Showcase breaks new ground for aspiring Canadian urban music artists

What we’re doing here is building a foundation, so we don’t have to go across the border to make it work!” Rapper Goliath Paw shouts this to the crowd gathered inside Toronto’s Adelaide Hall for the Canadian Urban Music Conference’s Young and Poppin’ music showcase. His words are met with hoots, hollers and banging on every available surface.

The rapper, who sports a mohawk, a Misfits T-shirt, dark shades and a raccoon tail clipped to his pants, performs a diverse set that meshes together hints of rock, pop and EDM with hip-hop. He highlights a common struggle in his closing number “9 to 5” of working at a job that does not satisfy. It’s exactly what all the night’s featured artists are trying not to do. They want to live their dreams to the fullest and turn what they love to do into a career.

“I think we need more positive things like this just to kinda bring people together… I think something like this, if we can keep it consistent and continue to build on it, people from outside [of Canada] can come in and learn about our industry and really take advantage of the gems we’re giving out here.” – JD Era

Also on the Young and Poppin’ bill is Honey Jam alum and Saskatchewan native Yoana Rae, who delivers clever lyrics referencing lines from classic romance films like Love and Basketball, singing, “I’ll play for your heart.”

“I think it’s nice because it’s tuning into a niche market that is kind of neglected,” says Canadian singer Daniella Watters, about the showcase, which aims to spotlight urban music genres like hip-hop, R&B, neo-soul, reggae, soca and African-pop. “There’s awesome conferences that Canadian Music Week puts on and I love going to that, but it’s not specific to urban music, so it’s nice to have a more contained community with similar genres and to really connect with each other and learn about the specific issues relating to that market.”

JD Era, who is the headliner for the night, agrees with Watters. “I think it definitely has a positive impact and positive influence on the industry,” he says. “I think we need more positive things like this just to kinda bring people together… I think something like this, if we can keep it consistent and continue to build on it, people from outside [of Canada] can come in and learn about our industry and really take advantage of the gems we’re giving out here.”

Words By. Rebecca Akrasi-Sarpong + Photos By. Christina Inniss