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The top 5 venues for hip hop in Toronto

Posted by Staff / September 11, 2013

Hip Hop Venues TorontoThe 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.

Drake Underground
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.

Sound Academy
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



AV / September 11, 2013 at 09:40 am
Top 10 venues for Hip Hop if you got into it in the last 5 years maybe (minus the Rivoli)
Leah / September 11, 2013 at 09:54 am
Rivoli? Ive lived in Toronto for six years, have hit every single hip hop show and not once seen a show at Rivoli.
I'd add Revival if anything....
Kuba / September 11, 2013 at 10:10 am
Sound Academy? Sorry, but that's goota be a joke. First, the location sucks. Secondly, the stage is too low for such a large venue but the worst part is the sound. I've been there for at least 10 hip hop shows and it was beyond terrible almost every single time. On top of that the place has ZERO character. One of the worst venues in the city.
AV / September 11, 2013 at 10:27 am
I want to believe that both posts above are masterstrokes in sarcasm, I really do...
Rob / September 11, 2013 at 10:41 am
The Sound Academy isn't a top venue for ANY genre of music. It's truly horrible. Can't be reached by public transport. Limited, expensive parking which takes 1 hour to exit from. Low stage (at 6'4" I can barely see anything), and always over crowded.
hiphop / September 11, 2013 at 11:24 am
annex wreckroom is a good mid sized venue for a hiphop concert. has the same kinda vibe reverb used to have years ago.
msglxy / September 11, 2013 at 11:35 am
I would say you have to add Revival. I've also seen hip hop shows at The Great Hall and Opera House. Both have better sound then Sound Academy which for most shows there is just awful. Was also really impressed with the Melanie Fiona show I saw at The Phoenix. I'm pretty sure The Phoenix has had rap shows, too.
Justin / September 11, 2013 at 12:52 pm
Does anyone know any clubs that play old school hiphop jams like early 90's to 2000 type jams?
bobo / September 11, 2013 at 02:22 pm
Ugh, I dread ever having to go to Sound Academy. What a terrible location.
Jenna replying to a comment from Justin / September 11, 2013 at 02:46 pm
Baby Huey, Levak Block, Painted Lady (Fridays), and The Ossington.. pretty much an awesome bar on Ossington!

On that note, does anyone know of any other places other than a "club" more like these Ossington bars that are good for old school hip hop with dancing?
akswun / September 11, 2013 at 04:10 pm
Anyone here remember MARS? small ass cramped up basement with some of the best ciphers and DJs in the city?

For those looking for places to party with older hiphop check out DJ Tabs at the Parkdale Drink on Queen west on a Friday. But follow DJ's on twitter to find out where their events are. DJ's like DJ Grouch, Sweet Touch Foundation, DJ JClass (reFRESH entertainment) and even DJ Starting From Scratch(Amnesia's 14th anniversary is this Saturday-Big Daddy Kane will be there and more.....)
SW replying to a comment from Jenna / September 12, 2013 at 12:39 am
I've been to some killer Hip Hop nights at Parts n Labour.. Keep your ear to the ground for those (aka check their website).

Also I'd add Revival to this list as well. DOuble-yu-tee-eff, mate?
Juice Bar Experience / September 12, 2013 at 09:50 am
Toby's pub Bathurst and College every Wednesday has DJ Law playing dope hip hop. If you don't know who he is you should be ashamed.
Justin replying to a comment from Jenna / September 12, 2013 at 02:27 pm
Thanks Jenna, will definitely check those places out. Love Ossington area.
Derek replying to a comment from Justin / September 14, 2013 at 01:50 pm
You should check out the Red Light tonight.

They have a classic rap night every second Saturday of the month.

Drake Underground also has an old school night (Never Forgive Action) on the first Saturday of the month. They've been doing that for years.
Ian / September 14, 2013 at 04:05 pm
For Sound ... I have yet to been in a venue in Toronto that has better sound that Rancho Relaxo. Parts & Labour is a very close second though. The Great Hall & Sound Academy are one of the worst venues for sound I have been to.
Anterabae replying to a comment from Kuba / September 27, 2013 at 08:17 pm
Thank you! I hate this venue and it constantly gets voted as one of the best in the city. I don't get it. It's absolutely shit!
Meth replying to a comment from Anterabae / September 27, 2013 at 08:43 pm
It's because they play Hip Hop.
celebrex buy / March 10, 2014 at 09:48 pm
user-pic more info,
Christine / September 29, 2014 at 03:56 pm
Or more like Parkdale Drink...
Taijana Francis / January 7, 2015 at 03:43 pm
one of the shittiest things about the Sound Academy is if your standing in the crowd at a hiphop concert especially if you're a small girl you could literally die or pass out from being crushed by the intoxicated, rowdy people around you since there is no seating for anyone everyone gets packed in like sardines and pushes to the front, killing the smaller folk like me with no remorse.
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