The track was released in 1998 as a single, then later off the Rascalz Juno-award-winning album Cash Crop. Accompanied by Choclair, Thrust, Kardinal Offishal and Checkmate, the Rascalz’s “Northern Touch” broke barriers after our pioneering acts laid the foundation (Dream Warriors, Michie Mee. Maestro, etc.) and established that Canadian hip hop was not only revered as quality underground grit but was also resilient and a force to be reckoned with. The visuals by Director X were heavy on braggadocio while repping for Tdot, and it also stands as (according to X) one of the first videos that led him to an illustrious career.
The importance and relevance of "Northern Touch" was recently celebrated at its namesake vintage store in downtown Toronto. Hosted by music purveyor Master T, an exclusive soiree was curated by Canadian lifestyle brand Caked and sponsored by D’Usse to honour the magic the six emcees and videographer created. Attended by Kardinal Offishal, Red1, Choclair and Director X, we gathered 25 years later at Northern Touch Vintage to commemorate a song that has left a prominent imprint on the culture. What are the odds? Well, Master T doesn’t think it's a surprise at all.
The veteran music man was our supplier and guide back then, introducing us to notable music via RapCity and X-TendaMix (later, Da Mix). Being asked to host the event, he couldn’t help but feel a tinge of nostalgia. “For me, it’s the fact that 25 years later, there is still a level of recognition for all the artists. They are still doing something surrounding the music and the culture. I think that’s an amazing feat. And the track holds up because you can’t take away from the fact that it was a hit. A hit is a hit.”
“I sat on the programming committee back then at MuchMusic. At a Tuesday meeting, the committee brought in all of the videos from the record labels. We would review them to put them into rotation. When “Northern Touch” came in, everyone was just bumping. And many times, I had to do a hard screwface to fight for hip hop. But this track was special. Everybody got it, and that’s why it got put into high rotation. It was directed by legendary director, Director X, and they won a MuchMusic Video Award (MMVA). So yes, there is a level of nostalgia because I’m hosting the event. But at the same time, it’s the pride of what everyone is still doing and what this track means to everybody today,” says T.
Remember, there is a lot of hip hop history behind the group and this single. From Juno boycotting to becoming Juno and MMVA winners, and many elements in between. Do your research! Google is your friend. At a time when receiving screwface was the norm to yield any form of support for what rules the charts, airwaves and culture today, it’s no doubt that “Northern Touch” stood out from the pack. The bravado, the skills, and our voice seeped through the lyrics. For all those reasons, it became such an important seminal track in Canadian hip hop history, and T agrees. “You said it all; it encompassed all of those things. This is a track that was getting U.S. attention. BET was playing it, and that was one of the things Canadian artists strived for.”
“Yes, it was great to get Canadian recognition. Especially at that time, people looked at Canadian hip hop, especially across the border, like, ‘yeah, it is what it is, we’re the Americans…’ But this track captured the voice of Canadian hip hop, featuring voices from the west and the east. We didn’t have that East Coast/West Coast beef, so there was that level of unification, and I think that’s what they all wanted to accomplish. So it was, hey, here’s something with our Canadian identity and voice that we are proud of, and here are some of our top artists. I’ve had very proud moments playing the track. They also came and performed live on my Da Mix show, and I’m still looking for that VHS tape (laughs),” says T.
The evening was a fantastic tribute to a song that will stand as one of Canada's best hip hop tracks. Rightfully so. Everyone mingled and chatted about how the song resonated with them then and continues to do so now, so many years later, and listened to a slew of Canadian bangers that DJ RXCKZ dropped all night. The energy was high, and everyone was celebratory for the momentous occasion. Just as the song holds a historic designation, so will the event.
So during this illustrious celebration of 50 years of hip hop, let’s continue to give our favourites their flowers. Red1 couldn’t have said it any better, “To even be here, standing here at this moment, there are so many things that had to come into alignment…I have two words for [everyone]...thank you.”