In an age where Paris Hilton wins her celebrity with poorly filmed pornography and you need a reality TV show to become a rock star, it is refreshing to meet a man whose art speaks for itself. To truly understand the greatness of Shad, come out to the Paragon on Thursday and watch as the London, Ontario rap sensation hypnotizes the audience at a live show that's been converting Mohawk-sporting punk fans to hip-hop on the cross-country Vans Warped Tour.
The show will say what Shad is too humble to say himself.
Shad (Shadrach Kabango) is a powerhouse on stage, instantly engaging with his amazingly quick-witted freestyles, intricately worded rhymes and intense live energy, fuelled by his DJ and bassist. Offstage, and on the phone, he is quiet, hesitant to slip in sound bites, or even talk about his many accomplishments.
So let me do it for him.
Shad captured my attention with tragicomic ballad "Out of Love," where he longs for a Claire Huxtable and bemoans that "only fools fall in love and I am a pretty clever guy." This light-hearted tale of a man's disappointment with love is contrasted with "I'll Never Understand," about the horrors of the Rwandan genocide. In music, he not only has something to say but says it with the wit, wordplay and musicality that characterizes the very best of what hip-hop can accomplish. He makes thinking music for people who want to have a good time.
For a man not wanting to talk about his accomplishments, Shad has achieved a lot in the five years since the release of his debut album When This Is Over. In 2008, Shad was awarded the Juno for best rap recording and made the Polaris Prize longlist for his second album, The Old Prince. He has performed with his favourite rapper Common, been compared to Kanye West and received outrageously positive
reviews from media outlets like NOW and Okayplayer.com. This summer on the Warped Tour, he shared a bus with Alexisonfire, performing 47 shows in two months. Converting crowds of 14-year-old punk fans became his mission.
"We did the Warped Tour. There was 47 days---we were gone for two months straight," says Shad. "The first week kinda felt like a month. You settle into a routine. Your bunk on the bus is your bedroom. The Warped Tour is from 11am to 8pm. You find out in the morning when you are going to play. Hopefully you can find some showers and play your set."
As a member of the London hip-hop scene, it is no surprise that Shad will be playing with hometown favourites The Extremities, who have formed deep connections with the London scene, through London-based Backburner crew members Toolshed. Expect a night where genres are crossed---where people who don't even like hip-hop become b-boys, and the crowd gets to act like children while they listen to Shad's discoveries about growing up, becoming a man and watching basketball.