Naturally Born Strangers take home the honours this year

It took over 20 years, but maybe the tide is changing for urban music in Canada. The Juno Awards are supposed to celebrate the very best in Canadian music and while the genres of rap and reggae may still be shunned from the primetime spotlight, the R&B genre shines bright, at least in 2015.

Since 1991 the Juno Awards have honoured the category of rap music with “Rap Recording of the Year”, however, the award has only been televised on the main broadcast once. This of course was after the highly publicized rejection of the 1998 award by The Rascalz, as the group members were upset by the lack of airtime rap artists received on a national level. The following year the group returned to perform “Northern Touch” at the live broadcast of the Juno Awards, along with fellow hip-hop artists Kardinal Offishall, Checkmate, Thrust and Choclair. The award itself has never again been televised during the main Sunday night broadcast.

R&B Singer Melanie Durrant keeps it classy on the red carpet.

R&B Singer Melanie Durrant keeps it classy on the red carpet.

The Juno Awards have come a long way; the show is a major production that brings in millions of viewers across Canada. The show has even been hosted by two Canadian hip-hop acts, Drake (2011) and Classified (2014), but one thing remains the same, none of the urban music genre awards are presented on TV.

“I think it’s pretty wack that the Junos don’t really show us that love,” says Toronto emcee Tre Mission. “Rap Recording of the Year should be televised.”

Mission, one of the nominees in this year’s rap category, lost out to fellow Toronto rappers, Naturally Born Strangers (Tona, Adam Bomb and Rich Kidd), who won the award. Rich Kidd who wasn’t at the gala dinner (held the night before the awards) sent in an e-mail response that read, “I want to thank my mom… and Carly Rae Jepsen for being so damn fine.” It was probably one of the best speeches of the night and gave the Saturday night gala dinner a much-needed comedic boost.

For artists like Adam Bomb being a rapper based in Canada is no easy task and often success is limited. During his acceptance speech Bomb shares the many sacrifices he’s made along the way – all the while wondering if anyone even cares to listen to his music.

“If you can do it from here, in [Canada], it’s a great thing to be celebrated in your own hometown by your own people,” says Adam Bomb. “We’ve done a lot of shows where the turnout was a lot more than expected.”

The struggle to make it in Canada as an urban artist provides even more reason for those whom achieve success to be given the chance to celebrate on a nationally televised broadcast. These artists aren’t asking to take over the award show, but rather to have an equal balance of representation.

One of the legends in Canadian hip-hop, Saukrates, views the glass as half full rather than half empty though. He praises the Junos for its progress in recent years, and salutes the Canadian music fans for starting to embrace their own.

“Things have grown, the scene in Canada has grown; it’s not only about the Junos, it’s also about us acknowledging on every plateau, our urban talent and skill.” – Saukrates

“The proof is in the pudding, when an urban comedian or urban hip-hop artist can be given the opportunity to host an event that is this big, basically the Grammys of Canada, you can’t really complain too much,” explains Saukrates, adding, “Things have grown, the scene in Canada has grown; it’s not only about the Junos, it’s also about us acknowledging on every plateau, our urban talent and skill.”

Saukrates may have been onto something – Sunday night’s nationally broadcasted show saw R&B star The Weeknd walk away with two awards including Artist of the Year. This is after he gave one of the most talked about performances of the night for his single “Earned It”.

“What The Weeknd has done with R&B, even though some people might call it alternative, he [has] reinvented it,” declares Saukrates. “So it’s still R&B, but it’s a new way of doing it.”

Photos By. Janelle Scott-Johnson