The top 5 venues for hip hop in Toronto
The top venues for hip hop in Toronto might come as a surprise for the uninitiated. Ever since Drake put Canada on the map, ask around and you'll probably hear people referring to Toronto as hip hop's newest hot bed. With countless venues across the city, the options are endless, so where should you go to take in some live rap action when given the chance? Here are my five picks for the top spots.
Located at the edge of Parkdale, the list of hip hop artists who have graced the stage at Wrongbar is extensive and includes Joey Badass, Iggy Azalea, Flatbush Zombies, Masta Ace, and even Drake in 2012. This dimly lit venue champions a bumping sound system in a long room with booths along one side and a bar on the other. The big dance floor gets jam packed with a mixed clientele, and the close proximity of the stage keeps energy high during live performances.
Tucked into the basement of the infamous Drake Hotel sits one of Toronto's best low capacity venues. Dubbed "The Underground" this spot maxes out at 200 people, guaranteeing an intimate, yet classy, live show experience. With an excellent restaurant just upstairs, this self proclaimed hotbed for culture draws an eclectic crowd with lives shows, DJ dance parties, film screenings and comedy performances. Hip hop shows don't happen there often, but when they do, you should go.
Chances are that you've walked past this landmark venue in Toronto's downtown core. Due to its central location it attracts all walks of life and hosts musicians of all genres. Rivoli made the news last summer when NXNE was forced to cancel a hip hop event scheduled there due to concerns over security and alleged gang affiliations with some of the performers. All that aside, even though hip hop might not be their bread and butter, the likes of Action Bronson and locals Notes To Self, Eternia, and Choclair have all touched Rivoli's stage.
Although it's a bit displaced, a quick cab ride to Polson Pier will get you to Sound Academy (formerly known as The Docks). Unlike the Rivoli, nobody stumbles upon this venue - they go there with a purpose. And while the venue itself might have its downfalls, you can't argue with the talent that comes through here. This massive space fits thousands of people and has hosted many of hip hop's greats over the years, including Public Enemy, Redman, Method Man, GZA and Talib Kweli.
3030 Dundas West
Located in the Junction, this venue popped onto the rap scene's radar relatively recently. It's far west, but the vibe inside is unique, with tasteful decor including vintage pinball tables. The kitchen serves up flavourful food that is moderately priced and the bar's taps are home to an extensive selection of Ontario Craft Beers. They've thrown some off-centre hip hop events, plus beat battles and local showcases - the godfather of Canadian hip hop, Maestro Fresh Wes actually hosted the one year anniversary of a monthly rap night there.
Writing by Markit