Takin’ it back to Da Grassroots.
I wish I was in Toronto right now, sipping rum slow and going in on jerk chicken at my cousin’s summer function, catching up with relatives, reconnecting with childhood friends, and exploring a vibrant, cosmopolitan city. Walking tours on Youtube can only do so much. Lately I’ve been getting into some music that reminds me of home, and Passage Through Time, the 1999 compilation from the T.O. rap production team Da Grassroots, is helping.
Forming in the late ’80s the trio of Mr. Attic, Mr. Murray, and Swiff served as one of Toronto’s go-to sources for dope hip-hop beats in the ’90s, producing for local heavyweights like Ghetto Concept, Dream Warriors, and Choclair. The crew was instrumental to the city’s simmering hip-hop scene in the ’90s, which had been regulated to the underground for much of the decade due to neglect from the Canadian music industry as well as the government declining to launch a Black radio station in Toronto in the early ’90s, opting to create a country station instead (…yeah). The arrival of an iconic single in 1998 officially brought Toronto and Canadian rap back from life support, and right on its heels was Passage Through Time, proving to the city, the country, and the world that Canadian rap was no fluke.
Passage is an underrated; a late-night burn full of dope beats and dope rhymes. Da Grassroots brought in a bunch of underground T.O. and Vancouver emcees, including now-legends k-os, Saukrates, and Thrust, to deliver over their smooth, vivrant beats. For me, the album stirs up a lot of nostalgia of the city back in the late ’90s, and of my childhood.
There’s a bunch of strong listens from the record, but “Price of Living” featuring emcee Mr. Roam has been a favorite of mine for years now. Over a dope sample of Bennie Maupin‘s “You Know The Deal,” Mr. Roam takes flight with his chill demeanor and endless boasts. I love how Roam carries himself on this track, right down to him sucking his teeth in an extremely Jamaican moment before he has to check someone who doubts his rhyming skills. It’s an airtight, godfather groove, and one I can still quote from memory.
A top listen from a rare, but essential record. RIP Swiff.