers, DJs and producers (and graf writers and dancers and etc) across this country —- it was kind of an upset. Maybe it’s not fair to blame this faded feeling on Toronto. Maybe I could have kept things fresh somehow, if I hadn’t been so lazy, if I had only stuck with my radio show, if only, if only…

Lucky for me, Fritz and Birdapres are still around to punch me in the face whenever I need reminding:

there are a zillion hip-hop mp3 blogs out there…

but there is ONE that is 100% canadian content.

and this is it.

Ladies and gentleman, I present the newest addition to your bookmarks menu: Living Underwater. This little blog is only a few days old, but is already packed with gems from HDV, Maestro, Moka Only, Ghetto Concept, the Cold Front compilation (complete with liner notes via John Bronski), and even a Ron Nelson (!!!) joint. Check back often and practice your mouse clicks, because ain’t nobody re-upping shit if you miss the party.

I was tempted to keep this link to myself, but I just couldn’t be greedy like that. Please spread the news, spread it far and wide and far and wide. A lot of people need to read this blog. A lot of people need to hear these records. I lot of kids (and grown folks alike) need to catch up on their history, pay their respects, and gain some understanding for why and how we’re at where we’re at.

I can’t wait to see how the rest of this blog unfolds. Because this right here, this thing is fresh.

three sugars in the mint tea, rub-a-dub style

I just caught Point Blank’s video for “Born & Raised in the Ghetto” (congrats to director Marc André Debruyne for the MMVA nomination), and was struck by the old stock footage from Regent Park‘s earliest days. The sugary optimism reflected in those black-and-white white faces is especially disconcerting in the context of ongoing (controversial) revitalization efforts. Relocations, demolition, etc. How will it all look in three years?

And, thanks youtube’s power of suggestion, I also stumbled upon this little gem:

Who knew Ed the Sock was still on TV? The original prime-time cigar-chewing hand puppet spends nearly twenty minutes of airtime in Regent, alongside his guides from Point Blank. It mostly starts to get interesting around the seven minute mark, but Ed’s demeanor stays consistant throughout: snarky, obnoxious, slightly awkward. If you can get past the heavy-handed intro, his charm is in the details, between the one-liners. And by “charm” I mean…