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The new prince of hip-hop

Shad rocks Dal. Photo by Pau Balite

The Grawood’s background music was still playing as Canadian hip-hopper Shad walked casually onto the stage, teasing last Friday’s energetic crowd of students as he had a private chat behind the turntables with his DJ, T-Lo.

The bar was packed for the sold-out show. Excitement was building and everyone was getting restless to see the main act. After several minutes, a voice on the floor began to chant “Shad! Shad! Shad!” and soon the whole bar was inviting him to begin his set. Shad and T-Lo, still talking, grinned at each other.

Suddenly, the background music cut out and T-Lo blasted a beat that was accompanied by the ecstatic screams of the crowd. Hands flew up in the air and Shad skipped around the table and burst into a flaring rhyme.

Before giving Halifax one of the most exciting nights of the year, the artist behind three albums, two Polaris Music Prize nominations and the Juno for Rap Recording of the Year in 2011 graciously spoke with the *Gazette* about his experiences in the music world and other recent projects.

Photo by Pau Balite

Gazette: In past interviews, you have called Canada’s music community “small,” but “diverse.” Did this small, diverse music community limit or expand your music taste growing up? And did this influence your choice to learn guitar and not just rap? 

Shad: As far as learning guitar, it definitely did. I mean rapping while playing guitar is only something I did much later. I learnt guitar because I liked Weezer, Hayden and Sloan—rock bands. Growing up in Canada, I was exposed to a lot of music that wasn’t just hip-hop, and I liked different kinds of music. I’m probably a product of the Canadian music scene in that sense.

Gazette: You were growing up as hip-hop was too. Did you look to American hip-hoppers for influence, or Canadian, or both? 

Shad: I’d say both. I mean, the bulk of the hip-hop that we had here was American, but of course there were a lot of Canadian artists that I loved too. I think in general while growing up most of the music that I knew was American. We are just inundated with American culture all over the world.

Once I got into music and started my career in Canada, I was even more exposed to Canadian music. On the touring level, these artists are your peers in Canadian music.  You get to know more of them, and you get to know them more intimately as opposed to when you just watch TV and it’s maybe 80 per cent American.

Photo by Pau Balite

Gazette: You recently finished off a master’s in liberal arts. You often joke in interviews that both music and your degree are not practical. If the degree wasn’t practical, why’d you do it? 

Shad: I hate money or something (laughs). It was just to broaden my horizons and to keep doors open. I mean, fortunately my career has continued to develop, so school could become something for just pure enjoyment after that, and it was great. You never know where stuff might come in handy down the road. And it has already opened up some opportunities like writing some op-eds.

Gazette: Are writing op-eds and rapping your ways of opening people’s eyes? Is there a difference between rapping and writing articles? 

Shad: To me, there’s something that’s just fun about rapping, not that writing isn’t fun, but it’s a little bit more serious just in nature, whereas music can be totally frivolous and irreverent if you want it to be.

I do use both as an outlet. I think I just stumbled into music and that’s where I’ve sort of found a bit of a voice.  I don’t know if I’ve necessarily done that yet in writing.

Gazette: You say you’re a fan first. What are your all-time and current favourite albums?

Shad: Now, in all of music: Kanye West and Bon Iver. I’ll limit it there for now or else I’d just get into a million people. In high school, definitely Common and Lauryn Hill. Outkast was huge too.

Gazette: What’s next?

Shad: I just started working on a new album and it’ll hopefully be out in the fall.

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Frances Dorenbaum

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