YouTube An arrest warrant has been issued for a "dead" rapper. Bronx native Tim…
- Posted on May 4th 2010 11:00AM by Vish Khanna
Over the past five years, this thoughtful Kenyan-born/London, Ontario-raised rapper has emerged as the best pound-for-pound conscious MC in Canada, a regional scene that's home to hitmakers Drake, K'naan, k-os and Kardinal Offishall.
Shad has earned accolades for his old school-inspired records, including 2005's 'When This Is Over' and 2007's 'The Old Prince,' the latter of which scored a Juno Award nomination, Polaris Music Prize shortlist and a viral video smash, thanks to the title track's amazing 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air' parody music video. Even Kanye West jumped onboard to shout out Shad's 'Compromise' video, while further props came from Roots-affiliated site OkayPlayer.com.
Despite a stint on last summer's Warped Tour and working on a liberal studies degree in Vancouver, Shad not only found time to to record his most dynamic and confident album yet, he also shared with Spinner the intimate details about all the songs on 'TSOL.'
"I like intros. Some times it's hard to have the right song to set things up on a record in my mind. One night I was on YouTube, as usual, just listening to songs that I like. I had this idea of doing this intro with my DJ doing some cuts, and my bass player Ian arranging something. So I just recorded some ideas on piano to give Ian a sense of the vibe, and he hooked up with my DJ Terence (TLO) and they came up with something with keys, bass, strings and samples, and we recorded that. In the studio, we had the idea of adding noise and distorted guitars. Brendan Canning [Broken Social Scene] comes by that studio a lot and he came in, recorded some distorted guitars, and I was into it. I gave Terence reign with a lot of the samples; it's stuff that he and I picked out: A Tribe Called Quest, Bob Marley, the Cardigans. I don't think there's so much of a concept to this record, but I like the idea of it starting with noise and distortion and then when it ends, it's just a cappella. Very clear, just vocals, no music. I like that progression -- from a lot of noise and confusion to clear thought."
"Yeah, that was a beat that TLO had and he sent it to me early in the recording process and I was like, 'Yeah, this is dope.' I wanted to keep the vibe of the track and then, conceptually with the song, tie it in at the end. It's fun, it's definitely got a lot of jokes and stuff, but there's some depth to it too. Yeah, it's one I get some inspiration from on a day-to-day basis. It's a great sample; the original is a country song by Lynn Anderson but it's a remake by a soul group that I don't know. And then Lisa Lobsinger [Broken Social Scene] sings a bit on the chorus and does some harmonies on the outro. She did a great job."
"That was a beat by a guy named Ric Notes. Obviously there's not a lot of girls making rap music, which I think is a bit of a shame. My music isn't misogynistic, but hip hop has a very 'guys speaking to guys' tone to it. It came to mind that girls are left out of that conversation, period. I wanted to open that up a little bit and talk about a few different things that I had on my mind relating to women, and open up that conversation through my music and include women in it. That's what it's about. I tried to end each verse with something that was more universal, about people in general, and continuing to be who we are."
"This started as a track that [producers] Ryan [Kondrat] and John [LaManga] made with Brendan [Canning] on the chorus, and they wanted me on it with the verses. Eventually we added Lisa as well and Kamau, who's an MC that I like a lot, we put him on the third verse. In the end, it's got this lush vibe to it. 'Lucky 1's' is the chorus that Brendan came up with and was the core of the song. That chorus -- 'With luck, they'll never find us' -- was a vague idea that I had to work around, which was good for me because I could take it in different directions."
'A Good Name'
"People always say my name sounds cool and I thought, 'Hey, this could be cool. I can talk about the origin of my name and play on the idea of having a good name in terms of what that means -- like your reputation, and what my name says about my background.' So, that tune ended up working out, which is cool. The beat's by Classified and he was super cool about working back and forth with me on it."
'We Are the Ones (Reservoir Poetry)'
"That song I did with my friend Relic. His studio's called the Reservoir so that's where the name comes from, but also because a lot of those rhymes come from my reservoir of rhymes. It was a lot of fun, and I wanted to do something based on how much fun we have in the studio, where we're just rapping and who knows what we're even saying? He had the idea for that chorus in the car and I just fell on the ground laughing. I was like, 'That's an awesome chorus, that's perfect.' So we had a lot of fun making it and I just wanted to make a tune that was fun to chill out and listen to. And yeah, I call him Rizzle at one point, not RZA."
"That beat was basically a song on TLO's album in 2008. When I heard it, I was like, 'I'm gonna do something on that some day.' He had all the 'Try your call again' samples already and I got what he was saying, but he needed a rapper to say what he's saying with this beat. So, after a while of accumulating telephone-relationship-related lines, I went and did that tune and was happy with how it turned out."
'Call Waiting (Interlude)'
"This was an idea I had for a little interlude after 'Telephone.' It's maybe my favourite lines on the album. It goes in a few different directions, but it's all about hope and dealing with patience, persevering through some tough times, and you just have to wait through it. So, that's how those two songs fit together."
'Yaa I Get It'
"I got this beat a long time ago and was like, 'Wow, this beat's pretty sick, it hits pretty hard.' So I just wanted to rap on it. There was no idea for a chorus. I had different ideas of where to stop the song, but eventually decided to keep going for a while. It's just fun, just rhymes about a whole range of stuff. I liked it as a phrase, how laid back it was, even though it's such a hard beat. And yeah, the rhymes go in a few directions. The Method Man line isn't a diss. I'm clarifying that officially on Spinner! That's just me rapping and going."
"Rapping is all about talking and saying this or that, so I wanted to do a song about listening. What do we listen to and how does it affect our life? It's a song about music but listening to people and yourself. The beat is by this dude Rich Kidd from Toronto who does a lot of good work with people in town."
'At the Same Time'
"There's a big influence on that song from Billy Bragg's 'Levi Stubbs' Tears.' There's even one line where I say, 'I never laughed and cried at the same/like Marvin singing 'I Heard It Through the Grapevine.' That kind of relates to the idea that I see as the essence of pop music -- laughing and crying at the same time. I wanted to take it to a place where there's a depth of emotion that you can't really express outside of music. Laughing and crying at once; how can you really explain that? But it happens all the time. Justin Nozuka did a great job singing on that one. He just came in and felt it out."
'We, Myself and I'
"That's about the relationship between ourselves and the world and our self to our self. It plays on the words 'We, Myself, and I' in each verse, and that's what it's about -- sorting through that relationship between ourselves and the world and how we take care of each other. "
"I wanted to do something raw and clear on the 'Outro' so I thought a little short a cappella would do the trick. We also did a couple of funny studio things just to keep it interesting. There's one lyric in there that's probably my favourite one on the album, that I actually thought was a Gnarls Barkley lyric. But then, I looked it up online and realized it wasn't actually a Gnarls Barkley lyric, it was me mishearing it, and I was like, 'Nice, I just came up with my favourite lyric.' The line is 'My heroes have the heart to lose the life I wanna live,' which I thought was from 'Crazy,' but they actually said, 'My heroes have the heart to live their life out on a limb.' So, I was like, 'Well, mine's way better! I'm definitely gonna use that!' So yeah, lyrically the 'Outro' ultimately comes down to a lot of what I hope to do with music and life, and leaving it on that note."