Shadrach Kabango, a.k.a. Shad, a Juno Award-winning rapper from London, Ont., is the new host of CBC's Q, and we couldn't be happier. He's long been a favourite of CBC Music (we put him at number two on our list of all-time greatest rappers), but we realized, miraculously, that not everyone is familiar with his canon. That's why, in the service of the public, we present a primer on the Canadian rap sensation who "hates the catchphrase Canadian rap sensation."
Initially, this was going to be my list of Shad's top 10 tracks, from his studio albums and mixtapes, but it just couldn't be contained. Scroll down for 13 songs that have made Shad one of the most respected rappers in the country. Best of luck on Q. Keep it dope.
'Out of Love'
Any song that contains the line, "I want a Claire Huxtable," gets my vote. Also, how perfect is this lyric: "I'm like the letter Q ..."
'Old Prince Still Lives at Home'
Many people’s introduction to Shad, this song contains Shad’s two greatest strengths: his humility and his humour.
Shad was born in Kenya to Rwandan parents and grew up in London, Ont. This song deals with all of the feelings that go with that, and is probably his most poignant work. Also, that Isley Brothers sample is pure gold.
'Fam Jam (Fe Sum Immigrins)'
I mean, what’s not to absolutely love about this song? An anthem about the Canadian immigrant experience, built around a flipped Jay Z lyric, and it's also impossible not to dance to. "Not bad, huh, fe sum immigrins?"
'Outta My Head'
A lot of my favourite Shad songs happen on his mixtapes. Maybe it’s the freedom to use massive samples without worrying about licensing. Maybe there’s freedom in giving out a free song, like you really can just do your thing without any worries. Maybe it’s both. Either way, this track, which is from a collaboration EP between Shad and Skratch Bastid and samples Shuggie Otis, is one my all-time favourites.
Ask any non-rap fan what their favourite Shad song is, and this will be it. And for good reason: it's universal. Bonus points for a truly impeccable video.
"The important thing isn’t what you die for, it’s what you live for today." Enough said.
Another mixtape cut, this time from his Boarding Pass collaboration with DJ T.Lo, and another instance of Shad just speaking his mind — from the state of the music industry to the unrest in Ferguson, Mo. — over some killer throwback soul samples.
This is another Boarding Pass track that showcases Shad's straight lyrical ability, his skill at jamming verses full of punchlines and references (obscure and pop culture). It's no wonder that when he got a spot on BET's 106 & Park, he did this song.
'A Good Name'
Shad’s not a rap name, it’s his real name, and on this song he not only tells you where it’s from, but why it’s important. As he puts it: "I represent more than my rap."
It’s rare that the intro to a rap album is one of the standout tracks, but that’s exactly the case with this one from his Polaris Prize shortlisted Flying Colours. It also contains the one lyric that sums up his entire career best: "This is like Red Fox mixed with a TED talk."
Nobody else is writing such self-aware, on point lyrics like this one:
See I got fans that say, Oh hey Shad, I hate rap but I like you.Well I hate that, but I like you, at least I like that you,Like me so I won’t spite you, it's not your fault you’re a white dude,Likes white music I like too, just don’t be surprised by my IQ.
'Yaa I Get it'
Yeah, Shad’s big on old-school beats and introspective lyrics, but he’s also capable of straight bangers like this. It’s also a great example of the Canadianisms he’s always instilled in his lyrics: "Well my name ain’t Lil Wayne Gretzky, but ya’ll know better than to check me."
As was pointed out to me on Twitter, somehow "Keep Shining" slipped through the cracks. It actually is a favourite, too. Not only is it a powerful song about love and respect for the powerful women in our lives (which I relate to 100%), but the need for more women in rap.
What's your favourite Shad song? Let me know on Twitter: @JesseKG