FEATURE: ‘Northern Touch’ at 20 (q on CBC)

rez | Interviews | Thursday, February 1st, 2018

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q doin’ it right. Click HERE to read the full article and listen to the audio.

Every Canadian rap fan will remember hearing this for the first time: “We notorious; ain’t nobody can hang with us: Rascalz, Checkmate, Kardinal and Thrust, Choclair coming down with that Northern touch.”

One of the most iconic rap songs in Canada, there was no escaping the power of “Northern Touch,” a cross-country posse cut that would cement the careers of the artists who had the wherewithal to shout themselves out in the chorus.

Released in 1998 as a single from the Rascalz’s album Cash Crop, it went on to become one of the most successful hip-hop songs in Canada at the time, and helped pave the way for artists to come. It reached number 41 on the top singles chart at a time when no other domestic urban song could break through the top 100.

“Northern Touch” helped bridge the gap between Canada’s scattered hip-hop scenes, bringing together artists from Ontario and British Columbia, but it also did so much more. For Canadian rap fans, it became an instant anthem, and for young aspiring rappers across the country, it served as both inspiration and an invitation to carve out their own spot. “Northern Touch” went into heavy rotation on radio, the video went to the top of the Much Music countdown, and it was played on BET in the U.S., turning the largely unsigned artists into stars.

Today, it stands as one of the most important rap songs in Canadian music history.

For the 20-year anniversary of its release, the artists and key contributors to the song reflect on its impact, “from the past to the present and the future,” for an oral history of “Northern Touch.”

Click play above to listen, or scroll down for an extended version.

1: The idea that started it all
Sol Guy (manager, the Rascalz): At the time I was also working at BMG Music as the urban marketing manager. Me and a few other people were some of the first ones to get executive positions at record labels to start working on hip hop music.

Craig “Big C” Mannix: I was working at Sony Music Canada. Sony, MCA Universal and BMG were compilation partners with MuchMusic at the time, you know the famous comps, like MuchDance and the alternative comps. I came up with the idea to speak to the people in our strategic marketing division, and we started working on putting this thing together. It was like, ‘Hip-hop’s big. Why don’t we do a hip hop comp?’ Because I was at Sony, Sol Guy was at BMG and Mike Zafiris was at MCA Universal, so we were kind of the trifecta behind it. But let’s put some original material on there and we decided we wanted to make it a posse cut and we wanted it to encompass Canada east to west. The Rascalz were integrated especially with Sol managing them, and Checkmate and [DJ] Kemo did the beat. I was in charge of calling everybody, putting it together, so to speak.

Sol Guy: I believe “Northern Touch” came out of a desire for identity and to put ourselves on the map for hip-hop in the global context. Anything outside of America at that time was unheard of and then to be Canadian rappers was not only looked down upon from the U.S. standpoint, but even in Canada. We hadn’t found our identity yet.

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