D12 • the silhouette’s art & culture magazine Fresh off of snagging a Juno for “Rap Recording of the Year” earlier this week, you’d be hard pressed to squeeze any bit of embellishment out of Shad. Though he may have a vibrant, larger-than-life stage presence, and throws around cerebral political hooks at, say, Glen Beck’s foie gras demise, the London, ON-based rapper reps an off-stage demeanour that’s entirely humble. He’s surprisingly modest, really, especially considering his third full-length album, TSOL, made waves last year as one of the nation’s freshest additions to an industry resting way up on the shoulders of hip-hop giants like the Toronto-based Drake. But it’s Shad’s off-the-cuff delivery, always fringing on self-reflection, never steeped in expletives, and pensively honest in addressing the hardships of life, liberty, and simply getting out of bed in the morning, that’s earned him the tag of key a hip-hop underdog. He wouldn’t eat his cake in any other way. “Jay Z has this one line, ‘Would
you rather be overpaid or underrated,’” explained the rapper the morning after his Juno triumph. “It’s always really clicked for me, you know, to have that underdog mentality in my work. It’s a nice place to play from because it makes you give your all while having fun. You’re never necessarily expecting too much of an outcome,” he added. Without a doubt, the outcome of TSOL has been a gratifying bolster to Shad’s career. With a National Post nod for the top spot on its “Canada’s top 10 rappers” list, and a close runner-up position in the short-list round of the 2010 Polaris Music Prize, the MC’s recent Juno steal from Drake’s internationally heralded favourite, Thank Me Later, was a landmark feat in personal validation. As Shad explained, “Everyone knows there’s no such thing as picking a best album, so it’s a little arbitrary in terms of who wins, but the Juno win is something that I can now take and share with the people that have supported me from the bottom-up.
thursday, march 31, 2011
“On a personal level, then, it’s validated the whole grassroots vibe of my work,” he added. “I’ve never liked the idea of forcing my music down people’s throats, and I think it’s important, at least in my case, to make music for what it is and, from there on, letting it go wherever it may go. It’s a solid spin, and it’s always made sense for me, so I’m privileged that it’s worked out so far.” In the wake of Arcade Fire’s Grammy triumph and the resulting exposure for the do-it-yourself brand of Canadian artists, Shad’s Juno pick-up couldn’t be any timelier. “This is The Hurt Locker defeating Avatar,” explained one writer on the Drake comparison. “Critically adored indie over big-budget, heavily promoted blockbuster.” And this perspective couldn’t be more accurate. With Drake’s Thank Me Later making the case for a #1 charted album full of hip-hop’s biggest chorus-bringers (read: Kanye West and Jay Z), Shad’s TSOL, which locally reps the helping hands of rapper Classified and Broken
Social Scene’s Brendan Canning, juxtaposes the hip-hop trend of polished A-list cred. It shines on its own, as an album unabridged in honest wordplay, and on a broader level, as a testament to the merits of crafting music on one’s own terms. “The DIY thing has become an appeal for music in general lately,” noted Shad. “It used to be that artist development was a top-down thing, and that still exists, but a lot of artists have been building fan bases and a distinct sound on their own, so it’s cool to finally see that kind of stuff being recognized. “Arcade Fire’s a great example, because they came up blowing people’s mind on stage.” He added, “Being rewarded is one thing, but to follow in that path of being respected by peers and fans is more than enough for me. I can definitely get by on that.” Shad will be performing in Hamilton on April 6 at the Casbah. •
year of the underdog andy chats with diy wordsmith turned juno winner shad