The old prince still lives at home: Shad [Interview]
London, ON – Shadrach Kabango (born in 1982) or better known as Shad, has transpired as the next household name in Canadian hip-hop. In 2005, he released his first independent album, When This is Over, which garnered a healthy amount of grassroots support throughout the country. He was quick to return with his sophomore release titled The Old Prince, which offers a much deeper, personal and introspective look at the man behind the microphone.
Coming up in the hip-hop scene, Shad entered a local radio competition in his hometown of London, Ontario. Despite tough competition, he won the $17,500 prize and he invested the earnings into developing and financing his album as well as earning his Business Administration degree at Wilfred Laurier University. Now a university graduate, Shad is a part time graduate student working on his masters at Simon Fraser University for liberal studies and anxiously awaiting his cross-country tour to begin.
Shad toured the first album, When This is Over, gaining support and respect for his cleverly confident lyrics, without having to openly explain any ideas. He performed sold out shows in Toronto and London, playing at events such as the Harbourfront (Toronto Electronic Music Festival presented by NOW magazine), Manifesto, and Wakestock along with opening for acts like Lupe Fiasco, Common and Classified whom he has already started a 24-city tour with.
The Old Prince received smashing reviews and after returning from his New Year’s trip to Rwanda, visiting his retired parents, he was ready to sit down and talk to HipHopCanada. Not looking to take over the world, or turn into a money making empire, Shad is strictly concerned with making good music, relating it to personal experiences and always taking the risk to be himself, which at times is the biggest one for anyone. Talking about his music, education and being an influence for teens today, and the struggle for recognition in Canada’s hip-hop scene, Shad is just being him; speaking the truth, while the truth speaks for itself.
HipHopCanada: I have to say, your titles for the albums are unique. Where did they emerge from?
Shad: When This is Over felt right at the time. The Old Prince is a metaphor for life; a generation, humanity, something that resonated with me for many reasons. I thought it was funny, serious, and I wanted to refrain from titles like ‘the takeover.’ It was a personal expression that worked for me.
HipHopCanada: Who do you feel influenced you the most growing up? Personally and musically?
Shad: I listened to everything in high school. Common was one artist that stood out with albums like One Day It’ll All Make Sense. Personally, friends and family are always influences but more indirectly. My parents were not direct influences; they didn’t pressure me to pursue music but they were always supportive.
HipHopCanada: You are a young, educated man working on your masters; how do you view education?
Shad: More out of interest; it is important for each person to develop in the direction they want to develop in. Whether it’s in education or in learning anything, take steps to keep developing in whatever it may be and however it works best for you.
HipHopCanada: How do you find balance between juggling school and music?
Shad: It’s not hard. I always had many things going on in life. Music was never the only thing happening, but making music was always based on things happening in life. School is only part time, which allows me to be in the studio, tour and travel.
HipHopCanada: A lot of hip-hop is affiliated with course language and explicit lyrics, which I noticed you do not use in your music. Does hip-hop send a bad or good message to teens that tune in and does it influence them in a bad way?
Shad: Hip-hop artists have always expressed themselves in the language that they use in everyday life, and I do the same. I do not swear everyday, and as I talk to you, I use the same language in my music. Young people should understand [that] it is just an expression, and it should be understood as that. Sometimes though, the message that when you make hip-hop you don’t have to express certain ideas in a certain language gets lost at times. Young artists should see that there are more than three or four different things you can say and more you can be as a hip-hop artist. You can… It’s cool to speak on a few select subjects but you don’t have to; there are no limitations. You can express a whole range of ideas. You don’t have to pick up the mic and talk only about X, Y and Z.
HipHopCanada: Does the “Old Prince” still live at home?
Shad: [Laughing] Not anymore. That was the case, but not anymore.
HipHopCanada: And the new CD? It’s only right if you call it “A New King?” [Laughing]
Shad: It will probably go in a new direction. I don’t know if I will continue the saga; [I] will probably go in a whole new direction.
HipHopCanada: So no trilogy? Did you think about doing what Kanye West did with the three CD titles?
Shad: No, it was never the idea I had. For the first CD, I was just excited to record and make an album; a collection of songs that reflected a time in my life, and the Old Prince was a concept that came naturally. I was just hyped to have one [CD] out there. It was not a three CD plan.
HipHopCanada: What about the music scene in Canada? What is the hardest thing about breaking and making it? Is there a lack of recognition amongst the hip-hop scene in Toronto?
Shad: There are many challenges. For one, Toronto is so different from the rest of Canada. Toronto artists are good but hard to get out of Toronto because a lot of the infrastructure does not exist for them to tour or get on radio stations. Aside from Flow (93.5) there are three or four urban radio stations in Canada and it’s extremely difficult. I don’t have an answer to crack it, but the way that the industry is shifting it is good for artists that like connecting with their audience. If you’re good and love making music, and can connect with this day and age, you will be successful. It just takes some time.
HipHopCanada: Do you see the hip-hop scene growing?
Shad: Hip-hop in Canada is young and the quality is getting better and better. Artists are able to express their ideas and experiences and what is unique to them better. Due to that I think the criticism of jacking New York will die down as well because there will be a more unique expression coming out of Canada. It’s just a matter of time. Stuff will happen and artists will develop.
HipHopCanada: Should we recognize talent more?
Shad: It’s in our culture; we don’t have the same emphasis on hip-hop music and we do not support it as much the States do. In the States, city-to-city people recognize and know who is huge. Because everyone loves the artists in their city, they can get love there and we don’t do that as much in Canada. I don’t know if it’s our culture or if I’m making excuses for Canadian people [Laughing]. Maybe we should just support Canadian music more. I believe it will happen in time and people will start to open up. That is the big difference from Toronto and the rest of Canada. Growing up in London, I see the love for local artists and in Guelph and other cities, but in Toronto it’s often a unique situation.
HipHopCanada: If you could work with any artist, who would you choose to work with?
Shad: My process is very independent but I would love to watch certain people work. I would like to see what Kanye does in the studio and how he makes music, and maybe collaborate with him. I would love to observe those kinds of people that go beyond what the average artist does. I would love to see how he [Kanye] takes an idea and then takes it where it’s dope and then pushes himself to take it even further. I would like to observe that.
HipHopCanada: What about a Canadian artist? DJ, producer, artist, anyone Canadian? Some one that stands out?
Shad: [Thinking] Zaki Ibrahim has a unique voice; I wouldn’t mind sitting down with her. Aside from that, I don’t know. My process musically is so independent and my ideas are specific so it’s hard for me to see where another person would fit in and I would not want to take away from that.
HipHopCanada: Do you feel that that’s what separates you from other artists? The fact that you are comfortable with doing it all on your own and not relying on collaborations?
Shad: It comes down to differences on what people like in their own creative processes. It’s a personal thing for me and I will spend a lot of time thinking of an idea and I will spend time trying to pin it down in a specific way. I like articulating an idea that is unique and personal and that does not leave much room for other artists. Some people love the creative process and working with people and some one else taking an idea and pushing it in another direction. With my stuff, it’s so specific and I would not want anyone taking my stuff and putting it in any other direction because I worked so hard to take it in my particular direction. It’s good, in terms of being self sufficient and not having to rely too much on other people, but other then that I don’t feel it’s better or worse. I think it’s just differences in what people like creatively.
HipHopCanada: Do you see yourself expanding into a business empire?
Shad: No, I don’t see myself expanding into a business but I do see myself expanding in different ways creatively. I can see myself writing in other forms; short stories, scripts and in a different brand but not in a business oriented thing. I am not very business minded.
HipHopCanada: Do you have any shows coming up?
Shad: Yes. I am going on tour with Classified in a couple of days, starting out West and we will be in Toronto by the end of January.
HipHopCanada: Congrats on having your new album The Old Prince acclaimed as one of the top 10 hip-hop albums of 2007! I feel it leaves a very positive and cleaver message with a listener like myself.
Shad: Thank you. I appreciate the support. Anytime my music can do something positive in people’s hearts, it means more to me then anything. At the end of day nothing is promised including how long I will be making music for, so putting positive things in people’s minds and hearts while I can is ultimately what matters most.
HipHopCanada: What piece advice can you give to an artist on the come up?
Shad: As cliché as it is, do you! Don’t worry what other people will say, just do you. You will hear the same thing if you talk to any artist. Jay-Z once said “if you want to win, you have to take a risk and that risk is being yourself.’” It’s incredibly cliché but it’s true. People connect with something that is honest and real. There is nothing lost if you do your thing and if people don’t take to it. It’s fine. You haven’t lost sight of who you are and what is important to you, so you really haven’t lost anything.
Editor’s note: For more info on Shad, visit his website http://www.shadk.com or check him out on MySpace at http://www.myspace.com/shad. The Old Prince is now in stores through Black Box Recordings/Fontana North and we definitely recommend you pick that up!
Written by Andrea C. for HipHopCanada