EDvent/ Shad Concert & Interview

Juno-winning hip-hop elite Shad graces E-town, and graciously answers our questions about Canadian rap, kicking Drake's ass, and most importantly, his favourite beer!

BY EMIL TIEDEMANN

Juno-winning rapper Shad
I WAS led into the back entryway of the Brixx Bar & Grill, past the secondary bathrooms, down a short hallway, through the kitchen, and then into the backest of back rooms. That's right, I said backest! That's where I'd spend the next 10 minutes, asking Kenya-born, Ontario-raised, Vancouver-residing Rwandan rapper Shad (rhymes with 'Chad' FYI) some questions about his recent Juno win, his musical influences, and what his favourite beer is.

Heineken, by the way.

I was the last interviewer that Thursday (May 5) night, so I could imagine Shad's anticipation to get this over with. But it was impossible to tell, as Shad patiently acknowledged each of my inquiries like a pro, making me feel like I was talking to a long-time buddy of mine. Maybe one day, no?! One who's opened for Common, owns a business degree, and been nominated for the coveted Polaris Prize...twice!

After the interview (which you can read in full below, if you care to) I went back to my seat and sipped on the rest of my rum & Coke, as my sister and I awaited the first opening act, Transit, to begin. Daniel Bennett, one-half of the Calgary-based hip-hop duo, made our acquaintance earlier in the evening, briefing us on Transit and his praise over opening for one of Canada's most potent emcees.

Transit took to the Brixx stage shortly before 10PM, assaulting the crowd with a half-hour set of indie DJ-meets-emcee chants, rhyming to the lively beats of one DJ Crosswalk. The audience seemed most appreciative of "My Own Terms," a track they penned, tongue-in-cheek, after turning down a "sell-out" record deal with...wait for it...Gene Simmons!

They were done by a quarter past 10, making room for the next act, Miracle Fortress. This six-year-old Polaris-nominated pop-electronic twosome shifted tones, tinting the mood and relaxing the lighting in lieu of gyrating gleams of coloured spots and rays you might easily find at a techno club. Their "psychedelic shoegazey-pop" riffs and cries were benumbing, soaking the swelling crowd in soothing and uniform beats of synth-pop, compared to the likes of...well, no one I can think of right now. In other words, I likey!

Shad's fourth album, TSOL (2010)
It was somewhere near 11:30 by the time the Brixx must've reached capacity, and erupted into a collective cheer-off for Shad--modestly clad in blue jeans, a black T, and camouflage cap--who embraced their praise, obliging their hurrahs with his award-winning, self-deprecating, socially-aware rhymes.

To be honest, I felt out of the loop, to say the least. I had only recently been briefed on Shad's style of hip-hop, though the bloating crowd that night at the Brixx were not only familiarized with it, but were enthralled, able to croon alongside his beat-Drake-for-the-Juno lyricism. I was ambushed with this crowd's awareness and their sheer admiration for one of Canada's most skilled and progressive emcees, yet one of our most unsung--by comparison--hip-hop talents.

Shad shared testimonies from his four-disc catalogue, focusing his sweat and sways on his most recent, TSOL (Black Box Recordings), the set that had him shortlisted for the 2010 Polaris Music Prize, and that garnered him the 2011 Juno for Rap Recording of the Year. It was even ranked the No.2 hip-hop collection of the year by Exclaim! magazine, squeezed in between The Roots (#3) and Outkast's Big Boi. Not too shabby!

Unfortunately, it was a Thursday night and my inviting pillows and coaxing sheets were beckoning me, so my sis and I had to sneak out, past throngs of seemingly misplaced patrons, and into the midnight streets, shortly before Shad himself called it a night. But despite the early send-off, it was easily a night to remember, and Shad hijacked at least one more unsuspecting devotee. Me!

Now, on to the interview...




(above video filmed by Romy Warren, edited by Miles Jay),


Part I: 

IE/ Before you got into the hip-hop scene, was there something else you were interested in that you thought you might wanna do for the rest of your life?

Shad/ I don't know what I was really thinking about. That's a good question. Well, I went to school for business, so I thought maybe there's something in that broad field that I could sort of do. I'm still interested in, maybe down the road, teaching or something like that. I like kids and I think that there's some kind of important things I would enjoy; sort of like sharing and discussing. So those are kind of options for down the road, I don't know. Before I started getting more and more involved in music, music was the thing that was interesting the most, for sure. So I'm glad I get to do that.

IE/ How did you find yourself in the hip-hop industry?

Shad/ I started out really just like a fan, you know, and just freestyling with friends...and then that just sort of went from there to like home recordings with friends to playing a few shows; and then I got the chance to make my own solo album after that in like my third or fourth year. And so, from there, I can sorta like play shows...get the ball rolling...got signed and made a second one, made a third...,

IE/ How would you describe your music, your last album (TSOL) in particular?

Shad/ I'd say my style is pretty rooted in what I would call classic hip-hop, which is sort of like soul samples, you know? Lyrically, my stuff kind of goes in a lot of different directions; that's always sort of been my approach and always sort of been what comes natural to me...some serious stuff, some lighter stuff, you know, just because I feel like that reflects life, really. There's ups & downs, there's funny things, there's more serious things, and there's no reason why you can't express all of it in music.

IE/ How would you describe the current state of hip-hop in Canada, and how it differs from that in the States?

Shad at The Brixx Bar & Grill
Shad/ I'd say, in Canada right now, things are as exciting as they've been since I've started playing, for sure. That's been cool to see. It's been cool to see all the support underground. Fans are really just down with hip-hop, wherever it comes from. There is always this sort of idea that Canadian hip-hop was a little bit second-rate, or worse. But now, it's cool to see a lot of fans are just down. If they like you, they just like you; they don't think, 'This is the separate class of artists that I also like.' Whether it's K'naan, or whether it's 50 Cent, if they like it they like it. So that's been cool to see. It's definitely an exciting time.

IE/ Do you remember the first thing that went through your head when your name was called as the winner of the Juno Award for Rap Recording of the Year?

Shad/ Yeah, I was like, 'Really?' That's the first thing that kinda came to my head. 'Cause I definitely wasn't expecting to win. I was quite surprised, wasn't really sure what was going on.

IE/ Where do you keep your Juno?

Shad/ Actually, they have to mail it to you, so I haven't gotten mine yet. They give you one to like talk with when you're there, and then they take it back from you right away. I'll probably keep it in my apartment or something like that.

IE/ Did you ever think you could win against the Juno host and international star Drake?

Shad/ No, not at all. I mean, he's had an incredible run and he's sold a lot of copies, and he's done extremely well, so I was definitely not expecting that.

IE/ Do you own his album (Thank Me Later)?

Shad/ I don't own his album, but I do think he's incredibly talented and charismatic; and he killed it hosting the Junos. I'm very surprised he didn't take something home, considering he was up for six awards and did such a great job hosting in his hometown. He's an incredibly talented guy.

IE/ Who would you love to work with in the music industry, dead or alive?

Shad/ Dead or alive? Any genre? That's a good question. Ah...see, there's people I'm a huge fan of...I don't know if I'd really wanna work with them though. Growing up, Lauryn Hill was always the most talented person in music, you know, so working with her...but I don't know if I could really work with her and turn out something that would be particularly good. But definitely, all-time, I'm a huge fan of hers. Common was like my favourite rapper in high school. I think Kanye, what he's doing right now, is pretty far ahead of anyone else. So those are all people I would love to be in the studio with at some point and learn from, if nothing else. I don't know if we would turn out something great together, but I'd love to sit with them in the studio and just...session.

IE/ I know you're studying for your master's degree in liberal studies, so what do you think you'll be doing five years from now?

Shad/ I have no idea. No five-year plan. But we'll see; I mean I still love music, I still feel like I have room to get better. I still feel like I have things on my mind that I'm interested in sharing...I think are worth sharing. So, I'm still interested in music...down the road, we'll see.

Part II:

IE/ First concert you attended?

Shad/ Far Side in London, Ontario.

IE/ Favourite movie of all-time?

Shad/ That's a tough one. For some reason I've always liked V For Vendetta.

IE/ Last CD you bought?

Shad/ That's a tough question. I don't know what the last CD I bought was. Probably something I bought at a concert. That's usually when I end up buying albums is at a concert.

IE/ If you could hang out with a famous person for one day, who would it be?

Shad/ Michael Jordan

IE/ Favourite beer?

Shad/ I don't really have a favourite beer. Maybe Heineken.

Thanks for your time, Shad! BTW, Shad is currently on a Spring tour across Canada, presented by Scion. For dates and further info. click here.

Below is Shad's video clip for "Rose Garden."

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