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The top 5 R&B artists to watch in Toronto

Posted by Guest Contributor / May 22, 2014

RnB TorontoThe top R&B artists to watch in Toronto are making a name for themselves both here in the city and far and wide. Ever since Sandra Pupatello pushed the bill that gutted our internationally renowned rave scene, Toronto has struggled with its musical identity - but around five years ago, Drake brought downy-soft rap to the music charts and also nurtured a wave of artists that would make Toronto synonymous with alt R&B in North America. With the Weeknd as perhaps its best-known figurehead, here are five more Torontonians continuing our brand new greatest musical tradition.

The duo from Jane and Lawrence with the names befitting Tarantino heroines ("Charli Champ" and "Dollar Paris," since you asked) have captured attention with their pastel-coloured internet aesthetic and Badu-worshipping sound. It translates into a similarly heavy-lidded slow roll - as they put it "music you just want to vibe to" - only twice the fun. The two describe bizZarh as "a cosmic musical creation; a gift to them from the universe as a token of their infinite friendship." Although they're still unsigned, their dream-catcher aesthetic and hippie grooves are winning them fans in internet-land, which, presumably, is the source of their power.

From handbook of the Weeknd's marketing department, IvanUnknown has shied away from the press; also similar are his lilting, effeminate vocals, but done well enough to forgive. It's more of a jump-off, anyway, as Ivan explores "dark dub, minimal techno, throwback R&B and soul rhythms" with a raft of local producers, plus a verse from T-Dot staple Saukrates on his late-February release Fickle. Although he's not entirely mute when it comes to interviews, IvanUnknown seems fairly shy, more willing to express himself in song than in wordy interview responses. Download Fickle and be prepared when and if serious press attention arrives and manages to wring a little more from him.

At 16, JesseRay was the tall, handsome half of the rap duo "Bulleez and Nerdz" with a shorter, then less game-having Abel Tesfaye (The Weeknd). Their stuff was heavily influenced by N.E.R.D., although you can hear the beginnings of precocious talent. The two drifted apart around the time JesseRay went into grieving for a friend who had died, and while his old buddy went on to fantastic international success, JesseRay took a little longer. Still in Toronto, he's channeled the same languorous pads, prescription-drug references, and girls, girls, girls, onto his recently released EP 1990, which has jump-started a fan following and a suite of videos filmed right here in Toronto.

Rochelle Jordan
Rochelle Jordan was born in the UK and has since moved to LA, but Toronto's on her official bio, because that's where she made her name with EPs like Pressure (2012) and a cheeky cover of "Marvin's Room." Recently "RoJo" as she's known got credits on Childish Gambino's suspiciously Toronto-sounding track "Telegraph Ave," and released the excellent "What the Fuss" with Weeknd producer Illangelo. Because of the electronic vibe which has crept into her sound, RoJo's also been called an "R&B futurist."

Andreena Mill
The best thing about '90s R&B was girly R&B hooks which encouraged a kind of body-grinding that, while not parentally approved, was more subtle than twerking. Native Torontonian Andreena channels the super-sweet '90s songstress, but one who's grown up and gotten a little tougher in the process. An old friend of Aubrey's, she featured on Drake's breakthrough mixtape "Comeback Season" (and its best song, "The Last Hope"), and moved to LA to write and record professionally. However, for her latest release, Naked, which is 22 songs long, she had to leave all that behind, choosing instead to write it here in Toronto where she's closest to her R&B roots.

Writing by Erika Jarvis. Lead photo from Rochelle Jordan's Facebook.



GLARING OMISSIONS / May 22, 2014 at 11:04 am
No Shi Wisdom?
No Leila Dey?
No Kim Davis?
No allie?
No Veronica Domingues?

How come my missing list shits on yours?
the REALness replying to a comment from GLARING OMISSIONS / May 22, 2014 at 11:51 am
It's a top 5 not a top 10 or top 20.
DR / May 22, 2014 at 01:04 pm
Kareem / May 22, 2014 at 01:44 pm
yeah how you gonna sleep on partynextdoor ?
Justine / May 22, 2014 at 02:34 pm
Partynextdoor is missing for sure,maybe because he's from Mississauga?
BLACKCRACK / May 22, 2014 at 06:11 pm
Rochelle Jordan is setting a certain Tone for Toronto female R&B artists right now. Exciting to watch her rise from out of no where seeing that I had no idea who she was until maybe 2 months ago i was put on and i was seriously blown away. The next to blow
ShortlifeLongmoney / May 22, 2014 at 06:14 pm
PARTYNEXTDOOR, Rochelle Jordan and Majid Jordan are next up TORONTO TAKE OVER
ShortlifeLongmoney replying to a comment from Justine / May 22, 2014 at 06:17 pm
Partynextdoor is from GTA to the world so he is definitely missing from this list.
Dee / May 22, 2014 at 10:00 pm
Bizzarh is UNREAL. Give these ladies some love.
lilHD / May 22, 2014 at 11:20 pm
Phaaak that unknown dude is un real!!!... Trend setter, not a trend follower!!!
This is how we.... / May 23, 2014 at 12:16 am
Montel Jordan!
stacy / May 23, 2014 at 10:40 am
who the fuck is Bizzarh? where is shi?
Ayo Leilani replying to a comment from stacy / May 23, 2014 at 10:49 am
..... don't hate , Bizzarh has been around since 2010... pay attention to the scene instead of just one person and maybe you will blessed enough to know who's up and coming.
Concerned Resident / May 23, 2014 at 11:50 am
The only thing worse than music journalism is the comments that follow from people who couldn't do any better. Props to all of these artists and glad they got some love today. Toronto, get a clue and go outside.
Blu / May 23, 2014 at 04:15 pm
These comments make me sad :( lol
ty_ replying to a comment from ShortlifeLongmoney / May 23, 2014 at 04:35 pm
Yep talking about Talent from the city > Andreena, Shi wisdom, Kim D. Talking about next Stardom from the city > Rochelle, Party, Madjid jordan Drake fukin wit. Thats 100
JesseRay got a joint too
SEXYBUTNOTMESSY replying to a comment from ty_ / May 23, 2014 at 04:39 pm
^^^^ HAHAHA what comment didn't go through the first time ???
intothenight / May 30, 2014 at 11:19 am
no partynextdoor?
no Kim Davis
no Belle
No Leila Dey?

Notable omissions!
Eric / July 15, 2014 at 01:51 pm
Hey everybody that's on and off that list is talented but you cannot ignore "JAZ"...Trust me, she brings a refreshing feel to RnB and doesn't sound like anyone else! Checkout this video and thank me later
Bree / July 15, 2014 at 04:27 pm
i'm sorta new to the whole local r&b scene (as a fan, not an artist) what are some blogs/websites i should check out to find more cool (TO-based, preferably) r&b music?
Yasiin replying to a comment from BLACKCRACK / September 6, 2014 at 04:55 pm
I agree. She's representing Toronto without being in the 'scene'. Always refreshing.
Definitely Not Drake / December 7, 2014 at 11:00 pm
guyz I can't believe you didn't put DRAKE on this list liek omg he is the best rapper in toronto of all tiem ever duh
sherpa / December 8, 2014 at 12:24 pm
these are all great artists, but i would definitely check out Sextape, this guy is making some serious vibes
ORVILLE / January 8, 2015 at 10:50 pm
Only those who have at least released new music within the year should be mentioned, with that being said, wtf is STAASIA DANIELS?
MH Studios Toronto / August 10, 2015 at 09:59 am
Understand that 91% of artists are undiscovered. Toronto's music community is full of amazing artists who struggle everyday to get heard. The 'scene' is large and the lists of talent are equally large. Are there better talent currently in Toronto not represented on this list, yes, but giving this group of talent some attention helps to promote Toronto's grass roots R&B scene.
jONA / November 10, 2015 at 08:36 pm
Secret Playlist of the most current Toronto HipHop/R&B:
Other Cities: Montreal