“Brother please, no more Pamela Lees, let’s set it straight
I’m the biggest thing out of Canada til Quebec separate”
If after reading the lyrics above you’re immediately going to dismiss Shad as nothing but another boasting, so-called rapper, then I can assure you right away that you’re making a great mistake. Because Shad couldn’t agree more with the alternative and innovative forces in hip hop that reject and cautiously take distance from the ever popular style of rap that includes bling, hoes and men in oversized throwback jerseys, usually posing next to an expensive polished car. There are reasons, though, to give Shad some well deserved credit.
Shadrach Kabango, born in Kenya 1982 but raised in London, Ontario, won $17,500 in 91.5 The Beat’s Rhythm of the Future rapping competition and used not only the money but also his bright mind to produce his stellar debut album, When This Is Over, released in 2005. Straight away, Shad proved his impeccable skills in writing and executing lyrics with flair. His clear, strong and seemingly infinite rhythm & flow etches each word firm into the ears of the listener, and there they stay for days, growing like a seed.
Especially haunting is the track “I’ll Never Understand” which deals with the sometimes forgotten Rwandian genocide, yet it somehow expresses a similar unreal atmosphere many Western citizens today might feel towards the Holocaust of WW2. The song is as dark and serious as a hip hop song can get and the intro features his mother Bernadette Kabango reciting her own text about the loss of her family in said genocide. It excellently displays just how emotionally deep Shad is daring to go in his rap and also how important and painful truths can be displayed in music.
His debut covers a wide array of other subjects too, all equally interesting and personal and all over old school beats. “Out Of Love” is a rare and charming track about insecurity and the hassle of the connections with the opposite gender. On “Real Game”, he is informing us with an entertaining twist on how racial conditions and the game of basketball coincide. “New School Leaders” is very interesting too because it might just showcase Shad rapping as (and to) his young self, a self-depreciating but dreaming rapper in his first tentative steps of spitting rhymes in hip hop.
In 2007, audiences met a Shad that had become even more aware of his situation, someone who reached new conclusions. With the follow-up The Old Prince, Shad stuck to the old school beats, timid but delicate productions and a classic yet more efficient flow as he presented himself as the prince that grew old but never became the king. Continuing where the previous album started, The Old Prince gives a soundtrack to our prospective goals that are hindered or delayed as time runs on. To the ongoing struggle for rappers and listeners, the album is still a testimony on how we all universally seek to find our ways in life.
“The Old Prince Still Lived At Home” is a funny track with a self-descriptive title and a video that has been renowned for spoofing the intro to the Fresh Prince. Poor Shad couldn’t even afford the whole beat for the song but at least he got a chance to prove his loving relationship to the mic in a mind-blowing freestyle, which carries a “vibin'” rap flow that concludes the song. On “Compromise”, he states that with these rhymes he doesn’t need to compromise unless he wants to, and on “Exile”, where he is having an orgy with words ending with -yze or -ise, you believe him. He has not lost his touch with the common man’s hardships in love life here either, since the subject of “Out Of Love” is continued with an accompanying second part.
He may not be able to rap about bling, hoes and speedy cars but he has the gift to spit rhymes and verses on a level that some more well known rappers haven’t even reached through years of sponsored albums and major label backup. So if life’s a struggle and if justice should be present, the hardest times as a rapper are behind him and life as a king should be right up ahead. That seems fair. After all, the old prince is ready to be crowned.
Come listen to Shad spitting rhymes and filling verses with clever lines at SXSW. He’ll be playing our Listen! Showcase at The Wave at 8:00 p.m. on Friday, March 20th.
“I Don’t Like To”