Over the past few years, Toronto has proved time and time over that its musical presence is one to be reckoned with. Any budding musical act has a plethora of producers and other artists alike to help boast the city’s culture and significance even more. The city is blessed with singers whose voices illuminate its darkest, dingiest bars every day of the week.
Toronto’s nearly unbearable cold winter months forces many emcees to hideout in the studio, cookin’ up projects, songs and tapes set to drop in the city’s blazing hot summer.
From the moody, introspective “Toronto sound” pioneered by The Weeknd to the bounce and pop of the city’s newest exports, Toronto has a singer for everybody. There’s no denying that the 6 has taken over other cities – such as New York and Los Angeles – in terms of where to find the hottest sounds and creators on the rise. In light of waves being made in the city, here are 10 artists you should hit play on and get acquainted with.
We’ve earmarked them for big things moving forward, so now is a great time to get familiar with some of the city’s most promising singers. Let’s begin.
Anders is a Torontonian R&B singer that cracked the code to hit-making, seemingly overnight.
The Mississauga singer debuted his EP, 669, earlier this year and the 7-track project (with a name that represents the studio in which it was recorded) was an underground hit, combining likely over 1 million plays on SoundCloud alone. Get familiar with Anders, stream 669 before diving into his recent singles, produced by the unrelenting FrancisGotHeat.
Jahkoy turned his Soundcloud buzz into a deal with Def Jam in early 2016. The Toronto native moved to Los Angeles and couch surfed in Hollywood to work on his craft in the city of angels. He made the stars align by inking a deal with the label who represents the likes of Common and 2 Chainz.
It was his single, “California Heaven,” that bent the ears of a much wider audience than he’d previously found. A feature from ScHoolboy Q sandwiched in between an airy Californian melody put Jahkoy in the spotlight for his singing – not the rapping he began his career with.
Listen to “New Linen,” his new sultry single, below.
In the space of a year, J-Soul went from being homeless fresh out of high school to being a signed artist under the wing of Birdman’s Cash Money Records.
From the west end of Toronto, the Jane Street native’s transformative journey culminated in a short album, Jane 2 Miami, where ‘Soul talks about the money, women and decisions associated with his rise as an artist. Last summer, J-Soul dropped L.I.S.A, an album about love, insecurity, sex and addiction.
When HNHH recently caught up J-Soul, he hinted at new sounds with more collaborations than his previous work.
For now, stream the L.I.S.A’s hit single, “RNB NIGGA” below.
Lou Val is a lowkey guy. A sparsely populated Instagram page hints at a friendship with OVO signees Majid Jordan, which was likely a factor in putting recent singles “RUSH HOUR” and “LIL MAMA” in the ear of 40, one of Drake’s right-hand men.
The pair of singles appeared at the tail end of a late August OVO Sounds episode, where each of his releases imposed a more soulful persona.
While his music and social media appearances aren’t as frequent as some would like, his work is worth the wait. Val’s progression as an artist has incorporated many styles within the R&B sphere. You get a bit of everything with this talented songwriter. Start with the CVRE-produced “Unusual” and end with his fresh release, “Use Me,” linked below. While those songs are far apart sonically, Val’s voice and composition skills turn his small public repertoire into a cohesive listening experience.
River Tiber is a musical multi-tool known for his songwriting, multi-instrument talents and now his singing. A tireless collaborator – notably releasing music with Pusha T, working with Montreal-based electronic producer Kaytranada, providing backing instrumentals for BADBADNOTGOOD’s Ghostface Killah-voiced album Sour Soul and in general being one of the busiest musicians in the city. Now it’s his voice that’s featuring more heavily in studio sessions.
Real name Tommy Paxton-Beesley, his voice is laid-back, smooth and flexible. He has no issue crooning over the swooping melody of his latest release, “Patience,” which you can stream below.
A London, UK transplant, Gov found his personal and musical home in Toronto. Having started out as a rapper, Gov transitioned from releasing songs of him rapping to singing about two years ago. His newest project, a three-track EP called Nomad was both an accident and a symptom of his changing lifestyle. Moving across an ocean and changing up your sound is arguably as nomadic – in an artistic sense – as it gets.
“[Nomad] represents where I am in life right now transitioning through a lot – musically, personally and with relationships,” he told good juice box. “Just a lot of movement and a lot of journeying – personal and otherwise.”
The beats are brooding, the vocals proud, the music captivating. Stream Nomad below.
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Allie acknowledges she’s different compared to her hometown contemporaries from out of the gate. “I don’t feel like I necessarily fall into the category of this Toronto sound that’s happening,” she told NOW Magazine. “It’s very male-dominated, it’s very hard, and I do want to be a softer counterpoint.”
While modern R&B may bang and bounce, Allie’s production grooves. Her vocals provide an ethereal quality to beats ridden to with nods to lo-fi and Acid R&B music that came before it. Anyone of Allie’s tracks can relax or stimulate in the appropriate situation. It’s music that’s flexible but true to itself.
Her new album, Nightshade, is littered with Canadian talent. Charlotte Day Wilson features on “Take Me There;” among others, Harrison, Birthday Boy and The Kount are on the boards. Themes of the album include femininity and equality within the music industry. Stream the album below.
While discussion around signal boosting tactics like social media and personal connections become more relevant in the increasingly congested music business by the day, PLAZA’s approach to making a name for himself is oxymoronic; most don’t know who he is.
The trap-tilted R&B singer serenades his audience over bouncy beats. His voice is airy and pure, floating over punchy, hard production.
There’s introspection, love lost and many other themes familiar to the genre, but PLAZA’s rhythmic, approachable delivery sets his music apart from the pack.
Listen to his Shadow EP to get a feel for his vibes.
A Torontonian by way of Jamaica, Leila Dey is a no-nonsense R&B singer; she doesn’t bite her tongue with vivid imagery and lets her strong voice carry minimally-produced records. A relative newcomer to the game, Dey released her debut album, I’ve Arrived, following the death of her sister in 2015. Her music is laden with emotion; pain, passion, everything in between.
Her most recent release, Black Bouquet is an EP which touches on both. “Flexin’” follows a turbulent relationship with its highs and lows, while the surrounding tracks support the same themes. Stream it below.
A Toronto West-Ender, M.I Blue is a big dose of alternative soul. Her song Silver Kettles hears her syrupy production paired with a voice that can rasp and soar. M.I Blue is an automatic call-up when referring to the most promising singers from Toronto.
She was also featured on a short documentary on Toronto’s alternative sound, co-produced by the FADER and SoundCloud, as a way to discover other parts of Toronto’s bubbling arts scene. While her music drops are infrequent, her live performances keep her fanbase on the tips of their collective toes waiting for more.
Listen to her EP, Black Tea and Mint, and her most recent appearance on East Toronto Rapper Stretch’s album, The Ball Park Tape below.