This Is What Toronto Sounds Like to Me: Nino Brown
We asked one of our favourite DJs, playing at this year's Manifesto, to select some songs that make her think of Toronto.
Photo by Rashid St. James
Nino Brown is a Toronto-based DJ and co-founder of the city's most popular and inclusive party series Yes Yes Y'all. One party at a time, Brown aims to unite Toronto while simultaneously creating safe spaces for other people colour. As such, we asked her to select a bunch of songs that represent and make her think of Toronto.
Kardinal Offishall- BaKardi Slang:
"The "original" Toronto anthem. This song came out at a time when the thirst was real to prove that this city had something to offer within the hip-hop world—something that would be unlike anything the American rappers were doing. As appropriative as it can be depending who's saying what, this was our language, and this is what set us apart."
Sean Paul - I'm Still in Love with You:
"This is often my end of the night song when I'm trying to send the message to get out the club soon, but also trying to set you up with your next move. This song is so important for the city particularly as a first generation Caribbean-Canadian with a DJ career like mine. I truly believe the start of bringing dancehall into the mainstream was helped by Director X's Sean Paul videos—it's the golden era of Toronto music videos. From a DJ standpoint, if we didn't have that era, we wouldn't know where we'd be right now with the new Toronto sound. Total game changer. "
Skepta - Man:
"Toronto has a reputation for being the Screwface capital and it's for a reason. It was something I noticed as a kid going to shows—and until this day as a DJ—especially when comparing it to other places like Montreal, which I frequent. I'm glad to see that vibe changing with this new culture incorporating the same energy as the grime, punk, raver, and trap movements. Seeing Skepta live on a couple occasions and watching the crowd go off to songs like this was quite refreshing. Perhaps the obvious Drake endorsement helps. But I think why urban music from London, in general, speaks to me is because it reminds me so much of home—it's the closest twin city we have considering the ethnic diversity and Caribbean influence."
Snow - Informer:
"I typically would never include Snow of all people in a best of list, but after spending time in places like Trinidad and Jamaica as a kid, it was really interesting to see how much respect this guy got abroad. It's something that would never pass in today's age, but, to me, Snow was one of the first artists to put Toronto on the map. I still don't know most of the lyrics although I act like I do."
Blessed - Love (African Woman):
"In the early 2000s, this was a banger. It was such a groovy reggae song, a love song at that, and for all intents and purposes, was done by a Canadian artist. Blessed was one of the only artists doing Jamaican music from the city that actually had a big hit! Because of that, I saw him open for all the big acts at the time from Sizzla to Capleton. Must know song for the culture's history. "
Fugees - Ready or Not:
"The original is epic on its own—the intro bars get people excited on the dance floor usually without fail. My favourite thing about this song, though, is how good all its remix manifestations are. My favourites include the Aphrodite drum and bass version, and a staple in my sets includes the Five Foot Heroes dancehall mix."
Pressa - Novacane:
"Yeah, he's got the annoyingly charming nasal flow and the Drake endorsement, but the real questions I want answered are: will he pop off or succumb to the pending charges?"
Matthew Progress - Le Fog:
"IMHO, one of the best lyricists and most underrated rappers in Toronto. His bass voice and intellectual presence is a new direction that's moving forward with sounds and SKILL."
Killy - Killamonjaro:
"Not sure how I truly feel about the kid as yet, but he reminds me of my cousins and his flow and songs are kinda fire. I think he's a one to watch."
LA Timpa - Animal
Nino Brown will be playing Manifesto on June 10.