The GTA Crunk: Props from a Self-Skooled Rapologist

You should not hate the player; however, you should hate the game. Pasha Malla infiltrates the centre of underground hip-hop culture that is Toronto, ON, and returns with stories of being skooled and seeing bling. Def!


If these colloquialisms have you scratching your hizzle (head), then maybe it’s time to wake up and smell the RAP MUSIC that’s flowing out of T-dot-oronto, Ontario. The underground scene here is flavourful to the max, yo, and it’s no longer just major-label stars like Kish and Devon, a.k.a. Mr. Metro, who are dropping “lyrics so you can hear [them].”

With literally dozens of acts, from DJs (disc jockeys) to MCs (microphone C’s) to CREWS like the all-girl posse Shebang, Toronto boasts a JAMMING SCENE to rival anything out of The Bronx, America. Yet for whatever reason Toronto underground hip-hop has coasted just under the radar, failing to attract the media attention lavished upon artists like the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or Jay-Zed south of the border. Sure, k-os played the Junos—but was he really KICKING IT OLD SKOOL [sic], or just playing the game to appease THE MAN (i.e., the white man)?

In the spirit of journalism and GIVING MAD RESPECT, I recently attempted to penetrate this close-knit community of B-BOYS and TOTALLY SLAMMING HONEYS. Familiar with the lingo, vibe, and etiquette of hip-hop culture, I knew I would make the ideal conduit between the mainstream and the underground. The plan: Attend a night at one of Toronto’s DOPEST, FLYEST clubs, where the brightest lights of the scene come out to shine and [expletive] UP [expletive].

At my CRIB (one-bedroom apartment in Riverdale), I dressed in an N.Y. Yankees baseball cap, an N.Y. Knicks basketball jersey, Cross-Colors® Jeans and Reebok® Pump® sneakers, then drove my RIDE (506 Carlton streetcar w/ transfer at Queen’s Park Station to the southbound University Line) to the club of choice in downtown Toronto, where “rap-heads” converge on a weekly basis to DROP BEATS, DROP RHYMES, and DROP THE NEEDLE of both record players and human appendages—a particularly stylish display of hip-hop dancing (BREAKING) in which one holds one’s foot aloft, and then pogos the other leg through the loop created. (Much more striking when actually seen live.)

Wandering through a grey cloud of smoke from SPLIFFS (marijuana cigarettes), I made my way down into the dark, dingy club. Graffiti TAGS adorned the walls. As I descended the stairs, the thumping BASS grew increasingly kicking. I could almost taste the BOOTYLICIOUSNESS of the honeys, whom I envisioned in thongs and sequined halter-tops, indicating their supple bosoms and buttocks with talon-like artificial fingernails. Before paying the $5 cover, I made sure to Pump® up my sneakers for a maximum level of comfort and style. HOLLA! (Yell!)

As I entered the club, Mindbender, an intelligent African-Canadian with dreaded locks like the Rastafarian reggae singer Bob Marley, was passing the MIC(rophone) to rapper More or Les. The beats dropped, Les started rapping, and immediately his FLOW had the place jumping. In short, More or Les’s rhymes were DOPE! But that was no big surprise, for he was also selling compact discs on which said rhymes had been professionally recorded.

As More or Les’s set reached a fever pitch of FRESHNESS, I looked around the club. The rap-heads were bopping their heads! The honeys were getting down! One particularly fetching honey looked over at me, whispered something to her friend, pointed back at me, and then giggled behind her hand. “My shit is on!” I said to myself, slyly, and then turned back to the stage to bop my head along with the FAT BEATS, a calculated move to feign indifference—almost as though I were saying, “You’re cute, but my first love is hip-hop.” Or so it would seem…

More or Les’s set ended and, at Mindbender’s encouragement, the PEEPS in attendance responded with a rousing ovation. “Whoop, whoop, whoop!” I intoned, pumping my fist in the air à la Arsenio Hall. I noticed the smoking honey making her way to the bar, so I casually followed. “A forty of beer, please,” I demanded of the barmaid, knowing it to be the rapper’s drink of choice. “We don’t have forties,” she replied. No problem, I thought, and instead ordered a Blue Lagoon: sweet. At the other end of the bar, my honey was sipping on a bottle of water—laced with liquid Ecstasy, probably.

After splashing some of my brew on the ground to honour my DEAD HOMIES (cancer having taken my grandfather the preceding year), I made my way back into the crowd just as Drunckness Monster was accepting the microphone from Mindbender. Caucasian, dressed in baggy jeans, a “wife abuser” tank-top, and Adidas® runners, and displaying a conspicuous lack of the BLING-BLING jewelry characteristic of SELLING-OUT, I knew Drunckness Monster was KEEPING IT REAL. “You’re PHAT!” I yelled, hoping that the emphasis on the PH would indicate that I was not calling him obese.

Indeed, Drunckness Monster was very, very phat. But I couldn’t get that super-fly honey out of my mind. While Drunckness Monster strutted around the stage, SPITTING LYRICS, the honey and her friends clustered together by the bar at the point in my peripheral vision that would be exactly nine o’clock . I could barely focus on the show, and I felt bad—“bad,” in this instance, actually meaning bad. Finally, not able to take it any longer, I wrenched myself away from the performance and casually proceeded to do the RUNNING MAN (extremely difficult break-dancing move, not recommended for beginners) over in that fly, fly honey’s direction.

When I was within eyeshot of the fly honey, I dropped into THE WORM, then spun out in THE HELICOPTER, both highly advanced moves in their own right. Rising to my feet, panting slightly, I greeted her, “Whassup, bi-atch?” She looked taken aback, but I knew she was only FRONTING. “Yo, girl,” I continued, gesticulating in the air with one hand, tugging at the crotch of my trousers with the other, “are we going to hit the skins or what?” Still nothing—just her hand pushing me away as if to say, “Talk to my hand!” But if this honey wanted to play hard to get, she had another thing coming.

When the FIVE-OH (police) arrived, I originally thought that some spliff smoke had leaked onto the street and a conscientious pedestrian had called 911 (911 = a joke, BTW). However, when I found myself being handcuffed in the women’s bathroom, I knew it was a different story. “How are you going to play me?” I protested, but the PIGS weren’t hearing it. They were all UP IN MY GRILL with “sexual harassment” this and “misdemeanour” that, so I decided that the only PROPS I was going to give would be to my attorney. They did let me stick around long enough to see the fly honey I was PEEPING AT all night get up on stage. She called herself Silk, and proceeded to drop 15 minutes of a capella freestyle dedicated to me. Well, to be fair, less to me than to the inadequate size of my genitalia. Eventually one of the PIGS said something like, “Do you think the poor guy’s had enough?” before they led me outside to my car.

On the drive back to Pickering, I started to realize how other rappers have felt when they’ve been FRONTED ON by the five-oh. I thought about all the other HARD-ASS PLAYERS who hadn’t gotten away, those who got locked down in THE JOINT—including Scarborough’s own “Snow” (née Darrin O’Brien), who, before that informer SOLD HIM OUT, used to ROLL in the same (neighbour)HOOD as me. Sometimes, I realized, life could be completely WACK. Still, arriving home, I realized that it had been a good night, and I felt as a journalist, rapologist, and, above all, fan, I had truly gotten a firsthand sense of Toronto’s underground hip-hop scene. As someone who has lived it, live, let me tell you that it is, in the words of the great Maestro Fresh Wes, truly “in effect.”


—Pasha Malla (a.k.a. Grandmaster Pash)


TMN Contributing Writer Pasha Malla is the author of four books. He is also the head of TMN’s informal panel of film critics. He lives in Toronto. More by Pasha Malla