An Ode to Bathurst and Steeles
In the Toronto rap scene, we've been treated to odes about Scarborough, the downtown core, even the TTC. But what about north of Bloor? Now, the hiphop heads in the Bathurst and Steeles neighbourhood have an ode to call their own.
Out for Papers was recently released by indie unsigned rapper Al Viz, who's lived in the North York 'hood his whole life. Viz shot a video for his Bathurst-Steeles rap in October 2009, uploading it to YouTube the same week he released his online mixtape - "The Well-Made Bars Mixtape" - via his MySpace page.
For anyone who frequented the Russian-Israeli region of Toronto, they'll spot some familiar sites in the vid, such as Rockford Public School, G. Ross Lord Park and Bathurst Street just south of Steeles. Too bad the vid, directed by Newtonbook S.S. grad Ed Wong, spent too much time on the rapper in his various settings instead of showing us more iconic images of the streets.
In an interview, the 29-year-old Viz says B&S deserves its rap props. "There are some talented people in this area, but they're under the radar. I just wanted to come out with something that's authentic, that people can relate to."
The track reminds us about the immigrants who flooded the area a few decades ago. Immigrants come here for a better life, Viz says, but sometimes they move away and forget about their roots. Out for Papers is not just an ode to this North York nook, but also a peek into the larger issue of Eastern European immigration to the GTA.
For more North York-flavoured raps from Viz, check out his new tune, A Russian Girl. It's a smartly written track, outlining a Russian woman's struggle coming to Canada.
Whether the region knows it or not, Bathurst and Steeles finally has a hip-hop ambassador.
Writing by David Silverberg