The Artery

14 March 2024 / by Met Radio
An illustrated image of a sign post with two street signs on it - one reads "The" and the other "Artery". Below the signs, it reads "with Met Radio, by Delphine Winton and Micah Chu".

Passion for music? History? Toronto? All of the above? Come tune in to “The Artery,” a four-part series hosted by Delphine Winton and Micah Chu! Tag along as they delve into the history behind different music scenes in Toronto, highlighting the people, venues, sound, and major incidents.

Each episode focuses on a different genre and scene, moving from past to present, rise to downfall. As well, hear from first-hand witnesses through interviews with artists, producers, and venue owners.

Born from a mutual love of music and the city, Delphine and Micah are fellow concert goers and Toronto residents who made it their mission to uncover the lesser known histories behind some of the most celebrated tunes. “The Artery” will inspire, educate, and most of all, entertain!


Episode 1: Punk & Hardcore

DELPHINE: Hello, I’m Delphine Winton and you’re listening to The Artery, a podcast for Met Radio CJTM 1280 AM. Each episode we’re going to be taking a look at a different part of the music scene in Toronto, past and present.

DELPHINE:This episode I’m here with my co-host Micah Chu and we’re gonna take a look at the early punk scene in Toronto.

MICAH: Hello.

DELPHINE: So punk rock as a genre emerged in the 70s out of 60s garage rock and the glam rock of the UK. Punk took hold in the US with acts like Patti Smith and the Ramones and in the UK with the Sex Pistols and The Clash. The aggressive anti-establishment style of punk rock tended to appeal to people who were rejecting the mainstream and looking for something a little bit more counterculture. Toronto in the 70s was a pretty quiet place but the young people in the city weren’t about to let this cultural moment go by without leaving their mark. 

GARY: And Toronto actually had an amazing punk, new wave, whatever you call it, new music, whatever you want to call it scene for a decade or so and especially in the mid 70s. 

DELPHINE: This is Gary Topp, who ran venues like the Roxy Theatre, the New Yorker and the Horseshoe Tavern. He was a huge part of booking artists and getting the Toronto punk scene off the ground. 

GARY: When you listen to some of these records that they put out, when you listen to them now or you put them on like, you know, I once made a mix for a show of all Toronto punk bands from back then. And the variety was actually, I think, stronger than in England and maybe stronger than even in New York. 

COLIN: It’s hard to define when the punk scene actually started. But for Toronto, it really kicked off, like if you needed a punctuation point for when it started in Toronto, it was The Ramones first show, The New Yorker in September 76. 

DELPHINE: Colin Brinton is a filmmaker who filmed, in full, a concert at the Horseshoe Tavern in 1978. 

COLIN: You know, one night I drove down Spadina around 11 o’clock on a weeknight and I just smoked a big joint and I thought, you know, rush hour business is going to start soon. I better air the cab out a little bit. So I parked in front of The Horseshoe to get the stink of pot out of my car. Went in there, kind of heard these people talking about this thing called the Last Pogo, which was going to be the Gary’s last big show of their reign there. And really, kind of the end of the original punk era and you know I was high and I was just like, “you know what, I’m gonna make a movie about this.” And I had taken a weekend filmmaking course, I kind of knew a little bit but not very much. And the next morning I woke up when I was clear-headed and thought “you know, that actually is a really good idea.” And so, without having been trained. without having any money, I was making 30-40 bucks a night as a cab driver. All I had was the desire, you know, and so I just somehow went ahead and did it. You know, the aftermath was that I was in terrible debt for 10 years because I didn’t understand how expensive it was to make a film. But that’s the kind of attitude that The Ramones and then the punk scene kind of gave to you, right? That you didn’t have to be adept at things. If you had something original or fresh, you should just go out there and do it and, you know, damn the torpedoes. 

DELPHINE: The concert ended in rioting, with Colin’s crew being taken outside by police, with only the sound recorders sticking around inside. The punk scene was super tight-knit to begin with, with most of the bands coming from the Ontario College of Art, which is now OCAD. 

COLIN: And all of a sudden, you started seeing these things you’d never seen before, which were handbills posted on telephone poles and stuff. And these bands, this whole scene just kind of erupted and they would, you know, you would maybe catch them at the Colonial. Or, you know, through word of mouth you’d find out, you know, because obviously there’s no internet so it was all very word of mouth for anything back then. So for example, it was like, one night it was like, “hey, you know, the Vile Tones are playing at this flat above a store on Yonge Street, you want to go?” And you go there and they’d have, it was kind of like, in a way it was kind of like a pop-up speakeasy. So you go in there and you pay a couple of bucks for beer and you see this performance. So it was really, it was like a secret club. 

DELPHINE: A lot of punk in Toronto revolved around movie theatre spaces, specifically spaces run by Gary Topp.

COLIN: There was also a thing where The Roxy and The New Yorker were programmed by, kind of a legendary Toronto promoter called Gary Topp. And to this day, you can just trust this guy’s taste. He just has exquisite taste in music, film and art. So, I can almost guarantee that if you see a Gary Topp show, if you’re all inclined towards whatever genre it is, you’re gonna go and discover something. It was all about, it was all about discovery and, you know, looking for kicks, right? Looking for new things to enjoy. 

GARY: I started a repertory cinema called the Original 99-Cent Roxy. For those listening in Toronto, it was in Toronto and on Danforth, Danforth and Greenwood. And I used to show two movies a day or a night for 99 cents. 

DELPHINE: Did you ever walk west on Danforth and you saw that weird, like, combination Tim’s Esso that’s a movie theater?

MICAH: Yes, I took photos of it. The first time I saw it I was like, “what is this?” Because it’s like, because it has like the signage, like where you’re supposed to put like, what’s screening or whatever. And it just says like, Tim’s and Esso, which is crazy. 

DELPHINE: Yeah, that’s The Roxy. They kept the original facade of the theater. 

MICAH: It’s kind of tragic that it’s no longer a venue. 

DELPHINE: I know, it’s sad, but I do think it’s beautiful as a Tim’s Esso. 

MICAH: There’s something like, I don’t know, something unreal about it.

DELPHINE: I saw a video recently of a hardcore show in some Midwest American state being done in a gas station. I think this would be a perfect venue for a hardcore show. 

MICAH: Yes. I wonder why they haven’t tried doing that yet. 

DELPHINE: I’d be so happy to do a hardcore show in the Tim’s Esso that was previously the Roxy. 

MICAH: The combination Tim’s and Esso. 

DELPHINE: In the combination Tim’s and Esso at the hardcore show. We should try and get this going. 

MICAH: We should. 

DELPHINE: But as pivotal as it was, the Roxy couldn’t last forever.

GARY: You know, when I started the Roxy, I mean, it was so popular. It got tons of press, like in the newspapers and on radio. And we were selling like 700 tickets a night. Other movie theaters had like 40 people in their theaters. You know, they were calling the film distributors. They’re the people that represent the movies and saying, “you can’t book them, they’re putting us out of business” kind of thing, right? We’re only 99 cents, but still people were coming. And a lot, and because it was so eclectic, it drew a crowd of people who were eclectic and who were interested in different things, you know? It was kind of like Animal House when we ran it. It was kind of weird. You didn’t really know what was going on, you know? You could show Texas Chainsaw Massacre. And we’d have like a guy, you know, when Leatherhead comes down with his truck running down the aisle with a real chainsaw. But the people were eclectic and they were into the arts. It started to look like, and it actually happened, that a lot of the people, kids that came to this theater started forming punk bands. When I left the Roxy in 1975, for various reasons, and moved to a theatre on Yonge Street just south of Bloor called The New Yorker. And The New Yorker had been, well, it had been like probably the most influential art cinema in Toronto. Art being, you know, foreign films and whatever, stuff that wasn’t really available anywhere else or being shown anywhere else. And in fact, that’s the place that Easy Rider played for three years. Anyway, it was vacant and [I] decided to move there. And after a while of doing, you know, this is like five years of playing, showing two movies a night and all night shows and a 24 hour show, marathons and everything. And because I really like music, I decided to build a stage in front of the screen. Back to the music at the theaters, I always played my own music, you know, when people were coming in or between movies and whatever. So, you know, I might’ve been like one of the first real sort of live DJs. 


GARY: Because I, you know, I played a mix of music appropriate to each event, each movie screening. And so when we’re at the New Yorker, [I] decided to build a stage and my wife’s brother and her friends came down from Huntsville, Ontario and build a concrete stage. And when the theater inspector saw it, he questioned why it was out of concrete. He said two things, he said it could be a fallout shelter and you could put an elephant on it. It was kind of crazy. So at that point, I have a stage.

COLIN: We used to show John Waters all his early short films, and then we showed Pink Flamingos, and he became friends, you know, friendly with Gary Topp, and you know, Gary Topp phoned him one day and said, hey, you should check out this new punk scene. And you know, it took maybe a year for John Waters to cast the Dead Boys lead singer, Stiff Baderz in one of his films. So there was a real kind of interesting zeitgeist, I think. And just like there was adventure and fun in the air all the time. 

DELPHINE: Another employee of the New Yorker was Alex Currie, who you might know as the muralist who painted the outside of Lee’s Palace. 

DELPHINE: So I was talking to Colin Brunton earlier. He made… 

ALEX: Right. 

DELPHINE: Yeah, you remember. 

ALEX: Yeah, I was roommates with him. 

DELPHINE: Oh, really? 

ALEX: Yeah, and I worked at The New Yorker with him.

COLIN: Alex, Al Runt is hilarious. He used to be one of our favorites at The Roxy Theater. He would come in when he was underage. He’d come home with his mom. His mom would ask us, you know, “Is it okay for him to see this restricted movie?” We’d have a quick conference, go, “No, no, no, it’s fine. It’s fine. He’ll be fine.” And we’d let Alex in and little Alex, little 12-year-old, 14-year-old Alex into the Roxy to see restricted movies.

ALEX: This is when Yonge Street was just like, there was so much action happening in a condensed area. 


ALEX: But I was more like just working, like I was more like, I just happened to luck out to be working in that environment. 

GARY: I went to a friend who was the biggest music agent in the country, David Blustein. And, you know, for him to tell me, you know, what I needed and where to put the plugs and all that stuff for sound and lights and the band equipment and all that. And, you know, we went through that and he said, “who do you want to book?” And I said, well, “do you know a band called the Ramones?” And he hadn’t. I said, “that’s who I want to book.” 

DELPHINE: The Ramones at the New Yorker Theatre kept coming up as a sort of inflection point for the punk scene here. 

COLIN: Three shows, 500 seat theatre, not a bad seat in the house. And they were not all sold out, but it was mind blowing. And it was like that, it was kind of like that. It really is similar to that notion that, not that many people bought the Velvet Underground’s first record, but everyone did start a band. 

ALEX: Like I remember they had, because the dressing room was the basement, and the basement was just a storage thing. So they had a thing where they’re trying to make it nice for, because after this, they would try to start booking more bands and performers and stuff like that. And I just remember them being, I remember specifically Dee Dee was really, really sweet. 

GARY: So it was very exciting. It was the first time they played out in New York other than going to England once. So it was a very monumental show. And again, I’m, you know, proud to have done, you know, about 36 shows with them over their career. 

DELPHINE: After the New Yorker Theatre closed, the punk scene in Toronto didn’t slow down.

GARY: At that point, we had been, the owner of The New Yorker raised the rent on us and it was way too much. We couldn’t afford it. And I was kind of getting tired of, you know, after that long, showing movies and trying to make the double bills and programs interesting. The New Yorker was, The Horseshoe was available. So, somebody that Gary Cormier knew, had asked us if we wanted to move our shows to The Horseshoe, which was a country bar at the time. And we said yes. So we did our show on January 15th, 78 with Carla Blay, packed up, drove down to The Horseshoe and worked all night and most of the next day building, moving the stage from where it was initially at the top of the stairs, going into the room where there is a bar now and moved it to the current position where it is now. 

ALEX: After Gary closed the New Yorker, he opened The Horseshoe Tavern. And so I was hired there in, I guess it was 78 and it was funny. I didn’t really have a defined job. You know, they had, they had, uh, bartenders and they had busboys and stuff like that. So I just actually got paid to hang around and then I started doing the handbills, all the horseshoe handbills while the Gary’s were there for nine months in 78 and, you know, I hung out. 

MICAH: I think I’ve been to the Horseshoe Tavern like once, but I need to go back there.

DELPHINE: I’ve been to the Horseshoe Tavern once as well and I feel bad because I feel like it’s such a… 

MICAH: It’s such a, like, staple. 

DELPHINE: It’s, yeah. 

MICAH: If you’ve ever been on like, on Reddit looking for venues and places to go to shows, Horseshoe Tavern is always mentioned. 

DELPHINE: Yeah, Horseshoe’s the one. I saw the band of a guy I knew from high school there, which I feel like is a very Toronto thing to do.

MICAH: Yeah. 

DELPHINE: Of course you grew up in Toronto and you’re seeing a band of the guy you knew from high school at The Horseshoe. And I had a friend who drove up from Buffalo to see Sports Team, I think was the band. Which they said caused them quite a bit of problems at the border because the border people were like “What are you going to see?” And they were like, “a band,” and the guys were like, “what’s the band?” And they were like “sports team.” They were like “you’re seeing a sports team?” and my friend was like, “no, I’m seeing a band.” And they were like “sports team?”

MICAH: Sorry. 

DELPHINE: Yeah, so that was a bit of an issue, but the horseshoe is stunning inside.

MICAH: It is so beautiful. But so many venues are really beautiful inside, like Opera House. 

DELPHINE: Yes. Oh, the Opera House is beautiful. 

MICAH: Oh my God. 

DELPHINE: The Opera House is an interesting one as well because it originally opened as a vaudeville theater. 

MICAH: Yeah, well you can kind of still see the roots in that. 

DELPHINE: You can really tell. 

MICAH: With their decor and stuff. 

COLIN: People didn’t get spoon fed what they should like through, you know, social media algorithms, you searched out things. And one of the places you went to search for new stuff was the Roxy Theater, the original 99-Cents and Roxy Theater or the New Yorker. So you would go in there and so not only would you see, you know, whatever double bill you went to see, but as you went in there, the music that was played over the PA was also a discovery. 

GARY: The movies and the music, I only booked what I liked.


GARY: Totally. You know, my taste isn’t very, I mean, I do like mainstream stuff, but my taste is basically eclectic and I, you know, and I never I’ve never really cared to, to present artists or movies that didn’t mean everything to me, you know, like, there’s no point. It’s too hard job booking something, promoting something, running the event, and trying to make money. So if you don’t like it, don’t do it. I mean, I think that’s a lesson in life, really. 


GARY: If you can afford to do it. 

ALEX: That sort of, I guess, culture or music or movies was just appealing to someone like me, just like, you know, like, you know, hockey is appealing to other people, but not me. 


ALEX: I think it’s part of my, you know? 


ALEX: It’s, you know, it’s sort of like sexuality, you know? I can’t help it. I’m just drawn to bad art and monsters. 

DELPHINE: Why do you think, like, some people are really drawn to, like, weird media and some people just aren’t? 

MICAH: That thing where people are like, “oh, sexuality is built when you’re young?” It’s like that I feel like it’s really like what you like got exposed to as a child. Not even in, like, a weird way, but just like what you consumed in media as a child. 

DELPHINE: You’re taking a hard stance on sexuality here. 

MICAH: Well, like I just feel like a lot of what you are like in your later life is established by what you experience as a kid. 


MICAH: You know, and I think that’s the same with weird art and like weird things. It’s like, if you were around weird things as a kid, I feel like that’s just what you gravitate towards. It’s like all of those kids who grew up with parents who listen to dad rock and then they get older and they’re really into dad rock. Like, I feel like if they weren’t, if their like parents weren’t playing dad rock all the time, they wouldn’t be into that when they’re older. I feel like there’s just, it’s like rewiring your brain. 

DELPHINE: Yeah, I mean, I know that’s definitely true for me. Like my parents are like weird nerds who are into weird nerdy things. And now I’m a weird nerd who’s into weird nerdy things. Like I was raised on like MythBusters and Lord of the Rings. I was not raised on whatever Barbie: Princess Dreamhouse or whatever other children were watching. 

MICAH: Yeah, I feel like

DELPHINE: No hate to Barbie: Princess Dreamhouse, I’m sure it’s good. 

MICAH: No hate to it. 

DELPHINE: No hate to it, but I didn’t even have access to it. Like I could’ve watched it if I wanted to.

MICAH: I got raised on, like, my media was Chinese Teletubbies.


MICAH: Like there’s no way I would have come out normal.

DELPHINE: And do you think that affected you today? 

MICAH: No, absolutely. 

DELPHINE: If you ask Alex Currie why he thinks people were drawn to the punk scene in the 70s, he has an easy answer for you. 

ALEX: I don’t think there, I mean it’s just really simple. It was just really good music.

DELPHINE: The Artery is a four-episode miniseries airing on Mattradio CJTM 1280 AM, so be sure to check out the other episodes to hear us explore the history of other music genres in Toronto. This episode was written by Delphine Winton and hosted by Delphine Winton and Micah Chu. Theme song by Natasha Cyberg-Olson. Special thanks to Sara Gillani, Quinton Bradshaw, Colin Brunton, Alex Currie, and Gary Topp.


Episode 2: Rave

MICAH: Hello, hello, welcome back to The Artery. This is the second episode of our four-part mini-series, airing on Met Radio CJTM 1280 AM. Each episode dives into the history of a different music genre and the Toronto scene, as well as the people involved.

MICAH: I am Micah Chu and I’m here with my co-host Delphine Winton. 


MICAH: This episode we are focusing on the history of rave and dance music in Toronto. We will also be discussing recreational drug use, overdose, and harm reduction. We encourage everyone to do their own research pertaining to these topics and have provided some resources on as a starting point. 

MICAH: So raves first emerged in London, England in the 1950s. And the word rave had always been used to describe wild parties, mostly with youth or younger people. It was originally associated with garage rock and psychedelia, if you can imagine, in the 60s. And it wasn’t until the 80s when electronic music became the norm. And that’s kind of what we associate with raves now. You don’t really go to a rave to get garage rock. 

DELPHINE: Can you imagine people in the 50s raving? 

MICAH: They’re raving to like dad rock music. 

DELPHINE: In those fit and flare dresses? Are you kidding me? 

MICAH: Wait, no. That would have been really cool. 

DELPHINE: The characters in Mad Men at a rave.

MICAH: The characters in Mad Men at a rave. We should expand rave fashion.

DELPHINE: We should be thinking on this. 

MICAH: We should be thinking. Raving hit a peak in the 90s, which is when it had spread to America and Canada. And that’s where many of the subgenres, like drum n bass or dubstep, kind of began. The parties themselves have a history of being hosted in abandoned and unusual locations, so places like warehouses and parking garages. 

DELPHINE: I saw a rave in a sewer at one point. 

MICAH: Oh. I remember back, I don’t remember when, but probably the 90s and early 2000s, they had raves in the Science Center. Right? 

DELPHINE: I want to be there. 

MICAH: Yeah, I think we should bring that back.

MICAH: Today, raves are still an important fixture in Toronto’s underground music world. But it is nothing compared to what it was like in the 90s and the early 2000s, which was kind of the peak of dance music and parties in the city. Unfortunately, I was not there. Neither were you. We were just being born. 

DELPHINE: I was in the womb. 

MICAH: We were in the womb. But the people who were there can attest to it being really big essentially. The events were really huge and the scene was kind of at its peak. It was pretty electric. Unfortunately, the big parties came with even bigger drama and political fights about raving in the city, specifically the city of Toronto because that’s what we’re talking about today. And that’s what dominated the Y2K era.

MICAH: So, that’s what we’re talking about today in this episode of The Artery. We’re exploring the roots of raving in Toronto and how this tumultuous period changed the culture for the better or the worse. Throughout we’ll be hearing from Ryan Krueger. He is the president of Destiny Events and previous managing director of Live Nation’s Electronic Nation Canada. That is a mouthful. But maybe more importantly, he was present during many major events of the electronic music scene and he’s even sometimes known as the longest running rave promoter in Canada. 


MICAH: Yeah. Big achievement, honestly. But it was a different time back then, because there was no social media, cell phones, easy access to internet, and finding parties were harder, and the job of a rave promoter was much different.

MICAH: A promoter’s job was basically everything that was related to getting an event going. So they pass the flyers, they book artists, they found venues, and so on and so forth. Obviously, some of those tasks would get delegated as they grew, but it really was like a one-person job at the start, which I think is how it’s like for many, many artistic things at the beginning. I remember making a lot of films by myself.

DELPHINE: Do you, have you heard of street teams? 

MICAH: No. I think this was kind of cool. 

DELPHINE: They were sometimes, they’re around now still, but it was really prevalent like in the 2000s. Sometimes it would be like artist condoned or like supported. Sometimes it was just rogue, but it was basically free advertising. Like for a new show or an album, they’d have like the street teams go out and put up posters and put stickers on stuff and like do like guerrilla marketing sort of. And sometimes you would get like stuff back from being part of the street teams, like you’d get free posters you’d get whatever whatever.

MICAH: Wait, that’s something that I would do just for like the fun of it. 

DELPHINE: Oh you weren’t paid, everyone was doing it for the fun of it. 

MICAH: Yeah no, cause I love putting posters and like stickers around places and if I could get like a poster a sticker in return. 

DELPHINE: Yeah, it was big in this sort of the emo music Warp Tour vibe of the 2000s. But maybe we should bring it back. We don’t really have it around as much anymore. 

MICAH: I’m sure there was stuff like that within raves too because the rave scene was very kind of like the do it yourself, not much money going into it at the beginning situation. 


RYAN: Finding out information was literally having to find a piece of paper somewhere, right? You had to go from store to store downtown on Queen Street, or you had to hope somebody handed you one, walking out of a nightclub, or maybe a buddy told you about it, or that kind of thing. But it wasn’t the easiest thing to do, to find where these things were happening. Obviously it became much easier once we were going, because everybody who was doing another one promoted the other one, and you got a stack of flyers, thicker than a baby’s arm on the way out of the room. But back then it took a bit, took a little bit of research, and finally found some stuff that was pretty cool, went to a party called Chemistry, went to a party called Nitrous. And they’re about a month or two apart. Like it wasn’t like you could go out and do this kind of stuff every week. But just, you know, my love of doing this very quickly grew. I got to know some people within the first year who were doing these parties called Mayhem, joined forces with them to help promote and put a few bucks in to sort of be part of the crew. You know, loved my first taste of promoting. Then subsequently brought a group of guys together who own their own companies. The amalgamation of these four companies became known as Destiny.

MICAH: Destiny events is an independent production company and it was started to promote rave and dance events. They’re actually the largest and longest running one in Canada. But this was in the early days, back when the events drew crowds in just the hundreds. And then in 1995, they started WEMF, which is the World Electronic Music Festival. 

DELPHINE: I love that, WEMF. 

MICAH: WEMF, it actually wasn’t WEMF at the time. 


MICAH: Yeah, unfortunately. 

RYAN: Actually at the time we called it WTF. And once again, I know it seems funny now at the time, no internet, no acronyms. So actually WTF didn’t actually mean what WTF means now. It actually meant, at the time, World Trans Festival. But, you know, the acronym itself didn’t have any significance. So it was kind of funny that it obviously became something completely different.

MICAH: WEMF was a three-day event that took place in different locations throughout southwestern Ontario and it lasted all the way until 2012. What was so special about the 1995 festival beyond it being like the first one were the events that led to it being called the tornado rave. 

RYAN: We rented out the center of the racetrack up at MosSport, east of Toronto, you know had a decent turnout on the Friday. Maybe 1,000, 1,500 people to camp for the weekend and enjoy the show. But Friday night at some point, the skies went black, the wind picked up, and a tornado literally ripped through the event, maybe within a half a kilometer. It was really close. So we had tents being destroyed, we had sound systems being destroyed, we had people being thrown through the air. Like it was pretty crazy. Luckily nobody got injured in any serious way. But what came of this was really interesting because back then, like I said, pre-internet, the way you generally find out about things in a mass market way was the radio or television. And around this time, Energy 108 had sort of started up as the dance music channel in Toronto because there had been this big, massive wave of people being into dance music. And they started talking about it. The DJs started talking about the Tornado Rave. And everybody who was into dance music heard this and they all got in their cars and they all drove out and all of a sudden we had thousands of people lined up outside the gates coming up on the Saturday to be part of history to be part of the tornado rave. So what could have been a disaster, and by the way, we got everything kind of set up in a way that we were able to run one big stage out of the mess of the previous three. And, we were able to throw this amazing party for thousands of people that, you know, may have ended our rave promoting careers the night before but actually created our rave promoting careers the next day. 

MICAH: This almost disastrous event brought eyes and ears to Destiny, positive ones. 

RYAN: And from then on you know the events started getting bigger and bigger. WEMF, the three-day festival, got bigger and bigger and bigger. We ended up sort of maxing out, you know, at about 25,000 people a day, you know, within a couple of years of that. So that was significant on the scale of other major festivals in Canada at the time, maybe one of the biggest. If you’re thinking about three days and having 75,000 people on your grounds over that time, that was pretty big back then. And then we had what you wanted to talk about, which was a problem. 

MICAH: This problem was the continued growth of the scene, enough so that it couldn’t really be considered underground anymore, and consequently drugs got involved. But this only brought the eyes of concerned parents and media to the parties. 

RYAN: We had some, we had some drug issues. I wouldn’t say it was like massive or widespread. I mean, I think that if you compare the number of people that got in their cars and drove home drunk in that same era, a lot more, you know, came to, you know, injury or death than ever did in the rave scene. But, you know, kids on drugs, right? I mean, yeah. What makes headlines, you know, a 25 year old man smashing his car into the wall or, you know, a kid doing a drug you’ve never heard of and sounds crazy and, you know, unfortunately, you know, having medical issues or pass away from it. And obviously that was, that was what made the headlines. 

MICAH: Raves were hitting the news and the news wasn’t a fan of what it saw. 

RYAN: So they, you know, they got counsel, a very uninformed counsel, you know, sort of just say, oh, kids on drugs. Yeah, we should stop that. Right. So they banned raves. And I remember the exact way that they, you know, they wrote it up, but in a sense, they wrote it in a way that, you know, essentially we’re trying to stop what we get, whether it was repetitive beats or the number of people in a room or electronic music. Like whatever the terminology that was used, it was silly, you know, it screamed of, you know, the, like I said, the reefer madness of days of old or Elvis shaking his hips or, you know, whatever other weird analogy you want to come up with, but it was silly. I mean, it was, it was, it was dumb. You’re trying to tell people they can’t dance. 

MICAH: No one disagreed that drug use happened within the rave scene because unfortunately it did, as it does in most underground music scenes and in society in general. What people were against was the reaction to this knowledge. In 1999, three drug-related deaths occurred at raves. The third was a 21-year-old student at then Ryerson, now Toronto Metropolitan University, Allen Ho. His death sparked a coroner’s inquest, which led to city hall debates. And in the end, this led to what is now known as the rave ban. 

RYAN: You know, it essentially took the livelihood away from hundreds, if not thousands of people. It’s not just the DJs and the promoters. You’ve got everybody. You’ve got people selling glow sticks. You’ve got venue owners. You’ve got sound companies. You’ve got riggers. You’ve got staging, lighting, you’ve got people selling energy drinks. Like, you know, the amount of people that are involved in doing large scale events like this is huge, right? So you’ve literally taken the income and a lot of people are focused 100% on this scene. Like this is their job, right? The venue is still going to rent to somebody else, but you know, the promoter isn’t going to promote anything else. You know, the whatever, I mean, I can go on and on. So anyway, obviously this hits a lot of people the wrong way. And it hits a lot of people who believe in individual rights and freedoms and everything else the wrong way. And it’s the heavy hand of government trying to hit an ant with a hammer. 

MICAH: Most people agree this was a very harsh response to something that needed more discussion and nuance. However, there was some good that came out of this. The inquest prompted rave promoters and harm reduction organizations to kind of band together and there was a push for drug education that really began then. Yeah, the good thing is that now there’s like a lot of harm reduction. 

DELPHINE: Yeah, harm reduction is big now, especially in, like, more progressive spaces, I feel like it’s like by far like the dominant mindset when it comes to drug use. 

MICAH: I think also, like, if you go to any kind of, like, big events, like if you go to Pride and stuff, people will always be carrying like naloxone kits and stuff like that. So it’s really, it’s kind of spread more, which is good, because drug use has not gone down, unfortunately. But we can only kind of make it more safe. And I think the big thing is that like putting the responsibility of making it safer on just one person or like one group of people is difficult, you know? They can’t really keep control of such a widespread issue. So I think spreading the education around is important. That way it’s kind of like a public thing, and people can help each other. 

DELPHINE: Yeah, it feels like a sort of paradoxical concept, because it feels like you ban drugs, and people don’t do them anymore. Whereas, like, why would you be helping people do drugs? But if you look at the statistics, and if you really think about it critically, like, harm reduction is a lot more helpful because like bans, like they just don’t work. 

MICAH: They just don’t work. People find things around, like they find their way to get drugs regardless. 

DELPHINE: And it just makes it more dangerous. 

MICAH: Yeah, which I think was a big reason why people were against the rave ban too because banning the raves wasn’t banning the drugs. 

DELPHINE: And banning raves, it’s just gonna make raves a lot more dangerous. 

MICAH: A lot more dangerous. 

DELPHINE: A lot more weird and secretive and, like, a lot less supported. 

MICAH: Yeah. And another thing about banning the raves is that other than just, like, losing kind of like the expression in the entertainment that having rave events gave it also lost people their jobs. Because once raves are banned even if you have those, like, secretive raves, a lot of people aren’t working legally in that case and really make money the same way. 

RYAN: A very good friend of mine at the time and to this day my best friend, a guy named Will Chang, who was a young lawyer at the time, and was also a big fan of going to raves, decided this was something he wanted to get involved with. This was something he wanted to put his flag on the ground and stand up for and use his knowledge to help us. So I really credit Will with really making this something real, as opposed to a bunch of promoters sitting in a room blaming. Which, you know, doesn’t have a lot of power or sway with the powers that be. But, you know, with Will and a big law firm behind him, he was able to go out there and, you know, do the things you had to do properly. He got Olivia Chow to back us and to speak for us. You know, if you want a whole 360 of wow, where did that start? And where does it come? That’s amazing. So Olivia Chow was a big, big proponent of what we were trying to accomplish, you know, for freedom and so forth. Her husband, you know, her later husband, Jack Layton was involved. A number of other politicians, they got the media behind, you know, this sort of whole thing. And the idea of iDance was born. You know, let’s, if they don’t understand what we do, let’s show them what we do. And what we did is we threw essentially what to that point had been the biggest rave in the history of Canada, right in Nathan Phillips Square, right? Everyone could see it. There was upwards of 30,000 people there in the middle of the day. I can’t remember if it was a weekday or a weekend, but my guess is it was a weekday because we wanted council to be in place and we wanted the traffic to be affected. It’s completely shut down Queen Street. It’s completely shut down Bay Street because there was so many people, they spread out over the streets. So the police had to come in and shut down all the streets. I DJ’d there. We had, I believe, Andy C DJ’d there. All these great artists came in and supported, obviously didn’t charge for their services, because Toronto was one of the biggest scenes too. So international acts were playing and helping. And essentially what happened, and I wasn’t sitting right beside them and tell you this exactly is the way it unfolded, but I do know the stories from those who told me, is that council was in session. We’re outside of this massive sound system and 30,000 kids at two o’clock in the afternoon, Olivia Chow ,and our other supporters on council at the time, pulled the mayor and a variety of other councillors to the window of City Hall. They look out and it’s explained to them, this is what you banned. You know, this is what this council banned. And quite literally, I believe that day they voted to remove the ban. 

MICAH: Regulations came after the ban was lifted, but they had succeeded. Raves and electronic dance events were back. Unfortunately, though, it seemed as if the scene couldn’t get a break. 

RYAN: You know, the scene moves in waves. So, as all this is happening and everybody’s fighting for our rights, all of a sudden people stop listening to dance music. Um, you know, there was this massive crash. Yeah, it was 1999 and everybody at the time, and it seems funny to think about it now, was worried about the world coming to an end, because they thought planes were going to fall out of the air on Y2K and ships were going to crash and nuclear missiles were going to fire. And there was going to be, and everybody was in their basement with baked beans and powdered milk, hiding and it was a disaster of a year, a New Year’s, I’ll tell you that, for throwing parties. So Y2K comes, parties aren’t anything, and it kind of was the end. Like it just, after that it kind of petered out. 

DELPHINE: Truly and honest to God, what was up with that? 

MICAH: What was up with that? Why did we think that once we hit like a new millennium, like the world would end? 

DELPHINE: Here’s the thing, it’s a computer programming thing, which is interesting because I didn’t, like maybe I’m just stupid and young. But I didn’t realize that people were already so deeply dependent on computers by the year 2000. But they thought that the computers wouldn’t be able to process the years and everything would break. My dad is a computer scientist. Yeah, no one who was a computer scientist thought this. It was like the common people who had never used a computer in their life and barely knew what they were, were like, oh my god, they’re all gonna break. We’re all gonna die. That’s crazy, but people will take any opportunity to think that the world is ending. Do you remember the 2012 Mayan calendar thing? 


DELPHINE:  That was crazy because I feel like the people who made that calendar just kind of got bored. And everyone was like, they knew something. 

MICAH: They made it so long ago. 

DELPHINE: Literally, what would they have known about the apocalypse, like, that we don’t know? 

MICAH: Right. 

DELPHINE: Like, they just got bored of making the calendar. Every calendar ends at some point.

MICAH: It’s not gonna go on infinitely. 

DELPHINE: It doesn’t mean the world blows up every December 31st. 

MICAH: Yeah, I think especially with Y2K, it was just the computers. It was as if, like, we wouldn’t exist without the technology we had, like we existed before. 


RYAN: Then something special happened. You know, we said we were doing the last WEMF, I think in 2007 or something like that, but all of a sudden, dubstep. All of a sudden, Skrillex. And no one had ever seen this coming because it was quite literally, and not like we hadn’t been doing parties every week and throwing stuff in clubs, but, you know, the big party was dead for a long time. And, all of a sudden Skrillex comes along and invents this new type of music and whether he actually invented it or he was just the guy who made it famous, you know, I’m not the expert, but I’ll tell you, he certainly created something new here and we decided to come out of festival retirement, book Skrillex. Funny enough, that year was like Skrillex and Calvin Harris were on our flyer, but neither one of them was the headliner. 

MICAH: This ended up being the second last WEMF that Destiny produced. Rumors about a WEMF reunion, they continue to circulate, but there’s kind of been no word of this since 2013. 

DELPHINE: If there was a WEMF reunion, I would be there. 

MICAH: I would be there. It is in south, well, it probably would be in Southwestern Ontario, so. I should have asked about that WEMF reunion. 

DELPHINE: Ugh, you should have.

MICAH: Missed opportunity. But that wasn’t the end of raves or even Destiny. Kind of far from it, actually. By 2012, electronic and dance music had just been accepted as another genre. It wasn’t any more of that underground evil devil’s music. And it piqued the interest of Live Nation, who we all know. And they reached out to Destiny. 

RYAN: So we were actually the very first electronic acquisition that they ever made. Canada was kind of the test case. This was before they bought Insomniac or before they bought Kream or Hard or, you know, any of these myriad of other companies. Like we actually were first by about, I don’t know, at least a year. And the idea was they were going to start this new division called Electronic Nation. And that would be, you know, their electronic division. They’re testing it in Canada first. And then if it worked, they’re going to roll it out around the world. In the end, that’s not ended up, that didn’t end up being the way it happened because they bought Insomniac and Hard and Kream. And they’re like, well, why would we take the names away from these great brands and start our own in these other markets when they’re already dominant? So, they kind of left us alone. We created Digital Dreams. By the way, I was put in charge of Electronic Nation for Canada and put in charge of running all the festivals and large electronic events for the country, including our Destiny events and stuff like that. It was now part of the machine. So I went about creating Digital Dreams, which I, you know, started from scratch and ran for three years, got up to about 80,000 people. In year three, we did big scale shows like Avicii at the Rogers Center, which until recently was still one of the largest single artists concerts in electronic music in North America, which was in the high 30s, close to 40,000 people, which is awesome for an electronic show. I don’t know why anybody would sit in the fifth deck to watch a DJ play, but for whatever reason they did.

RYAN: And then, you know, we did, we did Sensation in there. We did Deadmau5 in there. We did Switch House Mafia in Roger Center. Like to this day, no one else has done electronic shows in Roger Center. That was, it was, it was a big time. We helped created ÎleSoniq music festival in Montreal, which still exists to this day. We created a winter music festival called Brrrrr. Ran for a couple of years. Funny story there, is that we tried to get Brrrrr with three Rs and four Rs, but we couldn’t because Disney owned the rights to that from the Ice Age movies. So we had to go Brrrrr with five Rs. So that was the reason we had five Rs. 

MICAH: If we compare the rave scene of now to the late 90s, it has definitely changed. Many of the early venues are now condos, unfortunately. And the music itself has shifted, but it’s still a thriving genre. 

RYAN: As you know, scenes never die, but they come and they grow in size.

MICAH: Seeing the evolution of electronic music and new age rebellion, it wouldn’t be a shock for rave culture or something similar to hit a new boom in the future. The Artery is a four-episode mini-series airing on Met Radio CJTM 1280 AM, so be sure to check out the other episodes to hear us explore the history of other music genres in Toronto. This episode was written by Micah Chu and hosted by Delphine Winton and Micah Chu. Theme song by Natasha Cyberg-Olson. Special thanks to Quinton Bradshaw and Ryan Kruger.

Episode 3: Hip Hop and Rap

MICAH: Hello and welcome back to The Artery. This is the third episode of our four-part mini-series airing on Met Radio CJTM 1280 AM. Each episode dives into the history of a different music genre and the Toronto scene as well as the people involved.

MICAH: I am Micah Chu and I’m here with my co-host Delphine Winton. 


MICAH: As we explore the rap and hip hop scene today. Hip hop has gone through a few different names, but it’s now known pretty synonymously with rap. Rap is used more when speaking about the music, while hip hop is also linked to the whole culture. Hip hop culture is largely defined by four key elements. MCing or rapping, DJing, breakdancing and graffiti. It started in the early 1970s in the Bronx, which is a borough in New York City. The music originated as an anti-mainstream subculture and promoted anti-drug and anti-violence messages. While it has now spread to all corners of the world, it began with Black Americans and remains largely intertwined with Black culture. Canada wasn’t far behind the United States when it came to our own hip-hop scene. Some of the earliest Canadian artists emerged in the later 1970s, but it took until the 90s for them to gain wider success. Toronto was one of the hubs of Canadian talent and brought in some of the biggest hip-hop heads of their time. One of the longest-running supporters is Mindbender Supreme, a rapper, DJ, and music journalist. You’ll be hearing from him often, as his insight is the core to this episode. 

MINDBENDER: When I started… I have a funny story. I started with my twin brother, God bless his spirit. He is now break dancing with the angels and Fife Dog and ODB and True Goy Up in Heaven,he passed away this year, but that’s where it began with me. My brother and I, we were hip hop heads and we actually were born in Toronto in 1977, but like many hip hop stories and young black people around the world. My father was deported and he was not the most stand up guy. So my mom actually ended up moving to Edmonton. So we spend the first decade or so of our life in Edmonton and Edmonton is actually the place where we discovered hip hop. My big brother was in a breakdance crew at a place called Sports World, that is near the Northlands Coliseum, but it doesn’t exist anymore. That was a roller rink where they would play disco and early hip hop in the 80s, like literally 1983, 84. And the rocksteady crew came out there from New York and danced there once. I remember seeing them as I was a child. So when we were young, we watched breakdancing originally in Edmonton in 83, 84, 85. And I remember hearing The Message. My big brother was cool and he had a radio and my family was very music oriented. So they had lots of vinyl and we were listening to Parliament Funkadelic and you know, the classic, you know, Soul, Stevie Wonder, such like that. But then on the radio, I remember hearing The Message. I literally remember it like an alien transmission. When I heard, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, I was. What is that sound? And what, and then, you know, “there’s broken glass everywhere, people pissing on the street”. So I’m a child in, like 84 and I’m like, “oh wow, they’re talking about New York City” and I can see it in my mind. And like that’s how hip hop came to me. And I was listening from that time, LL Cool J, BAB, Run DMC, Cool Mo D, these early Roxanne Shante, like, I remember hearing the Roxanne Wars. People don’t really know about this, but a real Roxanne, a Roxanne Shante, there used to be battles over names and stuff like that. And we used to hear them transmitted over the radio. Like, I don’t know exactly what radio station was playing it, but I was hearing it and I was fascinated by it. I was like, oh, the beats are so cool. The poetry is so cool. These people are amazing. And yeah, that’s how hip hop started for me.

DELPHINE: I feel like I used to discover more music from the radio when I was a kid, but I feel like I have alternate venues of discovering it now. 

MICAH: Yeah, I mean in the past there’s that whole nostalgia for 2010s radio hits. That’s where a lot of our shared knowledge of old music comes from. It is from the radio. And I think we’re kind of missing that now. Now a lot of music comes from, oh, Spotify. The Spotify playlists that they make. 

DELPHINE: The Spotify recommendation playlists are huge. 

MICAH: The new Spotify day lists. 


MICAH: I’ve been getting into those. 

DELPHINE: I do actually really like those. 

MICAH: I really like them. They give me a good amount of new music all the time. 

DELPHINE: Yeah. And that’s where it comes from now. 

MICAH: And I think the radio equivalent now is podcasts. But they don’t give the same thing that radio does. 

DELPHINE: Podcasts are bad for sharing music. It’s a licensing thing.

MICAH: Yeah, radio, they already kind of have the license and they can kind of play the music already. But then with podcasts, they have to license or ask for permission for each song or ask to be a fair use situation, which is kind of niche. 

DELPHINE: Yeah. So even with music podcasts that are like Song Exploder or whatever, you’re only really getting one song per episode, because in that case, the artist will come on and explicitly give permission for them to use the song. But it’s hard to have the same volume of different music just because the licensing would make it unbelievably expensive and complicated to make a podcast episode like that. 

MICAH: Exactly, yeah. And there’s just too many hoops to jump through. I think a lot of the music discovery in the same, kind of the same vein that radio was giving before is more through social media now, where artists are promoting their own songs. And then also there’s certain, like, audiophiles who are really into music who will just share like small artists and, like you know, indie songs that they like, but it’s still not the same as radio. 

DELPHINE: I know it’s different.

MICAH: Basically what we’re saying is bring back radio. 

DELPHINE: Radio is alive. 

MICAH: Radio is alive. 

DELPHINE: Radio isn’t dead, just reinvest yourself in radio.

MICAH: Exactly. There’s something so fun about listening to radio and listening to something that you can’t access as easily all the time. 


MICAH: It’s like you gotta tune in. 

DELPHINE: You just let yourself, you have to put yourself into the hands of another person instead of having complete control over what you’re listening to. And that’s kind of exciting because you find stuff that you would not have chosen to listen to on your own. 

MICAH: Yeah. Many of the early listeners of rap found their music through the radio and specifically community radio. Commercial radio had to follow the whims of their audience and the trends, but community radio had the ability to follow their niche and interests. This important distinction is what allowed for the success of shows on CKLN, a station run by then Ryerson University and now TMU. 

MINDBENDER: In the 90s, I’m jumping ahead a bit, but in the 90s having a show, Lord knows what, on CKLN, was one of my life’s greatest achievements. I will never ever lose the joy. Every time I walk past the building, I’m like, oh my God, it was a miracle time. On Saturday afternoons, you would have The Power Move. Shout out to DJ X and Mishimi. And that’s like 1 to 4 on Saturday afternoons. They had dropping dimes on Mondays. And then they had The Real Frequencies was also, oh, they took over Power Move. But there was another show called, oh my God, the tomies. There was a show that was on right, there was a static show. There’s so many radio shows. So there was a show on right before ours, uh, the oddities were associated with it, but there was a show on Tuesday night from 12 to 2 and the name is slipping me. I should remember this, but our show, the Lord Knows What show was on from 2 to 4, 5, and we have the most graveyard shift on Tuesday night. It would destroy Wednesdays. You would be sleeping all day Wednesday. But that time, that two hours that we had on Tuesday afternoon, night, we played everything. We played West Coast underground. We played Square Pusher. We played East Coast underground. We played down south stuff. It was literally called Lord knows what for that reason. I sincerely believe we had arguably the most eclectic playlist. Because there was four of us in there that were hosting and four different hip hop heads and all of us brought our different tastes. It was around 1999, 2000, and hip hop was at a very creative time at that time. So we were all bringing in the most amazing combination of stuff. And a lot of people would kind of have certain niches that they would kind of lean towards with their radio shows, but we would fight with each other. We would fight with each other. I’m like, I’m gonna play some AC Alone. And then one guy’s like, “I don’t want to hear that”. I’m like, I’m gonna play Poor Mega and DJ Qbert. We had this most random, wonderful, wild collection of songs. And yeah, it was fun. 

MICAH: While hip-hop had gained love from its radio fan base, it was not an easy time for artists in the mainstream. Take this story about Citizen Kane, a group from Scarborough.

MINDBENDER: They actually go to Montreal and come up to a radio host, ironically, they’re on a radio show and they’re documenting it. And the radio host is incredibly disrespectful. It’s long before hip hop is kind of, you know, conservatives have accepted that hip hop is not going anywhere. So this guy’s very hostile. He’s like, “oh, you’re a Canadian group, you’re from Scarborough, you guys are probably criminals”. In their face, just disrespecting them on air. And these guys are like, “no, we are independent musicians or businessmen who traveled from, we came here to talk to you, what’s up with this disrespect of our music and of hip hop in general. We don’t deserve this. And actually you shouldn’t be able to get away with this”. And it turned, it actually turned physical and you could see it in the documentary. It’s moving and fists are thrown and then it fades to black. And then there’s a title card about it. 

MICAH: Rap often has lyrics surrounding political and social justice issues. In fact, Mindbender called it edutainment, a cross between education and entertainment. Unfortunately, this wasn’t easily accepted in the 70s, 80s, 90s, or even early 2000s. Artists had to face criticism from the masses and racial discrimination often came into play.

MICAH: I think racism and just discrimination in general is prevalent in basically every music scene, especially back then. A lot of scenes that weren’t hip hop, because hip hop was very rooted in African American culture, and that’s where it started. But a lot of the other scenes were very white dominated scenes. 


MICAH: Yeah, and because of that, the discrimination wasn’t just from the outside, it was like an internal thing too. You see a lot of like, now it’s a bit better. Now it’s a bit better where there’s fans and artists that kind of come from all nationalities, countries, races. There’s queer artists and fans too. But back then it was very much dominated by one group and that one group tended to be white men. 

DELPHINE: Yeah. You can see this kind of rewriting of history in a lot of scenes as well where like, I see this a lot with younger people commenting on punk online saying like, “oh, punk isn’t racist, punk isn’t this, punk has always been for people of color, a safe place”. That’s actually not true at all. And you can kind of see that in punk music, there’s a lot of punk music that is a pushback to other types of punk. The Dead Kennedys have a whole song about Nazi punks because that was such a big problem that they actually needed to stand up and say, “hey guys, don’t be Nazis in the punk scene”. So it’s very clear that the punk scene was never perfect, but you can kind of see people trying to rewrite it as like, oh, it’s counterculture, so it must have been all these things that we- 

MICAH: Yeah, it’s counterculture, so it must have been counter to the racist culture too. 

DELPHINE: Yeah, but that’s not always true. Racism is obviously incredibly prevalent and incredibly insidious. And like when you’re creating a scene or any kind of culture within the culture that we live in, it’s almost impossible to just get rid of it fully because it’s such a base part of our society. 

MICAH: Yeah, it’s so far reaching. 


MICAH: And I think the thing that hip hop has like beyond the like internal factors is, like, racism was also a big external thing for hip hop. Because hip hop was so rooted in African American culture, everyone viewing hip hop from the outside, especially all of the the media people—who are also mostly like white men, once again—they also had their own like biases viewing hip hop. Hip hop was kind of viewed as this lower form of music, like rap was viewed as lower and less musical and requiring less talent, which we now know obviously is not true. But that’s kind of the pressures that they had to face. And you can really see that in the stories that a lot of the artists tell and that a lot of the fans tell where they had a harder time navigating the music industry compared to a lot of their companions in different genres.

MINDBENDER: I remember being a young boy in the 80s reading a magazine that would, they would print things in magazines like, “Oh, this is just a fad. It won’t be here in two summers. It won’t be here in six months”. Like you’re like, you’re reading that in a magazine. Like, “wow, I like this is, it’s pretty big”. I’m hearing Public Enemy and NWA and KRS one, these guys have record deals and videos and they’re doing pretty good in the realm of reality. This hip-hop thing is not a fad. Hip-hop has literally gained the world to absolutely lose its soul. 

MICAH: Using the world’s growing fascination and boom in technology, hip-hop caught mainstream interest and began rooting itself as a recognized genre. However, there are many arguments that technology has stripped hip-hop of its essence, shifting the focus from its origins in hosting and performance. 

MINDBENDER: Because hip-hop is so technological, so it’s really, I remember times with a lot of, it was weird 15 years ago in the CD era. And there was a lot of glitchy CDs and CDRs that would skip and that was a really difficult era to get through. But now people have kind of smoothed out the process. There’s a lot of laptops and Serato and cordless mics kind of everywhere. So technology has really done good things for hip hop, but at the same time, there’s a certain amount of—I have to speak to the fraudulence that can come about and the lack of actual musical training that a lot of people unfortunately go through because of technology. Where they can say it’s like, it’s a blessing to be like, “oh, you don’t have to buy, you don’t have to manufacture CDs and cassettes and vinyl anymore to sell. You can literally sit in your living room and stream and rap and practice and like maybe get discovered from your living room”. But that means you don’t know how to handle an open mic if your music messes up and you’re in a live situation. That means you don’t know how to be a master of ceremonies and speak to a crowd. That means you don’t know how to work a stage and have stage presence and such. Like if you only come up in your bedroom and then you get discovered and then you’re out on the road. Like, I mean, not to diss her, but kind of, in a bit of a way, it’s not a diss, but. It’s a, you know, slight critique of someone like Ice Spice. She like, total brand new on the scene, whatever. And yeah, I’ve watched some of her performances and I’m like, “ah, this looks like a TikTok video”. 

DELPHINE: I feel like stage presence is a really big thing with artists that people don’t necessarily talk about, but especially with people who aren’t used to playing shows, like you can kind of really see it lacking and like it’s like, It’s pretty easy to get over, I think, because it’s mostly just a confidence thing. But it is very noticeable, especially with a lot of early artists and especially with a lot of artists who didn’t come up playing shows. 

MICAH: Yeah, I think you can notice when an artist started in the live music scene rather than, during COVID, we had a bunch of artists who started in their bedrooms and they were kind of recording on their phones and stuff, which the accessibility is great. 

DELPHINE: It’s incredible. 

MICAH: Yeah, it’s like, making art more accessible is always a good thing. But when they get big, without having that experience of playing live, especially during COVID, all of those artists that became kind of like hit artists during COVID and then immediately jumped into playing bigger shows, you can tell in the way that they carry themselves on stage. It’s like they don’t have the confidence or the experience. 

DELPHINE: Yeah, it’s definitely kind of an uncanny valley experience because like going to that kind of show, because you really like their music, the fans are really high up, like the venues are big and the artist is just like like sort of like noticeably like unconfident and kind of nervous. 

MICAH: Yeah, and it’s also a stage is such a big space.

DELPHINE: Yes. Commanding that kind of thing is such a skill that like you need to build up over time. 

MICAH: Yeah, and I think Mindbender had a point when he was saying that some artists, they look like they’re just making a Tik Tok. Because they’re so used that kind of, frame and space of a Tik Tok video, that they don’t really know how to move around. 


MICAH: Yeah, so I get his point, but I do also think that the accessibility of having, being able to make music in your bedroom or whatever space you have available. I think that’s a good thing. I think it’s just that giving people the chances to play live music at the same time, I think that’s what would really benefit a smaller artist’s development. 

DELPHINE: I agree.

MICAH: In this technology-infused modern world, there are often terms thrown around as conspiracies and genuine criticisms of an artist’s growth. Nepo Baby and Industry Plants are two that have been in the spotlight in recent years. Nepo Babies are individuals who benefit from a close relative, often a parent’s, connection with an industry to kickstart their careers. Industry Plants are artists who fake a “homegrown” brand while being backed by a major or indie label. The criticisms for both come from the same concept, having an easier route to the top.

MINDBENDER: We all saw Drake go from nothing and an independent artist, I saw Drake at the Phoenix, open for Mos Def. He opened for Mos Def. He started at the bottom, no problem. So I saw him go and now he’s literally the biggest artist in the world, English-speaking language in hip hop and whatnot. So like, we like, I didn’t, it’s like, okay, we’ve seen Drake rise like a hardworking business, you know, like a music industry business artist. At the same time, Drake, like is somebody gonna call Drake an industry plant because his father was in the music industry? What are they like, what do you, like at what point do you, like hey, like my dad has made music, but he didn’t get signed or anything, like he’s connected in some ways in Jamaica. So like, if I get in, am I an industry plant? No, like. So like, I bring it back a bit just to Neppo babies and stuff. Like, I kind of like the tradition of when people are like, hey, you know, like, like Frank Sinatra Jr. Like he, what he didn’t, couldn’t sing as good as Frank Sinatra. I didn’t think it was wrong for him to get into showbiz. Like, Biggie’s got kids. I guess Biggie’s kids don’t want to rap, but if they did want to rap, I’d be like, “okay”. Biggie Smalls children, like, you, that’s like, there was gonna be a blessing and a curse to you being this. So like, Neppo babies, it’s like, yeah, like you can get industry connections, obviously that other people don’t have because your parents are in. I mean, at the same time, people are gonna probably expect something similar to your parents and that’s different than just creating your own legacy by being a non-connected, non-nepo baby. 

DELPHINE: People seem to demand suffering from artists in a way that I just don’t understand at all. 

MICAH: I don’t understand. I think there needs to be a balance of understanding that they had the extra resources and privilege, but also being able to appreciate the art that they put out. It’s like one doesn’t negate the other. 


MICAH: They can both coexist. And I think, people are so quick to latch onto the extremes. 

MICAH: Before the age of the internet, fans weren’t as concerned about industry plans or how someone got their start. Communication was slower and thoroughly edited, so unfair criticism could lead to physical consequences. 

MINDBENDER: The biggest shift that happened in Canadian hip hop before the Drake phenomenon was pre-BET and post-BET. That needs to be talked about. Before we had American BET come here and all the American influence, we had, you know, Rhapsody, Extend & Mix, Electric Circus, Soul in the City, the Much Music shows we had, Master T, you know, our hosts, that culture that we had was ours. We were proud of it. We, you know, Nardwaur would come in here and there. Just the little things that we had were our secret and they were cherished and they were, this is what I’m talking about when I talk about integrity and authenticity, our magazine culture was elite. Pound Magazine was fantastic. I wrote for Pound Magazine and they did some of the best magazines to ever exist in the world. There was award-winning magazines from Pound, gave 50 Cent his first cover. I talked to Cool G Rap, Nas, Twista, Kanye West. I had a fantastic, my first cover story, talked to Kanye West for a call dropout. That was great for Pound. And there’s a couple other magazines that I really want to shout out. Freedom Time, Rice, In Search of Divine Styler. That was a legendary magazine. People should really know about In Search of Divine Styler. It’s Your Time, T.O. That was a special magazine. NWSA, it stood for No Wack Shit Allowed. Mic Check, Word, and even Swag magazine. Shout out to the magazines that were, because this is what I’m talking about. And also, Now and Eye and The Grid and the weekly magazines we had here. Those magazines, that was how the community used to communicate with each other, before the internet. This is literally the 90s. No internet, no computers, no smartphones. So, we really used to, it was a hand to hand thing. It was really about, you know, you would have physical copies of things. You would get them, you would give them to your friends. You would pass them along with flyers and the web of connection, the community, the honor that people would take, that people wouldn’t… because everything costed money and took time and took energy. 

MICAH: Over the years, hip hop has invariably changed as the music and culture adapts to the times and trends. With the 50th anniversary of hip hop having been celebrated earlier this year, we encourage everyone to check out the magazines, artists and historical venues that Mindbender holds in high regard. 

MINDBENDER: Shout out to… Shout out, I wanna shout out some artists that really were doing great things in the 90s and beyond that I loved. I wanna shout out Marvel. Marvel was a legend. He still is, but Marvel should add a fantastic career like Jock Lair or Socrates. Shout out Y-Look, Terra Chase, Monolith. The Monolith crew was great. IRS, Tony Ranks, Adam Baum, T.R.A. and Toxic. The whole Empire crew was like our Wu-Tang.

And they were just, if we had a business apparatus that could support them, they should have and would have blown up. And I want them to still blow up. Junior T, Eternia, such a legend. Phoenix Pagliacci, Jelly Too Fly. 

Circa was one of the most amazing clubs to ever exist. That was after the 90s. It was kind of in the later end. But, Circa was a fantastic club that I saw The Clipse there. I interviewed Lupe Fiasco there. I saw 50 Cent there. I saw Rich Kid there. There was like a bunch of wild and legendary things that happened at some of the clubs. And we had this club culture that didn’t really appreciate the blessings that we had while we had them. 

MICAH: If you’d like to check out the full list of every club and act Mindbender shouted out in our interview, we’ll be posting it on the Met Radio website at The Artery is a four-episode miniseries airing on Met Radio CJTM 1280 AM. So, be sure to check out the other episodes to hear us explore the history of other music genres in Toronto. This episode was written by Micah Chu and hosted by Delphine Winton and Micah Chu. Theme song by Natasha Syberg-Olson. Special thanks to Quentin Bradshaw and Mindbender Supreme, also known as Addi Stewart.