Kids & Explosions Spinner joined forces with the Red Bull Music Academy…
- Posted on Sep 17th 2010 2:30PM by Lonny Knapp
Between tours, Shad pursues a master's degree in Liberal Studies at Vancouver's Simon Fraser University, and on his latest record he tackles heady subjects like gender equality in rap, traces the linguistic origins of his name back to a slave in Babylon, and subtly name drops stuffy Canadian literature icon Mordecai Richler. That record, 'TSOL,' is among the Short Listed albums favoured to win the Polaris Music Prize.
Before a recent performance as part of the Toronto International Film Festival, the Juno-award winning rapper told Spinner why he holds the Polaris Prize in such high regard.
"The thing I like about Polaris is that it's a community of people that just nerd out and love music. It's just about music, and I like that. There's definitely something exciting and cutting-edge about Polaris," he says.
Shad's sound, however, is less than cutting-edge. His 2005 debut, 'When This is Over,' elicited comparisons to the likes of Common and Tribe Called Quest, and had critics hailing the Kenyan-born, Canadian-raised MC as a torchbearer for the golden-age of conscious hip-hop.
If his debut proclaimed a innovative force in Canadian hip-hop, the follow-up cemented his reputation as a commercial threat. 2007's 'The Old Prince' earned props from the likes of Kanye West and the Roots-affiliated site OkayPlayer.com., scored a Juno award for best rap recording, spawned a viral smash for the title track's 'Fresh Prince of Bel Air'-inspired music video, and was shortlisted for the 2008 Polaris Prize.
That year, Caribou's 'Andorra' took the coveted prize, but Shad doesn't harbour a grudge.
"It gives you a real boost in terms of exposure, and whenever you are included in the company of a group of artists like that, it's an honour, " he says.
With the release of 'TSOL,' Shad turned up the heat. With incisive and self-deprecating rhymes flowing deftly over classic but not tired beats, and featuring a guest turn by Brendan Canning and Lisa Lobsinger of Broken Social Scene (a group also nominated for this year's Polaris), 'TSOL' is brimming with the type of intelligent, hook-heavy, genre-defying hip-hop coming out of Canada in recent years.
"I always try to take a step and creatively get better. Hopefully, when you do that, things will also advance professionally," he says.
With the record slated for release on American label Black Box Recordings/Decon, and an upcoming tour south of the border with fellow Canuck K-OS, Shad is posed to follow in the trails blazed by internationally successful Canadian MCs Drake and K'Naan.
Each year a jury of 200 journalists, broadcasters, bloggers and radio programmers from across Canada nominate their favorite Canadian albums for the Polaris Music Prize. With record sales and commercial viability holding no sway, the award is based solely on artistic merit. Music fans and industry types around the globe respect the award's prophetic ability to peg the next breakthrough artist. Recent winners also include Final Fantasy, Patrick Watson, and F---ed Up.
The exposure -- and the $20,000 cash prize -- that accompany a win at the Polaris Music Prize Gala Monday night (Sept. 20) would go along way to fuel Shad's quest to break out south of the border. But when Spinner asked him to predict the winner of the 2010 Polaris Music Prize, he displayed his usual modesty.
"I really don't know," he says. "But I've been listening heavily to that new Caribou record."