“Started from the bottom, now the whole team here.”

So says Drake in “Started From the Bottom,” and that’s exactly how his big-bang explosion on the worldwide hip-hop scene has affected the fortunes of his whole team – more than 60 Canadian, Toronto-based songwriters, beat-makers, producers and other collaborators. Drake has almost single-handedly created an entire industry that has blossomed in his wake, and inspired the next generation of Canadian hip-hop in the process.

It’s already known that Toronto native Aubrey “Drake” Graham is gifted with a unique vernacular that has vaulted him into the forefront of rap music and placed him on the global sphere of influence shared by Eminem, Jay-Z and Kanye West. Now he’s also the first-ever recipient of SOCAN’s Global Inspiration Award, for being particularly generous in bringing his Toronto-centric crew along for the ride – to the tune of collaborating on 226 commercially released songs and four albums.

For a Grammy- and multiple JUNO-winning artist – who’s sold more than 5 million albums, staged multi-million dollar tours and, in five short years, already squeezed 36 songs onto the Billboard charts (including the Top 10 “Forever,” “Best I Ever Had,” “Find Your Love,” “Take Care,” “Make Me Proud,” “Started From The Bottom” and “Hold On, We’re Going Home”) – his sense of loyalty and devotion to T.O., and his hometown collaborators, is refreshing.

“I put a lot of people in positions to do great things.”

“When it comes to this city [Toronto], I mean, I’m so vocal about how much I care,” Drake told CBC’s Q with Jian Ghomeshi. “All I ever wanna do is just see this city get the recognition and the love it deserves, see people from this city shine. Y’know, I put a lot of people in positions to do great things. That’s all I wanna keep doing.”

So how deeply does “The Drake Effect” impact the contemporary hip-hop scene? Just look at the company his collaborators keep aside from Drizzy.

Some, like high-profile producers, engineers and mixers Noah “40” Shebib and Boi-1da (Matthew Samuels) who’ve been with him since he was spitting out his first rhymes back in the mid-00’s – have been tapped by some of music’s biggest names to share their expertise.

Boi-1da’s Drake connection has led to him working with Jay-Z, Eminem, Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Young Jeezy, Rick Ross, Flo Rida, Kelly Rowland, Meek Mill, and Lil’ Wayne – the American rapper who took first took Drizzy under his wing, signed him to his Cash Money Records/Young Money Entertainment label and management firm, and helped establish him internationally.

Grammy-winner 40 has been sought out by Trey Songz, Lil’ Wayne, Alicia Keys, Sade, fellow Canuck Melanie Fiona, Usher, Beyoncé, and many more.

When Boi-1da and 40 accepted SOCAN’s inaugural Global Inspiration Award on behalf of Drake, presented at the SOCAN Awards in June 2014, 40 made the point that almost all of Drizzy’s music is “written by Canadians, produced by Canadians, and recorded by Canadians… We make a conscious effort to keep this here [in Canada and Toronto].”

The Jamaican-born, Ajax, Ont.-based Boi-1da, says he’s known Drake since his Degrassi days, and confirmed the accuracy of the Nothing Was the Same Top 10 anthem in an interview with HipHopDX.

“We started working out of a studio that was rat-infested,” he said. “I was working at Winners at the time, and Drake was working at two places: He was working at Degrassi: The Next Generation and at a restaurant where he was doing spoken word over the piano.

“To me, he really started from the bottom. When I hear people say [that he didn’t], it really upsets me, because I was there when we all started it and went through the struggles… Drake made a lane of his own.

 “I’ve always said this. When I first met the guy and heard his music, I said, ‘This guy – and not to disrespect anyone – was going to be the next Jay-Z.’ He had everything working for him. He had the swag, the look, and the music was always spectacular. To this day, I’ve never heard a bad Drake verse.”

It’s a music biz maxim: you have a lifetime to write your first album, but when it comes to making the follow-up, the clock is ticking. For Alyssa Reid, her sophomore effort turned out to be a ticking Time Bomb.

That’s the name the 21-year-old, Toronto-based, pop singer-songwriter gave to her second album, released in February. But in truth, Reid took enough time to make sure the follow-up to her very successful 2011 debut, The Game, got all the attention it deserved.

And it seems to have paid off. The Time Bomb’s been exploding thanks to the singles “Satisfaction Guaranteed” (Top 10 in Canada) and “Running Guns,” both of which appear on the album.

Reid worked on Time Bomb in Los Angeles, Miami and Toronto, collaborating with top-notch producers and songwriters such as Billy Steinberg (Madonna, Heart), Josh Alexander (Demi Lovato, Leona Lewis), Thomas “Tawgs” Salter (Walk off the Earth, Lights) and Jamie Appleby, co-founder of her record label, Wax Records.

“Every single one of these songs is very personal to me.”

But this time around, Reid also took on a larger role, writing or co-writing every song on the album, and she felt more prepared to offer input, whereas on her debut album, she admits to being unsure of her footing.

“On my first album, it was my first time working with producers, first time working in a real studio with people who were trying to help shape me as an artist,” she says. “Getting to make Time Bomb, I was definitely more free with my opinions, and I knew more about what I was doing. I knew what I wanted. I definitely think that came through.”

Born in Edmonton, Reid wrote her first song at the age of seven. The singer’s family moved to Brampton, ON, where she finished high school and continued to focus on music, winning scholarships to attend performing arts schools in L.A. and New York City.

Then came the ‘Tube and the Bieb. In 2009, Reid posted a YouTube performance of the Justin Bieber hit “One Less Lonely Girl,” but re-interpreted from a girl’s perspective. The song, re-titled “One More Lonely Boy,” went viral and drew the attention of Wax Records.

By 2011, still in her teens, she was working with some of the most successful producers in pop music on her debut album. Propelled by the double-platinum single “Alone Again” (featuring rapper P. Reign), an updated take on the 1987 No. 1 hit “Alone” by Heart, The Game launched Reid into the stratosphere internationally. The song sold more than a million copies worldwide. In 2012 it won a SOCAN Pop/Rock Music Award and garnered Reid a JUNO nomination for Best New Artist.

To build on that success, Reid knew she had to step up her game, and she feels the songs on Time Bomb do that by showing a greater emotional maturity. “Every single one of these songs is very personal to me,” she explains, “whether it’s a relationship with a family member, or a friend, or a boyfriend, or just something that I’ve gone through.”

On the title track, a tender ballad she wrote after a sleepless night, featuring just Reid’s vocal and piano accompaniment, she lays her feelings bare. “At about five a.m., I went down to the piano and I just started writing,” she says. “I think that was the first song where I really put myself completely out there.” She kept the song’s sparse arrangement and chose to name the album after the track because she felt it represented her best. “I know it was a risk to name the album after a song that’s probably not going to be a single,” she says, “but it felt important to me.”

Taking risks. Following her feelings. The rookie from a few years ago wouldn’t have dared such things. Is the singer who popped up out of a YouTube clip now blossoming into a bona fide pop artist?

“The success of ‘Alone Again’ was so big, I thought maybe I wouldn’t be able to follow it up,” Reid says. “But I find people are embracing me as an artist now more than just the song. I’m very grateful for that, and I’m really excited to continue on with this album and to see where it goes.”

Wax On Wax Off Publishing, Third Side Music
The Game (2011), Time Bomb (2014)
SOCAN member since 2007
Visit www.alyssareid.com

At the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Canadian figure skaters Eric Radford and Meagan Duhamel gave solid performances that helped them finish seventh in pair skating and get the silver medal for Canada in the first figure skating team event. Much was made of the fact that Duhamel and Radford had skated their short program to music composed by Radford himself, the first time in the sport’s history that an athlete had performed to his own music. Radford’s piece, Tribute, a classically inspired lyrical piece, was recorded by the Longueuil Symphony Orchestra with singer Jenifer Aubry. “Apparently, back in the 1990s, a Ukrainian skater wrote a techno piece for his performance, but this took place in a non-competitive context,” Radford said. “And Edvin Marton is also known for the pieces he wrote for specific male and female figure skaters, but what I did was different.”

Radford’s feat was a first. In 2006, the young skater had written a simple and moving piano composition in memory of his trainer, Paul Wirtz, who had succumbed to cancer at the age of 47. That could have been the end of the story. “Music has been in my life since I was eight,” Radford recalls. “Whenever I check into a hotel, as soon as I can locate the piano, I have to sit down and play something. I can’t tell you how many times people have asked me if I had ever thought of skating to one of my own compositions some day,” a suggestion Radford finally took a couple of years ago when, without mentioning anything to his skating partner Meagan Duhamel or his trainer Julie Marcotte, he did an Internet search using the keywords “music,” “composer,” and “Montreal”. That led him to Louis Babin, whose online musical excerpts impressed him. Promptly reached, Babin was initially skeptical: “I had been contacted before about similar projects,” the seasoned composer pointed out, “and I wasn’t quite sure.”

“Music has been in my life since I was eight.” – Eric Radford

Once the two composers met face to face, however, Babin was in. “I saw that Eric was really talented and that his composition was solid. He was also using Logic Pro, the music software I’m teaching. I totally understood why he had reached out to help his project materialize,” Babin recalled. But it wouldn’t necessarily be easy. First of all, Meagan Duhamel and Julie Marcotte had to be brought on board along with the Figure Skating Federation. “I found out later that Meagan and Julie were not immediately convinced,” Radford remembered. “After hearing the synthesizer demo that had been produced with sampled sounds, they didn’t believe it could work. At some point, I promised them that, if it didn’t in the end, I wouldn’t mind. The main thing for me was seeing the process through.”

Over several months, Tribute was orchestrated by Radford and Babin, who owns a 10% performing right royalty interest in the piece. While they occasionally met, they mostly worked through e-mail, and Babin strongly suggested that Radford hire the Longueuil Symphony to record the piece, an expense that paid out. “That’s when I was able to appreciate the enormity of this project,” Radford explained. “Wow! The instant we heard the first bow strokes, Meagan, Julie and I looked at each another, and I knew that this could really happen. When you’re an athlete, you concentrate on stepping onto that podium, but that’s a very brief moment after so many years of training. With that song, I was able to live an experience that was just as intense. What a gift!”

Drawing many parallels between the precision required for a work like Tribute and his work on music cues for film and television scores, Babin pointed out that “it was extremely important to listen to trainer Julie Marcotte’s comments as she was describing the timing between the music and the choreography. Eric and I made adjustments until the very end. We still had to cut out four seconds of music before sending the piece for final mixing.” Babin even travelled to Boisbriand (Quebec) to watch Radford and Duhamel the first time they skated their short program to Tribute.

Babin was both thrilled with his collaboration with Radford and impressed with the Olympic athlete’s courage. “He stuck his neck out. That venture could have brought a lot of additional stress, but Eric saw things differently.” Tribute can now be purchased online, with half the proceeds being donated to the Canadian Cancer Society. Above all, Eric Radford is planning to pursue his creative partnership with fellow SOCAN member Louis Babin: “That’s the musical world I want to get involved in once I’m through with figure stating. Will it be in two, four years? I really don’t know. Right now, I’m gearing up to write the music for our next long program. There’s no going back.”

To purchase Tribute, go here.