In 2017, Vancouver-based, SOCAN and JUNO award-winning singer-songwriter Dan Mangan and Halifax-based music promoter Laura Simpson opened a side door. Actually, it was a company called Side Door, an innovative marketplace for shows in alternative venue spaces. Then the COVID-19 pandemic came along, and the duo were forced to adapt to the new reality.

“Prior to the pandemic, we had run about 350 shows in various alternative venue spaces – living rooms, curling rinks,” says Mangan. “We had a partnership with South By Southwest. We had a big campaign to push into the States, and everything got cancelled. Much like everybody, we tried to figure out how to move our operations online.”

Using Zoom, Side Door arranged a number of ticketed online concerts by SOCAN members like Danny Michel, Big Rude Jake, Whitehorse, and others, accessible all around the world. Throughout the process, Mangan said Side Door wanted to honour its responsibility for SOCAN licensing, so that music creators and publishers received their fair share for their work

“We didn’t want our hosts to hear from SOCAN, saying, ‘Hey, you owe [the songwriters] money because these artists are declaring and submitting set lists from playing in your living room,’” Mangan explains. “We thought, ‘Okay, if we just have a direct deal with a performing rights organization, then that’s a service that we can provide.’

“We already had a relationship with SOCAN for the in-person concerts,” he continues. “If the artist was in Canada, then everyone got their usual percentage [based on the performance royalty rate]. Then, we started getting calls from other performing rights organizations around the world, saying, ‘Well, now you’ve got a streaming platform.’ And then it got really confusing. Who do we pay? How much? Everybody’s got a different royalty rate… You’re looking at different, variable rates based on the country and location.

“It’s a whole different world, figuring out how to carve out the pie for online shows,” says Mangan. “It’s been a whirlwind of tech, and figuring out sophisticated arrangements; building the [HTML] codes so they can manage the technology and report these things. I’m thrilled that we got there, and we are totally compliant.

In an effort to keep Side Door concerts “very connected, intimate, and visceral,” Mangan and company provide artists with several options: “In-person shows on your own, or with a space you find on Side Door; an online interactive show; or Zoom, where you can do an online broadcast show, using our livestream tech. There are several different avenues by which you can bring your show. We want it to be sort of a business-in-a-box for artists, so they can do various types of shows that they want to do.”

“We want it to be sort of a business-in-a-box for artists”

He feels he’s filling an under-served niche, one that could be quite lucrative for artists in the long run. “What we’ve come to know is that the vast majority of touring acts don’t yet have an agent,” Mangan says. “So, only a small percentage – the very top of the crop – are getting their way through to the gatekeepers, promoters, agents, labels, and managers. They provide a valuable service because they keep venues full… mitigating the risks for them. So they can stay full and open, which is great.

“We don’t want to take away these real, traditional venues. But the majority of touring acts are having a hard time trying to gig, a hard time making an audience, and they burn out. They give up. My argument is that if these artists could have small but meaningful shows, they could have viable careers. They could make $100,000 a year, even if they’re never famous. And that’s what we’re really trying to get to.”

Side Door has had help: with a number of angel investors on board, including Slaight Music, the company now employs 20 people. “We’re not even remotely close to profitable at this point, and [without investors] there’s no way that we could build the sophisticated platform that we have,” says Mangan. “We have five developers at Side Door and that talent isn’t cheap, but what we’re trying to do is build up a sort of marketplace where all the various different stakeholders can find what they’re looking for.

“It’s a three-sided marketplace: You’ve got artists. You’ve got hosts. And then you’ve got audiences. It’s a big, lofty goal, and not easy, but if we do it, it’s going to be a grand slam for all three sides of that marketplace.”

Including music creators once again, as Mangan is contemplating adding a set list uploader “which would allow us to report the show for the artists, and report what songs they played, etc. Just trying to make life easy for artists in general, and then they can make a living doing it. We want to make sure that those royalties are going out, and that those songwriters are getting paid for their work.”

Holly Fagan-Lacoste, SOCAN’s Digital Business Lead, views the Side Door business model as a significant innovation, especially when it comes to adding a revenue stream for members.

“It’s ground-breaking that our own SOCAN member, Dan, is operating an online concert service, based out of Canada, with global reach,” says Fagan-Lacoste, “Side Door is clearly going above and beyond, and doing what it takes to assure creators and publishers are being paid. SOCAN wants nothing more than the digital landscape to thrive for creatives, digital services, and music fans alike. By protecting the value of music in this landscape, and assuring the licensing requirements are fair and accessible, we can deliver the service level to our members for which we strive.”

Mangan says he’s pleased that Side Door worked out an arrangement with SOCAN. “Even from the earliest days of my music career, every single interaction with a SOCAN representative was exceedingly positive,” he says. “It was very clear that they were trying to help me get paid and advance my career. It’s a wonderful organization.”

Now firmly entrenched as an annual tradition, here are the Québec rap artists who’ll surely reach a greater audience this year.


As the years go by, a burning question remains: who’ll be the first Anglophone rapper from Québec to break big on the international scene? There have been plenty of dead-in-the-water predictions, but we may have found the most promising prospect to this day: Skiifall.

Born on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent in the early 2000s, the young rapper has the talent and chops to break into the U.S. market, but so far he’s mostly been making waves in London, U.K. The electronic music hub is now also known for its huge rap talent pool, thanks to the emergence and popularity of grime and U.K. drill. Skiifall fits in perfectly with this British trend. “I lived in St. Vincent for eight years and I never lost my accent [Editor’s note: the independent state is a former British colony],” he says. “Without realizing it, the flow I developed has influences [of what’s being done in London],” explains the rapper, who met the producer Sampha during a recent stay in the capital.

Long before landing there, Skiifall took his first steps in a community studio of Montréal’s West Island – the Jeunesse 2000 youth centre, right next to the Décarie highway – when he was in his early teens. “That’s where I really developed,” he says. “I’d be there every day from 2:00 to 8:00 p.m. I learned how to develop my voice and tinker with effects. I grabbed every opportunity I got to record.”

His determination paid off. The rapper’s first songs were released in 2020 on the usual platforms, revealing an artist in full control of his talent, who manages to avoid the clichés of trap and its usual jerky flows. It wasn’t long before the Montrealer was tapped by established artists such as British rapper Knucks, and Toronto avant-jazz/rap trio BadBadNotGood, with whom he collaborated on “Ting Tun Up Part II” and “Break of Dawn,” respectively. He also caught the attention of Virgil Abloh, the late founder of the Off-White brand, and artistic director at Louis Vuitton. The designer picked a Skiifall song to support the ad campaign for his NBA collaboration collection.

His affection for 1970s and 1980s Jamaican music—especially that of Lee “Scratch” Perry and Billy Boyo – gives him an original sound, especially as compared to his contemporaries, who seem only influenced by the latest trends. Another thing that sets him apart from the pack is the pace at which he releases; he only has seven songs out in total. “I want people to understand what I do is art,” says Skiifall. “I don’t want to release as much music as some American rappers. Ten or 15 years from now, no one is going to remember everything they released.”

Skiifall says he plans to release a single in January of 2022, but won’t go into further detail about his plans. “I don’t have a precise plan for the coming months,” he says. “In any case, everything can change at any moment.”


Contrary to most of his rap scene peers who often rush to release their first records, Lova waited for the right moment to do so.

The Québec City-based artist got his start playing in punk, hardcore, and death metal bands, and started rapping more than 10 years ago. Yet it was only in 2020 that he released his first songs. “I started with short English raps shortly after discovering [The] Wu-Tang [Clan]. I was in no hurry to release tracks,” says Lova. “What motivated me was rapping with a gang in parties. I had solid verses that got great reactions from the crowd, but I’ve always been very lucid about the quality of my product. And then, at some point, I felt ready to move forward. A new decade was about to start, and I decided I would release one song a month [to mark the occasion].”

“Vague,” his first single, was released on Jan. 1, 2020. “Cohen” and “Distance” followed in February and March. That was enough to attract the attention of one Carlos Munoz, the co-founder of Joy Ride Records, the label behind the success of Loud, Rymz, and Connaisseur Ticaso. “He’s the one that reached out to me,” says Lova. “My producer, Pierre-Olivier Couturier, had previously worked with a Joy Ride artist [William Hennessey], so the contact was made [very naturally].”

His hip-hop stylings are ethereal, with melodic R&B splashes reminiscent as much of Post Malone as of Lomepal. The 27-year-old rapper has shone brightly over the past 18 months, with the release of three EPs by the major Montréal-based rap label: Cool LOL, Gluant mais hot, and more recently, EP3. His originality on the EPs is anchored in the richness of the sounds and textures, developed in close collaboration with the aforementioned Couturier, Tommy Banksta, and David Saysum, all three being long-time friends of his.

An album, In Theory, should be released this year.

Le Ice

Le Ice is adamant about one thing right off the bat: he doesn’t want to be a star. “Even when my career peaks, I won’t change,” promises the man, who says he’s more interested in “the art side of this rather than the money side of it.”

Such authenticity is refreshing in this scene (and era), where celebrity has mostly become an obsession. As a matter of fact, it’s precisely to preserve that authenticity that the 27-year-old rapper from Laval waited so long to get seriously involved in rap. “I started rapping when I was quite young, around 12,” he says. “I would rap about stuff I had no idea about, just cuz they sounded cool. The lyrics were drivel, but my flow was already very tight,” he explains. “Then, at some point, I just decided to stop. I couldn’t give a damn anymore. I felt the spotlight that came with making music was too much for me. I liked being in the shadows, I could picture myself being a manager more than an artist.”

Le Ice finally re-emerged somewhere in 2019. Inspired by the ambition and success of his friends from Canicule Records – a collective and label whose roster includes Tizzo and Shreez – Le Ice carved out his own space, with songs full of raw energy, such as “Moto, 412” and the aptly-titled “J’pas une star” (in English, “I’m Not a Star”). Many considered him to be the next big thing to come out on Canicule, but a misunderstanding meant that the release of his first album was postponed.

Thus, in early 2021, Le Ice took the bull by the horns and established his own label, Sal Ent, which is short for “Solide à l’os Entreprise,” freely translated as “Solid to the Core Entreprise,” a colloquialism he uses constantly. That’s the channel through which his album JTA L’EAU POUR UN BOUTTE was released in July of 2021. “I wouldn’t go as far as saying I’m starting from scratch with Sal Ent – that would be ungrateful to Canicule, who still did a good job – but I do see it as building something new,” he says. “I’m spreading my wings under a new identity.”

On its own, “J’partie de loin” [sic] is a portrait of this new identity: we get acquainted with a rapper who’s more conscious and vulnerable, while looking back honestly on his hectic journey. “That song means everything to me. It’s my story,” he confides. “I’m going to get more personal in my future songs because that one was received so well. People will get to know me a little better.”

Le Ice’s second project, titled Le mouton noir (in English, Black Sheep), is coming “sometime between February and April of 2022.”


SLM spent her entire youth surrounded by music. Raised to the sounds of the best R&B of the last half-century – from The Temptations to Mary J. Blige – the Guyana-born rapper also has roots in reggae and Gospel. “My mom sang in the church choir, so as far as I can remember, music had an important place in our home,” she says.

Hip-hop became central to her life when she was a teen. Early 2010s major rappers Childish Gambino, Tyler the Creator, Chance the Rapper, and above all Nicki Minaj, had a deep impact on her, but it took quite a while for her to build the confidence to rap. “One of the strengths I have is the capacity to learn a song’s lyrics very quickly,” says SLM. “I learned a lot by practising with songs by other people. Slowly but surely, I started freestyling for myself, or very close friends, over the phone, or in a car. Then I would keep the best of those rhymes, go home, and write around them.”

Two years ago, the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce rapper (a popular neighbourhood of Montréal’s West End) decided to create something concrete with all those rhymes. Over modern trap productions, her agile flow and tongue-in-cheek attitude feature on her first mixtape; SLM: The Complete Flex Season (2020) is the accomplishment, at least in part, of all those years of writing.

“Before that I was simply too young to even consider a career in music,” says SLM. “My parents wanted me to pursue my education and achieve my goal of becoming a veterinarian. But as I grew older, I devoted the energy required for music to become a viable option in my life. My mom was definitely not convinced by my choice, but in my mind, from that moment on, there was no reason for me to not give myself a chance of pushing on.”

While her second project – an EP, Real Talk Radio – was released in late 2021, the 23-year-old artist wants her next, slated for 2022, to dig deeper into her tribulations, doubts, and aspirations. Sonically, she promises a renewed musical signature that will tend towards lo-fi R&B rather than trap.


It’s impossible to introduce Jessy Benjamin without first addressing the elephant in the room, namely his farcical stage name: SeinsSucrer (literally: SweetTits). “It literally was just to troll Instagram and make people laugh. Except that after a while, people started calling me that offline,” he says.

Against all odds, the rapper and producer from the Saint-Michel neighbourhood (a highly ethnic district in North-Central Montréal) ended up perfectly adopting the nickname. “It does define the character,” he says. “It illustrates my unpredictable nature just as well as my out-of-control side – inasmuch as you understand that the sugar on the tits is actually blow [cocaine]. But then, sugar also reminds you of candy, and kids love candy. We all need sugar. My sugar is my juice, my energy. Look, it’s what makes me rap.”

One thing is undeniable: SeinsSucrer’s “juice” is highly concentrated. In a mere three years on the scene, the 26-year-old rapper has released about a dozen projects, be them as a solo artist, or as a duo with rapper Don Bruce, or producer Dr. Stein. In 2021 alone, he released four albums and an EP.

These last five releases are perfect examples of his evolution as an artist. First known for his excessively auto-tuned mumble-rap, SeinsSucrer recently came out with a more incisive flow more typical of the East Coast boom-bap that he cherishes.

“I’m much more in control of my voice, of my rhythm and of my cadences,” he explains. “RZA said becoming a master lyricist takes 10 years. I’ve been rapping for 11 years now, and I believe I’m at my peak, writing-wise, and I understand [rhyme and song] structures better than ever. I started with a very pointy trap vibe and slowly gravitated towards a style that’s more about the lyrics. It’s become therapeutic to rap that way. It’s a workout for my creativity.”

Through his texts, essentially urban chronicles of comical situations and drug abuse, SeinsSucrer reveals himself as a rapper who’s as absurd as he is intelligent. As for his hyper-productivity, it turned out to be a strength that allowed him to find and develop his unique style at lightning speed.

This pace will continue into 2022, with several more projects upcoming, including one produced entirely by Jam (of the Brown Family) and another by Mike Shabb.

Philippe BraultThe pan-Canadian committee of members of our film industry chose Les Oiseaux ivres, a feature film by director Ivan Grbovic, as its representative in the Best Foreign Film Oscar race. On the very day we meet with Philippe Brault, who scored the movie, the news broke that the film was no longer in the race for a nomination. That didn’t deter the composer: “My music has travelled along with the film,” was his first reaction. It’s nearly impossible to determine what that means, and the impact it could have [on my career], but just knowing that there are a lot of interesting people who will see the movie means a lot.”

Recognized as one of Québec’s best record producers (Émile Bilodeau, Koriass, Patrice Michaud, Laurence Nerbonne), Brault – Pierre Lapointe’s longtime collaborator – was successful right from the start as a film composer: Sébastien Pilote’s La Disparition des lucioles (2018) earned him the Iris Award for Best Original Score in 2019.

“I’d done a bit of screen composing for TV before, but I mostly worked on albums and music for stage plays,” he says. “I’ve always gone with the flow, career-wise, I don’t over-think what’s next. I did the music for La Disparition des lucioles and it went super-well, I had a blast working on that. I remember telling my girlfriend that I’d like to do more film music.”

Thus, over the past two years, he’s composed four scores, including the aforementioned Oiseaux ivres, as well as the music for the popular Maria Chapdelaine, also directed by Sébastien Pilote. The results couldn’t be more different: Maria Chapdelaine is characterized by its big string arrangements around clearly defined themes and its references to folkloric music – foot-tapping and fiddles – whereas Les Oiseaux ivres is undeniably more diffuse and mysterious, mirroring the movie’s atmosphere, which critics have described as dream-like and impressionistic.

“True, the movie has that vibe because of its long, poetic sequences that make you feel like you’re uncoupling from reality,” says Brault. “But the movie also features characters that are somewhat rudderless, even though they think they aren’t, so I wanted to create music that was never totally anchored. You feel that in the music, as opposed to Maria Chapdelaine, where the music is firmly rooted in the land. Les Oiseaux makes you grasp for your bearings, and the music needed to underscore that.”

String arrangements are also the main colour of the music of Les Oiseaux ivres, but their effect is quite different, says Brault, “and windwood instruments also play a big role. Strings are there to enhance atmospheres, while windwoods add texture. One of the things I enjoyed while working on Les Oiseaux ivres that I couldn’t do for a more classic film like Maria Chapdelaine is use synthesizers. They lurk behind the strings, but they do contribute to the atmosphere, notable through pulses. Even the violins were tweaked in the studio, allowing me to push more modern ideas.”

The composer says he found inspiration for his musical ambience in the work of production designer André-Line Beauparlant and director of photography Sara Mishara. “The entire movie was shot on film, and only during traditional movie hours – at sunrise and at the end of the day – in order to get the best lighting,” says Brault, who worked closely with director Ivan Grbovic (who lives four blocks from him), making it easier to communicate during the pandemic. “That allowed for truly beautiful, epic, wide shots, with this light flooding amazing landscapes; the photo direction is very special. Some of the camera framings create space for the music; it sounds abstract to say it like this, but I saw these images as paintings by impressionist masters. It was incredibly inspiring to write music that was married to those images!”

At least two other new film scores by Brault are ready while the films await their release, and the musician confirmed that he’s working on new film projects – which reminds him that one of the qualities required to get into film music is patience.

“What I’ve come to understand with time is that in the movie business, you only measure the results of your work two to three years later,’ he says. “The process of making a film is complicated: a director picks up on your work, figures out if it fits the type of film he’s developing, and from there it can take another two or three years before he contacts you. Making a movie is a long-haul project, I find, as opposed to recording an album. If a project does well, I usually get a ton of collaboration requests about a year later. The process is a lot shorter, whereas filmmakers may pick you, but they still need time to develop their project. It is totally different universe.”