Known predominantly for his work behind the scenes, helping recording artists turn into worldwide superstars, David Strickland is ready to emerge out of the shadows with his own musical creation. The Grammy and Juno-award-winning artist and producer will release his exciting new album, Spirit of Hip-Hop, on June 29th, a recording he has been teasing over the last couple of months with some well-received singles. The album is littered with guest stars, bringing together rappers and R&B performers from around the globe, including Rap Prime Minister, Maestro Fresh Wes, Que Rock, Leonard Sumner, Que Rock, Supaman, JRDN, Spade of Citizen Kane and many more. The album is truly a hip-hop extravaganza that will appeal to any fan of polished beats, production, and socially conscious lyricism.

As a Canadian Indigenous artist, Strickland possesses strong opinions about the issues that his people face each and every day as an often marginalized group striving for equal rights and recognition. He is passionate about the plight of the Mi’kmaq people and is strongly committed to helping to restore the dignity and respect that has been denied thousands of Indigenous people due to an unconstitutional agreement that strips them of their Indian status. To discuss these issues, as well as his music, Strickland recently launched a live Instagram interview series titled The David Strickland Show.

With such an intelligent approach and a production resume that stands second to none, we recently caught up with Strickland who offered us a Top 10 list of his all-time favourite music engineers who have contributed to developing the sound of many classic and modern artists.

10. Robert “Bobby Digital” Dixon

“The list would not be complete without one legendary engineer from Jamdown. Bobby Digital has passed recently. Yet his impact on dancehall and reggae music is profound and immortal. Bobby began working with King Jammy and eventual struck out on his own. Impressively starting his own label and studio, Digital B, which later introduced the world to Shabba Ranks, Cocoa Tea, Super Cat, Garnett Silk, and many other icons. It would be a crime to deny his influence on my sound and my production. Rest in peace Mr. Dixon.”

Robert “Bobby Digital” Dixon

9. Mike Dean

“A pioneer of mixing the ‘Dirty South’ sound. Mike Dean’s legend status is an understatement. From working with Rap-a-Lot all the way to Kanye, it is difficult to find music that Mike has touched that has not been a big deal. I would not hesitate to declare that he is one of the best in the industry. Mike has created a remarkable legacy that matches the legacies of many engineers who are considered greats. He is hands down one of them! You have, without a doubt, heard his sound and you have also ‘shook your tail feather’ to his mixes.”

Mike Dean

8. Troy Hightower

“The first time I heard about Troy Hightower I was working on Choclair’s debut album, which Troy mixed on. Mr. Hightower has mixed many hip-hop classics and you have heard his work. I urge budding engineers to familiarize themselves with his work, as Troy is one of the GOATS and he deserves to be on this list.”

7. Ken “Duro” Ifill

Duro’s mixes are so perfect sometimes: technically sound, but not devoid of creative touch that is unequivocally his own. I met Duro at Mirror Image and was lucky enough to watch him work his magic with precision and professionalism, during ‘Red Gone Wild.’ His work ethic and passion inspired me; his technique is so clean. He continues to be someone I will always look up to.”

Ken “Duro” Ifill

6. Gimel “Young Guru” Keaton

“When I hear Young Guru, my mind immediately thinks of Jay Z. Guru was around Mirror Image when I used to hide out there, that is where I first met him. We worked on Blackout 2, which was an experience that I feel fortunate to have had, as the body of his work speaks volumes of his natural talent and showcases why he is one of the greatest of all time.”

Gimel “Young Guru” Keaton

5. Noah “40” Shebib

40…Like wow! When I met Noah, I saw a big spirit and energy. He has a ‘never give up attitude.’ Mr. Shebib has changed music, as we know it, some Miles Davis stuff right there. Technical genius, yet creative and fresh, turning what could be called ‘unorthodox’ into the accepted, in a subtle yet masterful way. He is synonymous with Drake. The history he has made is unbelievable. I could not begin to describe the skills and influence on he has brought to Toronto, Canada, not to mention world. Then, now, and into the future, as we have no idea just how much his mark on music history will continue to impact future engineers. All I can say is that his influence will be there. Even before Drake and the ‘OVO Ting,’ Noah has worked with big players of the Toronto scene such as Jelleestone, Divine Brown, k-os and laid the foundation of Empire. Noah is a pioneer and he deserves his place in history.”

Noah “40” Shebib

4. Bob Power

“Working with acts such as: A Tribe Called Quest, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Chaka Khan, etc… Bob Power was one of the first engineers (whose work) I studied sonically when I started to engineer. Through his work, I was able to learn, view, perform mixing as an art form that combines math, music, and electronics. Understanding these nuances…Power-ful.”

Bob Power

3. Bruce Swedien

“One word: ‘Thriller.’ I met Bruce back in 1996. He was the keynote speaker at my graduation from Trebas Institute. His works about hard work and dedication stayed with me and continued to aid my drive whenever I felt I was becoming complacent. Helped to me to refocus on the part that produces results: the grind part. Mr. Swedien has worked with so many musical legends, a list does not do his legacy justice, as we are talking about the likes of Quincy Jones, Barbra Streisand, Chaka Khan, Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney, to name a few. Bruce’s effect on music and myself is timeless.”

Bruce Swedien

2. Tommy Uzzo

Uncle Tommy, I used to call him that because Tommy and Mike Hogan treated me like family always; the moment I met them. Tommy was essentially Mirror Image (studio). His credits are staggering; EPMD, Redman & Method Man, Michael Jackson, K7, Cher, Gloria Estevan, Keith Murray and so many more stars. Over 50 million records sold and 40 RIAA Certified Platinum sales his ears have graced. One of the most humble and funniest guys I have met. Tommy was so gentle in a climate that is not always that hospitable. I covered a session for Tommy once and was told that it was a big gesture to be allowed to sit in his chair, it was like being the captain of the ship. This showed me two things, one, how respected Tommy was and two, that I was being given props. Tommy helped me in many ways that have contributed to my career journey. However, one of the best things he gave me was amazing memories. Thank you, Mr. Uzzo. Rest in peace.”

David Strickland & Tommy Uzzo (courtesy of David Strickland)

1. Noel “Gadget” Campbell

Gadget…. My mentor, teacher, he was like a father to me, big brother too; he is also a LEGEND. The amount of skills he taught me cannot be understated; his ‘curriculum’ was active, rich, and showing initiative was key. He is the best in the world, from time. Even if you looked solely at all his Drake mixes it is… ‘I rest my case.’ Of course, there is more to the story here. Gadget is the Dr. Dre of Toronto. The ‘Unseen Hand’ way before we had Drake. His fingerprints are all over Toronto hip-hop and R&B. From Saukrates to k-os to Kardinal to Jully Black, Jelleestone, Ghetto Concept, Jacksoul and on and on. Gadget is the ‘Toronto Sound.’”

Noel “Gadget” Campbell

Artwork for ‘Spirit of Hip-Hop’ by David Strickland

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