The Canadian hip hop began in the early 1980’s. The rise of hip-hop in Canada coincided with the rise of hip hop in America, but, unlike American hip hop, it remained underground for nearly 20 years. Canadian hip hop bloomed throughout the 80’s, but was never able to elevate past the underground scene, due to a lack of urban themed Canadian radio stations and a lack of infrastructure to promote such music. In 1989, Maestro’s “Let Your Backbone Slide” became the first Canadian hip-hop song to reach the national Top 40, and remained the highest selling Canadian hip-hop song until 2008, when Canadian Kardinal Offishall teamed with American artist, Akon, to release “Dangerous”.
During the 1990’s, there were two flunked attempts made by Milestone Radio to apply for an urban music station in Toronto. This failure, fused with few major hip-hop record deals, led to hip-hop remaining underground for some time. Urban Music Association of Canada was founded in 1996, and their main aim was to promote Canadian hip hop acts.
1998 was a good start for hip-hop scene in Canada. The Rascalz, a hip hop band from Canada, conflated with some of the emerging talents, including Kardinal Offishall, to record “Northern Touch”- a single which broke into the Top 10 in most major markets. In that year, the Rascalz’s albumn, Cash Crop, won a Juno Award for Best Rap Recording- an award presented off-camera.
In 2000, the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunication Commission (CRTC) was issued an Order-in-Council by the federal cabinet, directing it to give preference to radio station applications that related to the multicultural diversity of Toronto. This lead to Milestone Radio finally being accepted for an urban format station in Toronto. In 2001, CFXJ became the first Canadian Urban radio station.
Kardinal Offishall was the first hip-hop artist from Canada, make use of the new Canadian and satellite Urban radio market to strike it big. His song, “Dangerous”, a duet with American rapper Akon reached number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. Canadian rapper, Drake, was the first Canadian hip hop superstar. Drake has had 5 songs crack the Canadian Hot 100 and 11 songs crack the Billboard Hot 100, since 2009.