One thing that makes you sit up, shut up and take notice as a rap listener is when a rapper speaks uncomfortable truths about the world or him or herself. That steely-eyed, crude honesty is what draws so many people to hip-hop. We connect because we’ve been yearning for someone to say what’s being said. We think, ‘Wow, I’m not courageous enough to say this, but I’m so glad that somebody is’.
Another thing that makes us take notice is when a rapper clearly enjoys rapping. I remember Haych of M.S.I & Asylum giddily bouncing around the room as he unveiled a fresh verse. My friend Sensei C has a look of sheer glee in his eyes as he tongue-twists his way through a cadence-shifting rap song.
Kenyan-born, Ontario-raised rapper Shad exhibits both qualities. He tackles tough truths and he undoubtedly loves what he does, both the lyric writing and the reciting. You can see it written all over his face.
Exhibit One: his new single ‘Stylin’:
I discovered Shad in 2010 when I saw the ‘Yaa I Get It [Remix]’ video. I was impressed not just by his confidence but also his sweating in the underground bunker shots – he was keeping that little crowd hyped. I thought, ‘Woh, this man is willing to put in work’.
He is an extremely well rounded emcee. His flows are stunning. The track ‘Brother (Watching) ’ [from his 2007 album ‘The Old Prince’] has one multi-syllable rhyme scheme running right through both verses and not one time does the rhyme feel shoehorned in. It’s a perfect marriage of aural form, function and heavyweight subject matter.
‘Keep Shining’ is a heart-felt ode to womankind. He highlights women’s strengths, vulnerabilities, beauty, courage and how much better the world would be if women really got to show their full potential.
Yet as well as maneuvering through the more serious lyrical terrain Shad enjoys poking fun at himself.
As Pitchfork rightly points out Shad is ‘spiritual without being preachy, righteous without being self-righteous, and human without sounding mundane.’
Shad has recently put out this choose-your-price e.p. : http://shadk.bandcamp.com/album/the-spring-up
His new album, Flying Colours, will be released in October. Here’s his site.