Unpopular Opinion

Unfortunately racism is alive and well in Toronto, but many people and the white washed media will have you believe different. Just because Toronto is one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world, where citizens from multiple racial backgrounds live together peacefully, does not mean we don’t have our struggles with racism.

True story. My experience at running a series of hip hop shows a few years back at famous and loved Toronto music venue lead me to the conclusion that it was a racist establishment. They were not nice to me or the artists I brought in. They are a rock establishment who were not happy or accepting with myself (the show promotor), a few dozen artists, and the tons of local hip hop fans who came together to celebrate hip hop culture.

Everything, from greeting us with so much crustiness, I could have sliced it up and served it with ice cream, to not letting one of my black headliners use an unused back storage room to change into his performance close (telling him instead to use the uncleaned public wash room with the sticky urine soaked floor), or giving us a terrible mix (even after I talked to the sound girl several times every week we ran the show), or kicking out another one of my black headliners before the show even started (a show with no headliner is barely a show) for what appeared to have been nothing more than a verbal exchange between a bouncer and the artist. This was the typical treatment we received week after week.

Our show’s had so many people who volunteered their time because of their love of hip hop, and week after week die hard hip hop heads came out and always hugged me and thanked me for putting some of their fav local rappers on a stage, and we believed we were doing our part in educating and preserving the culture, and entertaining through our celebration of hip hop. But what it felt like was we were all in the middle while the staff were all in the perimeter staring in at us with hateful eyes. One time a kid put his backpack down near the merch table for like 20 seconds and a bouncer completely lost his shit and kicked the kid out. It was an intense atmosphere. And to this day I feel so bad for being the organizer of an event that subjected many of the people who participated to such treatment while others were made to feel very uncomfortable.

It is not the only venue in Toronto that plays host to racists bullshit, its just the example I’m using because I had several unpleasant racist experience there. Toronto has big problems. There is a real disconnect in the music scene. Typically rock musicians don’t know the Hip Hop heads, the jazz musicians don’t now the folk singers, the R n B artists don’t know the contemporary classical virtuosos. This is not meant to be a blanket statement because even though I believe it to be true there are still many instances where it’s not and cats from different genres, cultures and schools of thought come together and collaborate. When they do its a beautiful thing.

One of the things I have done, and will continue to do, is try to break down these divides within our local music community. Not just to end racism in Toronto music culture, but for the benefit of the artists. Hip Hop sounds better when jazz musicians get to add their stank to the mix. Folk music and RnB can have more emotional depth with a well arranged string section, even punk and metal bands can add some dimension to their recordings and live shows by collaborating with a great musician or two outside of their immediate circle or genre. The future of music (not just in Toronto) is about convergence. Convergence of styles, genres, aesthetics, and cultures. Its mash up culture now. There is no longer any room for a segregated music community in Toronto if we want to make music relevant in 2014. We have a lot of work to do.

Oh yeah here is a piece originally published on Hip Hop Canada about Toronto Racism in the music industry by Iconic Toronto rapper/hip hop historian and journalist, my friend Mindbender Surpreme –

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