Shad Remains One Of Hip-Hop’s Best Kept Secrets, 10 Years Deep
Ten years ago today (June 10), Shadrach Kabango, more widely known as Shad, had a box delivered to his parent’s house in London, Ontario, Canada. As he recalled today via Facebook, the box contained the first CD pressings of his debut album, When This Is Over, which he would take with him in his backpack to sell at a show later that night, marking the official album release. He wasn’t even the headliner at that show in 2005, where he opened for Josh Martinez, but with years of hard work perfecting his craft, he would go on to become the internationally-known, Juno Award-winning MC he is today.
Shad was a part-time MC when he recorded his debut, as he was working on getting his business degree from Wilfrid Laurier University, and was able to finance the album’s recording by winning a talent competition hosted by a local, Kitchener, Ontario-based radio station. He proved to be a unique MC, playing guitar while he rapped on “Rock To It.” He rapped about serious issues such as the Rwandan genocide on “I’ll Never Understand,” while also showing a more tongue-in-cheek approach to racism in basketball on “Real Game.”
The success of When This Is Over led to Shad signing with Black Box Recordings in 2007, where he would release his subsequent three albums over the next seven years. His sophomore album, 2007’s The Old Prince would bring even more success, as he started filming music videos, making television appearances, and would receive several award nominations including the Junos and Much Music Video Awards. He even made his first appearance on CBC’s “Q”, which he would eventually begin hosting full-time in 2015.
The Old Prince showed Shad’s growth as an MC, as he got more personal with the content, more aggressive with the rhymes, and more humorous with his personality. To this day, the rhymes from “I Don’t Like To” can still sum up Shad’s personality on the mic, as he spits: “Cats say ‘You the illest,’ I’m like nah, B, nah, B… Well okay, probably, but that’s just only cause I rap like it’s my hobby.” He let his witty wordplay and clever personality speak for itself, without using any profanity in his lyrics. His “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” parody in the video for “The Old Prince Still Lives At Home” still cracks Heads up even today.
Shad has always been an artist to put quality over quantity, and so fans had to wait until 2010 to see the release of his next album (backed by Decon, before Nas and company re-branded as Mass Appeal), TSOL. It was well worth the wait, as the album ended up winning a Juno award for “Rap Recording of the Year,” notably beating out Drake’s platinum Thank Me Later. Shad’s growth continued on this album, as he moved seamlessly from rapping about social issues, such as the lack of women’s voices in Rap on “Keep Shining,” to aggressive battle raps on “Yaa I Get It,” to the thought-provoking concept on “We, Myself And I.” He was making bold statements like “the coldest spitting, Rakim: North Pole Edition,” and could probably back it up with his track record at this point.
By the time Shad was ready to release his next album, 2013’s Flying Colours, his rep had grown. He was able to tour across Canada with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, who were dominating the airwaves that year, and released the new album to critical acclaim. Although Drake ended up beating him at the Juno’s this time with Nothing Was The Same, Shad kept building his rep by releasing several EPs to go along with Flying Colours and touring across Canada and the U.S.
Flying Colours saw Shad expand his collaborations, working with Canadian MCs k-os, Saukrates and Eternia, and even pop singer Lights. The lyrical onslaught continued on songs like “Stylin,” while thought-provoking ideas were delivered on songs like “Progress.” Shad also made an immigrants’ party anthem with “Fam Jam (Fe Sum Immigrins),” which featured Jay Z (only by way of a sample) on the hook.
Every new release saw Shad deliver the perfect balance of raw, wordplay-filled lyricism and meaningful, socially-conscious Hip-Hop music, and every tour he went on saw him hit bigger venues. In 2015 however, CBC had to let go of Jian Ghomeshi, creator and host of “Q,” due to a controversial sex scandal. Shad stepped up to audition, and ended up replacing Ghomeshi as the permanent new host of the rebranded “q.”
This wouldn’t be the first time a talented Hip-Hop artist took a full-time TV/radio gig. One of Shad’s major influences, The Roots, have been the house band on Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show” and his “Late Night…” show before that, and have held that role for six years straight. They’ve still been able to release new music and go on tour even while consistently appearing on the show, and so it’s safe to say Shad will continue to grow as an MC even with this new full-time gig. The show might even expand his fan base, which would potentially make his next album his biggest yet.
Today, Shad posted a picture on Facebook of the box full of When This Is Over CDs from 10 years ago, writing “I remember thinking back then that if I never made another album again, I would still be totally thrilled that I got to make just this one.” He’s gone from being Canadian Hip-Hop’s best kept secret to one of its most acclaimed MCs, and his best is arguably still ahead of him. Today we’re celebrating 10 years since When This Is Over came out, but in regards to Shad’s career as an MC, “it ain’t over.”