“Northern Touch” is a Canadian hip hop single, which was released in 1998 by Rascalz in collaboration with Checkmate, Kardinal Offishall, Thrust and Choclair. It is one of the most important individual songs in the history of Canadian hip hop, which almost singlehandedly transformed the genre from a largely ignored underground movement into a practical commercial endeavor.
At the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s, several Canadian hip hop musicians, including Maestro Fresh Wes, Devon and Dream Warriors, had significant chart hits, but there were to be difficult years ahead. Milestone Radio applied to the CRTC for an urban music station in Toronto in 1990, which would have been Canada’s first radio station devoted to that format, but was denied in favor of a country music station. The Canadian music industry had a poor history with Black Canadian musicians, and the Milestone decision was the final nail in the coffin: after 1991, there wasn’t another Canadian hip hop song on the pop charts for over half a decade.
Creation & Impact:
Rascalz, who had recorded their first album in 1993, survived the 1990s by learning the business aspects of the music industry, operating their own independent label as well as touring and performing. Following their 1997 album Cash Crop, they wrote “Northern Touch” as a sort of anthem for Canadian hip hop’s resilience and determination, inviting several other guest musicians to perform on the track. The song was also originally scheduled to include k-os and Jully Black, who cancelled due to other commitments.
The song was subsequently released as a single, and garnered radio airplay throughout North America, becoming Canadian hip hop’s first hit song since 1991. Although the song just barely missed the national Top 40 charts, peaking at #41 in RPM, it reached the Top 10 in most major markets, and was the first Canadian hip hop song to reach the Top 100 at all, and the first to garner widespread radio airplay both in Canada and internationally, since Dream Warriors’ “My Definition of a Boombastic Jazz Style” in 1991.
It was not on the original pressings of Cash Crop, but was quickly added to follow up pressings of the album, due to its popularity.
Cash Crop won the Juno Award for Best Rap Recording in 1998, but Rascalz refused the award because it was presented in the non-televised portion of the ceremony along with the technical awards. The award was moved to the main ceremony in 1999. Rascalz won the award again, this time for “Northern Touch” itself, and performed the song live at the ceremony.
The song samples “Everything Good to You (Ain’t Always Good for You)” by B.T. Express. Coincidentally, American rapper DMX also released a single in 1998, “Get At Me Dog”, which used the same B.T. Express sample.
The song’s video was one of the first music videos directed by Little X, and one of the first film appearance by actress and model Melyssa Ford.