Young Toronto rapper Quanche proves that it's possible to be hard and thoughtful at the same time.
It feels weird to refer to Quanche as a veteran of the local hip-hop scene. The Toronto rapper—real name Zack Gomez—is only 20 years-old. That said, he’s already put in a lot of work. He first popped up on the radar back in 2005, when he made a guest appearance on a mixtape by T-Dot underground stalwart Kamikaze and released his own debut mixtape, Youngest in Charge, back in 2007.
His latest release, Parish Boy’s Progress, cements Quanche’s veteran status. It is a strange study in contradictions that proves, once and for all, that he is one of the elite lyricists in Canadian hip-hop. Yeah, there’s still all the goon shit we’ve come to expect from him. He’s still reppin’ Vaughan Road, still servin’ fiends, and still talking about his bail conditions in his rhymes. On the other hand, Parish Boy’s Progress is also a remarkably smart album, both in terms of content and references. The title of the tape is from Oliver Twist, he repeatedly references former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s famous “just watch me” line, and he shouts out Toronto’s first mayor, William Lyon Mackenzie.
His street life lyrics are also balanced out by a strong social conscience. Quanche isn’t afraid to use his music to ask uncomfortable questions. On “More is Not Enough,” he wonders why the government is building youth super jails rather than trying to keep kids from getting locked up in the first place, and why society preaches higher education as a key to a better life, then prices out those who need it the most.
From a strictly technical standpoint, his skills are equally remarkable. Progress is a mixtape in the old-school sense, with Quanche rhyming over other artists’ beats. He’s able to take well-known instrumentals from other MCs—most notably ASAP Rocky and Kendrick Lamar—and make them his own, which isn’t an easy feat, given that Lamar’s “HiiiPower,” which forms the backbone for “Daily Planner,” was one of the best hip-hop singles of 2011. His take on Kreayshawn’s “You Already Know” leaves the original in its dust. He’s able to switch gears almost effortlessly, squeezing too many words into his bars on “Boiling Point,” rhyming with Usain Bolt-like speed on “Legacy,” or being deliberately slow and letting the pauses hang heavy on “More is Not Enough.”
Quanche follows in the footsteps of artists like Nas and Dead Prez in terms of his ability to represent the streets while still casting a critical eye at the wider world around him. What’s really impressive is that he’s able to do this at a relatively tender age. If Quanche can keep the streets from swallowing him whole, his potential is limitless.