The best part about flourishing amidst an urban industry so small is that there is so much to accomplish, so many new opportunities to be made, so many lanes to pave and it’s just so very easy to feel important, for doing next to nothing – opening for an up-and-coming U.S. act, writing a blog post, hell, even getting a photo with a celebrity is grounds for braggadocio in Toronto. But the second you let it get to your head, is the second you’ll find yourself as a crab in the bucket, fighting for a chance to get back out.

For the next few minutes while you’re reading this column, I ask you to kindly remove the chip that has positioned itself on your shoulder. I’m not firing shots, but rather pointing out the hard truths that continue to hold our community back from becoming what it can be. It’s time to open your mind, look outside of yourself for just a moment and get real. I’m looking at you, but I’m looking at myself too.

Toronto’s been known for its attitude, its ego and its full-on haters, but it seems to have become more than a screwface, evolving into a barrier that is detrimental to any type of growth for our community at all.

Rather than acknowledge our talent, accomplishments, opportunities, events, infrastructure and potential, we dilute it to its negativity with constant criticism of any move that anyone other than ourselves make within the city.

We’re never good enough for ourselves. Crickets when your local artist asks you to make some noise. An empty venue when there is no U.S. headliner. Minimal reads of an interview with a Toronto artist. “It’s been done.” “I did it better.” “Our local acts suck.” “He’s a nobody, why should I support?” “She’s only covering the show, because she knows the promoter.” “I interviewed that artist first.” “My event had more people.”

Elitism with no grounds for such arrogance.

It’s as if flack for your every achievement is an indication that you are doing something worth doing. To accomplish any type of strides in this Toronto industry, first and foremost, you can’t be afraid of any type of hate from every angle possible, because you WILL be hated by just about everyone — your competition, your peers, your fans, the people you look up to, social media followers and your family and friends who will be wondering why you put so much of yourself into a community that tries to drain you from your passion for it. Don’t get paranoid, it’s just facts.

Competition is healthy. Competition is needed, to push one another to continue making moves, which will in turn, only creates a greater momentum within the city. But with no unity and an influx of pessimism in such an underdeveloped community, we’re hustling backwards, making it harder on ourselves to succeed, just because we want to be the first, the best, the only one to make it.

The Toronto hip-hop community doesn’t need more tastemakers, media, executives and promoters interested in their own self-gain over that of the Toronto hip-hop culture they claim only when necessary.

It’s come to the point where snaking takes place just to one-up each other and I’ve begun to question intent. The Toronto hip-hop community doesn’t need more tastemakers, media, executives and promoters interested in their own self-gain over that of the Toronto hip-hop culture they claim only when necessary.

Let’s leave the braggadocio to the rich rappers… and Elliott Wilson. Our local industry is too small to support egos that large and it has too much potential to be used as a doormat for ulterior intentions. Personal success is celebratory, but not at the cost of a community.

More than one of us can win. We can all win. We all have different strengths, perspectives, passions and end goals, so collaboration, unification, or just a little support, shouldn’t be such a far-fetched idea. I’m not talking a Utopia, but maybe some genuine pride in someone besides ourselves for a change could go a long way.

So, in true #Samantics fashion, I have created a crab checklist, because it’s time many of us check ourselves:

  • The “I did it first” haters. Someone who only values another’s accomplishments if it’s never been done. It’s about who does it best, not first. Don’t make me pull out the Drake line.
  • The constant need to downplay other people’s accomplishments just to ensure our own superiority.
  • Cliques. Loyalty to your crew is good, but loyalty to your city is better.
  • The constant need to out-do everyone else, by any means necessary. Serpent movements.
  • Trying to “little bro” others. The backhanded compliments flow rapidly in our inner-city circles.
  • Filters of bias from those the community depends on to be critical.
  • Comparing levels of success, eliminating an opportunity for growth. Not all of our local hip-hop shows can immediately be OVO Fest.
  • Judgement for attempting new things. We aren’t always going to succeed.
  • Grudges. The city is too small for the personal mess.
  • The “It’s not me so it’s no good,” mentality.
  • Replacing culture with industry.

What does any of this do for the Toronto hip-hop community? Have you noticed any of these qualities in yourself, or are there any that I have missed? Let’s keep the list going and continue the conversation.

Big up everyone making moves. Your blog posts, your local showcases, your mixtapes, your beats, your interviews, your radio shows, your art projects, your spoken word performances, your clothing lines, your photography, your fashion shows, your fundraisers, your comedy shows, your dance performances, your theatre presentations, your short films. Anyone doing anything else for the urban community in Toronto, I see you.

Photo By. Janelle Scott-Johnson

Samantics is a weekly column, written by columnist Samantha O’Connor, highlighting and discussing the Toronto hip-hop community – the talent, the identity, the events, the slang, the industry and all things in between.

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