hip hop videos

The top 10 Toronto hip hop videos of all time

Toronto is spoiled for fantastic hip hop videos. Too frequently an uninspired music video adds nothing (or even detracts) from a fantastic song, but in the case of these offerings -- many pulled from the medium's Rap City/CanCon glory days -- the visual execution actually enhances enjoyment.

Here are my picks for the top Toronto hip videos of all time.

Drake, "HYFR"
The 6 God spotlights religion in his best video ever: a capturing of his explicit re-bar mitzvah, complete with Patron chugs, old white couple grinding, and Lil Wayne rapping through a panda balaclava. This is a Director X masterpiece. Mazel tov, suckas!

Maestro Fresh-Wes, "Conductin' Thangs"
"Let Your Backbone Slide" would be the easy fit in this slot, but the first single from Wesley's underrated sophomore LP came with visuals that established Maestro as the Big Daddy Kane of the North. Suaved out in a white tux and backed by a brass section, female singers and his own choreographed backup dancers, Mr. Maes operates like a Ginsu - deadly but smooth.

Kardinal Offishall, "Ol' Time Killin'"
Visually and aurally, this is perfection. Big, badass black speakers, black 'do rag, black kicks, black jeans, black tees punched against bold African stripes of red, gold and green. Shot by Toronto's Little X on a $100,000 budget at a time when $1-million rap-video budgets were a thing, this is the tune that propelled Kardi's awareness in the U.S.

Point Blank, "Born and Raised in the Ghetto"
"Reppin' Canada's first block/ Regent Park, the six-man, not-to-be-trifled-with crew that is Point Blank sheds light on one of Toronto's roughest neighbourhoods in this 2007 clip, directed by Marc Andre Debryuvne. Strong song, and well worth inclusion here for the black-and-white archival footage of Regent Park from 1950. Striking.

Shad, "The Old Prince Still Lives at Home"
A Toronto resident who was raised in London, Ont., Shad spends most of this day in Bel-Air. "The Old Prince" is a pitch-perfect spoof of the Fresh Prince's TV sitcom's opening credits, right down to the neon striped T-shirt and flipped-up cap. Yo, Holmes, smell ya later!

D-Sisive, "No More Words
Creativity is a sidewalk stroll for the bespectacled MC in "No More Words," a cut from 2011's Run with the Creeps. Directed by Harv, this clip features a pair of animated Jumpman logos on D-Sisive's box-fresh Jordans that do all the rapping for him. Simple. Brilliant.

K-os, "Superstarr Pt. Zero"
Genre-bending cultural critic K-os celebrates that elusive "real hip-hop" by showcasing the b-boy front and centre. Essentially, Kheaven is happy to play a piece of cardboard here and lets some of Canada's best breakdancers do their thing. Still impressive to watch.

Devon, "Mr. Metro"
Refusing to bite his tongue or temper his visuals, Devon took on the Toronto Police Service in this bold clip that won a MuchMusic Video Award in 1990. Ticked off by the incidents of police racism across North America and his own detention by cops in California (not T.O.), Devon Martin was later forced to obscure portions of the video that might identify local police officers.

Jazz Cartier, "New Religion"
Fantavious Fritz directs this stark, hypnotic trap anthem for an on-the-come-up Jazz Cartier, a film junkie who takes his visuals seriously. The camera, as if buried in molasses, traces the artist through a tunnel and into a night of emptiness. A TTC streetcar glides by. A gloomy aesthetic of hollowness pervades, and the climax is even colder.

Rascalz, feat. Choclair, Checkmate, Kardinal Offishall, Thrust, "Northern Touch"
Half of the artists on this epic posse cut represent Vancouver, true, but there's more than enough T.O. presence here --Choclair, Kardinal, Thrust -- that I'd be silly to ignore this landmark video. One of the first projects by legendary Toronto director Little X, "Northern Touch" jubilantly united the coasts and introduced coach potatoes to model and actress Melyssa Ford.

A note on criteria: in compiling this list, I've self-imposed a restriction of one video per artist. So even though the super popular "Hotline Bling" is certainly Drake's most meme-worthy offering, it's not his best.

What did I miss? Add your favourite Toronto hip hop video in the comments.

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