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An Ode to Bathurst and Steeles

Posted by Guest Contributor / February 1, 2010

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



Dan Demsky / February 1, 2010 at 02:43 pm
This touched my heart. I agree there should have been more focus on the community and not the rapper.

Our whole office is made up of people from BNS. It's a special place that from some freakish natural oocurance has bred some of the best and most authentic talent in the city. I am so proud of being from Bathurst and Steeles.

Thanks for the post!

Nate Kogan replying to a comment from Dan Demsky / February 1, 2010 at 03:49 pm
Dan you beat me to it. I always find it a bit freaky that the lot of us are from the same area and all happen to end up doing things that interrelate so well. BNS was a breeding ground for amazing life long connections.
AV / February 1, 2010 at 04:16 pm
Beyond fucking WHACK
S / February 1, 2010 at 08:17 pm
TheLewin / February 1, 2010 at 10:15 pm
The remix should include a verse about the recent bed bug infestations.
goat / February 1, 2010 at 10:54 pm
Oh, I kind of cringed. :|
oldskool / February 1, 2010 at 11:00 pm
Maestro was the best. Remember that song he did?

"416 and the 905 put your hands up in the air move em side to side"

lol fovever.
laurel / February 2, 2010 at 07:02 am
hater / February 2, 2010 at 10:31 am
this is awful
Stephen / February 2, 2010 at 11:13 am
yeah that was pretty embarrassing. not a good emcee as well.
grish / February 2, 2010 at 05:04 pm
if your not from bns,or dont understand the struggle of coming somwhere with no money,and growing up that way,and living in a place where people who make help dont help lift the ones close to them up with them,instead just disappear you have no right to even comment on this sht.

walk a mile in a mans shoes and all that.....

and those who say this is whack or whatever,get out there and say what you have to say and post it up for the world to see.

i see a rapper whos not sptting about guns hoes and smoking weed that appeals to me,this sounds like a rapper who is spitting for an older demographic who still want to listen to hip hop and not hear all that bullshit,and wana switch up from playing cd's from the nineties.

in my opinion his mixtape is geared directly to people like me,people over 25 who grew up at bns (or any struggle for that matter) and dont wanna hear about how some rapper does shit youll never do in a place youll never be,in a car youll never drive

lets get real people
Mike / February 2, 2010 at 06:57 pm
Classic Bathurst and Russia!

J meezi / February 2, 2010 at 08:09 pm
I respect this nigga's grind.
Bathurst and Steeles Stand up.
Find me @ Mi Va Mie with a bad bitch and a mean shwarma.
Har Har / February 2, 2010 at 08:34 pm
Haha, what kind of 'struggle' do people from Bathurst and Steele go through? Besides the same 'oh we so poor in here' lameness that could be said all around low income areas all over N.A. There are people in the world who's poverty includes not having access to water, food, or shelter. Not that they lived in a shitty apartment block or couldn't afford Nikes. Dude can't rap either, lame sauce.
S / February 2, 2010 at 11:31 pm
Cosign Har Har, this song is a fucking joke. And I lived at Bathurst and Steeles for quite a few years. It definitely has a high concentration of immigrants, but it's one of the more well off neighbourhoods in this city. It's a fucking insult to low income, high crime and racialized neighbourhoods in this city to talk about your struggles on the mean streets of Bathurst and Steeles. Give me a break.

Love the coded racial language there, Grish.
Phil / February 2, 2010 at 11:40 pm
I thought this was done tongue-in-cheek until the advert at the end. Like one of those 'ironic' YouTube videos.
Al / February 3, 2010 at 08:23 am
I put up this video to do a snapshot of my view on the area I grew up in. I think its a good area in general. My parents gave me a better life than they themselves had by coming here. That's what the songs about. I wrote it to be simple and from my perspective for exposure in my area, and to that end its done a tremendous job for me. I can see why many would not like it... If I put something out that was intended for 'everybody' and the response wasn't good, then it would be a different story for me personally. Someone offered to do a story on it, I didn't ask for it.

Nowhere did I claim to be a hardened criminal, or be part of some other stereotype. My life had its own set of challenges, and I have my own set of standards to adhere to. That's whats reflected in the song.

This song is not intended to be a measuring stick for how hard I am. In the same breath you cant assume my life is without struggle. That would be an assumption. In any event, if you like it great, if you don't, that's cool to.

All the best to you
grish / February 3, 2010 at 02:00 pm
well said Al

we all have our struggles

and eff the haters,this is a good snapshot of what its like comin up at bns in my opinion.

keep ya head up,and stay doing ur thing.anything that will draw the haters out the wood work like roaches means ur doing something right
grish / February 3, 2010 at 02:13 pm
coded racial language S on? i want some of what ur smoking
Scarlem D / November 13, 2010 at 02:57 pm
While I can see the reason behind the resentment towards Al by a lot of the "individuals" who chose to give their two cents; the reason is unwarranted in my opinion. We all have a right in this country to speak our mind to the fullest, and for that I appreciate the song, as well as the people who've responded. I might add, however, that if people really don't like that Al is doing, then they should get on the mic and make something better. If you can only talk the talk and not walk the walk, then you end up looking just as "wack" as the person you're trying to mock here. I don't think Al is wack. I think that Al represents this demographic perfectly, because Bathurst and Steeles is not "hard", and it's not a "crime-ridden, low income" neighborhood. This neighborhood is represented by white people of Jewish and Russian descent for the most part. The man is true to what he does, and I enjoy it. What more do you people want?
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