He won money at a local talent contest, invested it in a debut album and continued his journey with the amazing sophomore album The Old Prince. Reason enough to talk to this upcoming Canadian MC.
Preview: Shad – I Get Down
Let’s start at the beginning: when did you got into hip hop and why did you decide to make music yourself?
I started making music seriously when I got the chance to record my first album in 2004. A couple years before that I was performing with a couple groups and really getting into writing rhymes and learning how to perform.
Is there a specific song, album or artist that you heard as a kid that made you fall in love with hip hop?
I always just loved music as long as I can remember. First hip hop to really make an impression on me would have to be Nas – Illmatic and specifically ‘The World Is Yours” when that used to come on the radio. In high school, discovering Common and his lyrical genius, Rass Kass – Soul On Ice, De La Soul – Stakes is High, Outkast – Aquemeni. Those albums impacted me the most I’d say.
You also play acoustic guitar. It’s not really a basic instrument for a MC, so why did you decided to play this instrument? Just because your musical taste is very open or did you have other reasons for it?
Yeah, when I first started playing guitar it had nothing to do with my rapping. I liked rock music. Weezer and stuff like that. I never even thought of combining to the two for years. I started freestyling before I learned guitar and it was years after I was doing both that I decided to try combining them once in a while.
You financed your first album with the money you won on a talent show. Can you tell me a little bit more about the talent show and how you got into it?
It was a unsigned talent contest put on by a local radio station. My sister entered me as a birthday present – she sent in a demo an a bio – and I was selected as a finalist and eventually won.
What did the first price for this talent show mean to you?
It meant a lot. Firstly, I was able to record a solo record so it was a big opportunity to get things going career-wise, and secondly it also gave me a bit of confidence to know that someone out there that isn’t a friend or a blood relative actually thought I was alright.
Without the money you won on that show, would you ever been able to release your debut album?
I probably would have figured out a way to put something together, but it would have taken a lot longer and it would’ve been a lot harder. Also this gave me a nice little story to help push the album in the media and stuff. That kind of thing never hurts.
Which album is more personal to you, ‘The Old Prince’ or ‘When This Is Over’ and why?
That’s a good question. Both are pretty personal. The Old Prince maybe even moreso because the whole things deals with my emotional/spiritual/psychological life and issues. So it’s deep. When This is Over is equally personal but maybe not quite as deep into my psyche. Its more about the different things that make up who I am but not as much about the core of who I am if that makes any sense. Both are pretty personal records though.
What’s more important for you; having fun in making music or the possibility to reflect your emotions and talk about more ‘heavy’ subjects?
Another good question. I don’t wanna cop out and say both are equally important so Im gonna say that while both are important to me, making music about things that matter is more important. I get a lot of satisfaction from when I’m able to do that and I know that impacts people the most as well. Music is an opportunity to have fun and that’s cool but theres a million ways to have fun. The fact that music is one if not the only universal language and one of few ways to turn something heavy and ugly and alienating into something beautiful that people can come close to is special and really important.
I will enjoy your two albums for a very long time, but are there any plans for a new release? If so, can you tell me something about it? If there are no plans, why not?
Thanks man. No concrete plans yet. I’d like to be in a different place first. That way I know I wont be making the same album over again. I’m just starting to get an idea of where I’m at now and something fresh and important to me that I’m learning in my life. I’ve been doing some writing and I’ve put down a couple things I’m kind of liking but no concrete plans for another release.
Preview: Shad – Exile
This question is a little bit cliché, but I still want to ask it you this: what do you think of hip hop nowadays?
I think hip hop in general is not in a great place right now. But there is and will always be artists that do it in a way that feels right to me. Artists that put out music that’s honest and creative and passionate. And there will always be lovers of the music too that enjoy it and support it and feed that energy back. So overall, I think hip hop is really hurting but there’s some bright spots.
Do you think Internet affects hip hop in a positive or in a negative way?
I think its great. People can hear new and diverse music, artists miles a part can collaborate, etc. Looks at us talking/writing now! I think its fantastic.
And what are your thoughts on downloading music? Lots of people find out about new music by downloading albums, but how do you think about it as an artist?
I think its also great. People will always make music. If the industry dies, if no one is making a living off of it, there will still be music and maybe even better music because people wont be thinking about money every time they go to write a song or play a show.
Some people say hip hop is dead but in my opinion it’s not; lots of great releases nowadays. Can you tell me something about your favourite artists and (new) releases?
I think Lupe Fiasco is one of the most creative and interesting new artists to come out in the last couple years. I’m a big fan of some other Canadian cats like Theology3 and Seazon that I think are ill lyrically. Blu from Cali… There’s good artists and good music all over. You’re definitely right there.
How do you think hip hop will be in, let’s say, 15 years from now?
I get worried about that sometimes. But with the way music gets spread now, I think kids will grow up with a really diverse musical experience. There will be infinitely more places to record and opportunities to produce quality recordings. As long as they’re guided by the right things and making music for the right reasons, I’m excited to hear what kind of hip hop music is being made in 15 years. The culture is so young and rapidly changing.
What about touring, any plans to do a tour outside of Canada, or maybe even overseas?
I’d love to tour overseas sometime soon. We have some plans in the works to get down in the states in the fall.
Do you think Canadian Hip Hop will get a bigger role in hip hop in the near future?
I’m not sure. I think it would take a lot of support here in Canada for our own artists in order for that to happen. I think when/if Canadian people are turning their ears to what our artists here are doing, the rest of the world might start to take notice.
In an interview with Stolen From Africa TV you say it’s ‘a struggle’ to be an artist from Canada. What advice would you give to other beginning artists from Canada?
I would say have fun, enjoy every step of your development career-wise and as an artist, stay humble, and keep trying to reach people on a real level… I think only good things can come of that.
Words by: Danny
More info: Shad