Up Top Movement is here to put on for the culture, specifically Toronto culture. Founded by owner Shem aka BG, the respected indie label from Canada has been staying busy since the release of their compilation album titled Northside Jane, which has accumulated well over 20 million streams. Now, they’re excited as ever to be releasing the project’s second installment, Northside Jane 2.
Coming into fruition in 2013, the label focuses on showcasing the talent hailing from the Jane and Finch neighborhood in Toronto. When it comes to independent artists in the Canadian rap scene, they’ve built their name up releasing music and projects with the likes of Robin Banks, Houdini, Burna Bandz, Why G, J Neat, and more.
BG has been in music a long time. He states,” I’ve been putting out the best music from Canada since 2014. The most numbers, the most everything over here. Always been around.”
One thing the label prides themselves on is community. Back in May, one of the city’s most favored rising acts, Houdini, was tragically shot and murdered in downtown Toronto. Footage was captured and played on local and national news stations. Later during his funeral, a car drove by and opened fire on those in attendance outside a banquet hall.
Burna Bandz was one, who opened fire back and was then arrested, now awaiting bail. The project contains their collaborative single “Sick Of Cells,” celebrating both artists in their own way.
AllHipHop: Being from Toronto, what was your upbringing like?
BG: I grew up in Jane and Finsh, Driftwood. It’s a bad area of Toronto. A lot of violence, drugs, all that.
AllHipHop: When did music come into play?
BG: The older guys used to rap. I used to rap when I was a kid. I used to write raps, I was like 12 or 13. I went to the studio one time and did a verse, but I never took it seriously. I was in the streets. The older guys were rapping, always rapped and repped the area. My homie rapped, we did videos. I guess every generation rapped. One morning, God told me to build a studio.
BG: One of the homies introduced me to Robin Banks. I brought Robin Banks to the studio in my crib.
AllHipHop: Robin Banks was on Up Top correct?
BG: Yeah, one of the first artists on Up Top. I brought him to the studio, we started doing some songs and videos. I built a YouTube page. I built an Instagram, but I keep getting in trouble. Forgetting the passwords. My IG probably would’ve been a lot of followers by now. I started a YouTube page, a Twitter, was building from then. Around 2013 to 2014.
AllHipHop: When did you get the idea for Up Top Movement?
BG: I got it from my neighborhood, they call it Up Top Driftwood. I called it Up Top Movement to rep the hood.
AllHipHop: How do you find new talent and artists?
BG: Just kids in the streets. I bring them and the studio and develop them.
AllHipHop: Can you bring us through the origins of the label?
BG: The first artist is Robin Banks. I woke up one morning and God put it in my head. You know those movies where they spring up with the idea, like you wake up in the morning and you spring up out of your bed? It was like that. God told me to build a studio, I built it in my room in my crib. One of the first songs was “Don’t Try Me” by Robin Banks. The next song was called “Up Next” by Robin Banks.
AllHipHop: How is the Jane and Finch community an integral part of the label and its brand?
BG: Because it’s where I grew up, it’s what I represent. Jane and Finch is a lot of killings, drugs, a lot of shooting and drugs. Gang wars, that’s all that goes on over there.
AllHipHop: What are your future goals with the label?
BG: I want to be one of the top labels in the world.
AllHipHop: How do you plan on getting there?
BG: Just putting out all genres of music. I’m putting out all types of music.
AllHipHop: Talk about the Northside Jane 2 album and how important it is to Canadian hip-hop?
BG: I did Northside Jane 1 in 2018. Robin Banks got shot, he wasn’t rapping for a little while. There was some young n*ggas that came out like Burna Bandz, Houdini, Tallup Twinz, couple of young boys I brought into the studio. We started making songs and videos, I put them out. Put them out there and they started doing good. He started doing good, he started doing numbers. Northside Jane 1 was a smash, over 20 million of streams. Millions of views on YouTube for the videos.
AllHipHop: What was it about that album that people liked?
BG: It’s gritty. Toronto knows, the streets know what we’re about. When we speak, they listen. That’s why they really like it. The music’s good too. This second one, Houdini just passed away. Burna’s in jail, Tallup Twinz was in jail, so it was harder to make. It wasn’t how I wanted to do it truly, but because of the circumstances I had to work with it.
AllHipHop: Why wasn’t it how you wanted to do it?
BG: There’s some song Houdini was supposed to be on, some other songs. Burna’s locked up so he couldn’t really get on it. Tallup Twinz didn’t get on it because one was in jail and one of the twins passed away. His brother passed away, just a lot of s### left out.
AllHipHop: Talk about the importance of community building.
BG: Up Top Movement is for the kids. Some kids aren’t rapping just to rap, they want to rap instead of doing certain things. They want an outlet to places but they don’t have it, and I provide that with my studio. It’s a safe haven for the kids. They’d rather be there in the studio instead of in the streets. Of course, I want to give back to the community and help do my part.