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Show & Tell: Ron D “Toronto Part 2” or is it “Empire State of Mind part 2?”

November 6, 2009
Ron D.

Ron D. showing his Canadian pride. Photo courtesy

After hearing Jay Z’s NYC anthem, Empire State of Mind, for the thousandth time this month I finally thought, damn, why doesn’t Toronto have its own epic, sprawling anthems like this one? Now it’s obvious that, as a city, Toronto has little man complex when it comes to its American big brother, including the music, movies and books that constantly reference it. So that brings me to my mixed feelings towards Toronto rapper Ron D. and his record, Toronto Part 2, quite literally a “remake” of Empire.

I would say Ron has taken the Empire beat and simply rapped similar lyrics over top of it, but he clears this up on his blog where he says:

“You guys have no idea… since the Jiggaman didn’t want  the ”Empire state of Mind” beat out there I had to actually use my production skills and make this instrumental from scratch. So to all the DJs, Rappers, Singers who are requesting for the instrumental, in respect to Jay I will NOT send it out. Also the Accapella will be released on a Later Date…(you’ll see why).”

Yes, I’m loving the Toronto-centric lyrics, such as when Ron talks sneaker shopping on Queen W., growing up in Scarborough, or just name dropping Drake (But I’m from that T-dot/ Home of that boy Drizzy/ Now he on the billboards/ And he brought his whole city), but by the time the hook kicks in, which is identical to Jay’s (or rather, Alicia’s) except the words “New York” have been changed to “T.O.” it makes you realize this isn’t really a Toronto anthem – It’s a New York one with the words changed. I’m not sure even an accapella version could hide that, unless it drops the whole hook.

Toronto part 2 is like taking that other well known NYC song that Sinatra sings, changing the words to talk about Corsa Italia, Little Italy and making it big in a Mirvish Production, then simply changing the name to “Toronto, Toronto.” Like Dundas Square (Times Square Jr.), it just reiterates the fact that rather than create a unique identity that is all Toronto, we would rather make demeaning self references to how we are just like New York (we aren’t), but smaller (population wise, that part is true) and frankly, not as good (both cities have their strengths and weaknesses).

Ron D., despite his bang up job producing the beat and coming up with the lyrics for Toronto part 2, further enhances that image. Hey, at least he didn’t call it “a hogtown state of mind.”

Without ever hearing Empire State of Mind you would think Ron D.’s record is great, but since that isn’t likely and if you happen to be too jaded to enjoy it, there is still a solid Toronto anthem out there. It’s called Toronto part one (below), and it’s by none other than Ron D. who released it last year, complete with the TTC chimes that all the Toronto transit riders know so well. Best of all, it’s original, catchy and has that old school feel without copying “the best [NYC] rapper alive.”

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Simon permalink*
    November 6, 2009 12:50 pm

    I agree, we have enough talent in this city that artists shouldn’t feel the need to cramp the style of anybody else out there. Also, two anthems about the city? Ron D should just run for mayor. I’m pretty sure he’d win.

  2. November 6, 2009 12:57 pm

    Yup, a good point about T-dot’s complex with NY (dunno about you, but I see that in our blogging community too). “Empire” remakes for *every* city are kinda inevitable though ala Busta’s “New York Shit” a couple years ago (and there again…an NY-pride joint, hm). I dig both of these tracks. I just hope there’s a posse cut remix in the works. Stuff like and of course always make me smile.

    As a sidenote — it seems like most everyone even remotely related to the Remix Project is good peoples; I support their movements.

    • November 6, 2009 12:58 pm

      Haha. And now I see my comment next to my profile pic: Yankees cap with a Canadiana t-shirt…

  3. November 6, 2009 4:06 pm

    Thanks for posting this Jesse. I’m kind of sick of this city and it’s people turning into NY/LA wannabes. We’ve got our own unique identity—it’s been a pull-factor for many years, so why change it. I for one love the fact that you get a laidback, unpretentious vibe from the city while still getting all of the cultural/social/technological benefits of a major american metropolis.

    That’s why I’m not feeling the song too hard. Ron D comes nice on it (and on Part one) but you’re right about it feeling a little knock-offy (i want to make a compilation of all the copycat tracks out there, I’m certain it would be sick).

    The thing is though, and I wonder if I’m saying it just because I’m from here, but I think Toronto is worthy of an epic love song like “Empire.” It just needs to be a real testimonial instead of a paraphrase.

  4. November 11, 2009 1:33 pm

    As a non-Torontonian who’s only been here since May, I’ll say this:


    And as much as I love NYC, and as much as it holds a special place in the hearts of a whole generation OBSESSED with it … Toronto is diff, has its own identity and cultural makeup, and needs to embrace that, rather than aspiring to be 2nd best. Where’s a Toronto anthem with a banging beat that people can groove to? I know the talent to do it exists in the city.

    But I don’t even think its necess a T.O. thing – Montrealers preen when people call it the Paris of North America, Calgarians love their stampeding, Texan, shitkicking persona (and their Stetsons), and Vancouver loves its proximity (cultural and geographical) to the American west coast. It’s a lack of a national identity in general, a result of the history of the country, and of the resistance of the old white Canadian elite to Canada’s new TRUE identity and strength: its burgeoning multiculturalism. The “Canuck” hockey-playing, beer-guzzling identity is cute but sadly interests so few of us non-Canadians. It’s simply just not as widely-marketable of an image.

    These are all things I’ve noticed as a Canadian-but-not-really-Canadian, living on the fringes. U guys have got the people and the resources and the will, trust me. And, well, the rent prices 🙂


  1. Geoff Pevere’s T-dot state of mind « The Ashcan
  2. Remix State of Mind « The Ashcan
  3. Remixed: Empire State of Mind | The Ashcan

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