We’ve had our eye on Canadian rapper Shad for a while now. He’s been killing it up north; he was nominated for the Juno Award for Best Rap Recording in 2008 and won it in 2011. We love that he’s earnest without being corny, avoiding the larger-than-life bad-boy persona which seems to have taken over the industry. His themes are unique, thought-provoking, and contemplative. He’s a breath of fresh air in a stale industry, making him poised for a breakout. In the video above, Shad waxes poetic about some of the themes of his new album, Flying Colours, which dropped last month. He came by the GURU office to talk about the record, being mistaken for Bow Wow, and how he got his name.
Image via cbc.ca
GURU: How long have you been working on your new record, Flying Colors?
SHAD: I worked on this for about a year and a half, off and on. I mean I wasn’t in the studio for a year and a half straight, but quite awhile. I gave it some time to breathe. I’d work on it, then step away.
Your early work tackled some serious topics. In this record are you carrying on that tradition? What are some of the topics?
Topics? Wow, everything. Immigration, love, violence in all its forms.
Immigration in the Canada or in the US?
In Canada specifically. I mean, I try to tailor it to my experiences as much as possible to make it meaningful. In general, the concept of immigration. I’m making it sound a lot heavier than it is, because the song is like the poppiest song on the album. But I tackle some serious topics.
Do you feel like rappers these days, whether in the US or Canada or anywhere else, avoid the topics that hip-hop used to be responsible for?
To some extent I think that’s true. It’s especially strange given what’s going on right now. Circumstances in our society are quite dire in a lot of ways. We’re on the precipice of a new time, in some ways it’s exciting and new, and in others it has a lot of challenges. To some extent I think some of that is ignored, but on the other hand I think some of that is reflected sonically. Not lyrically, but…
In the production?
Yeah, in the production. There’s a heaviness, a darkness, a slowness to hip-hop right now.
Who’s handling the production on the new record?
A range of people. But a lot of it was built from the ground floor with me and a couple other guys in the studio.
So you had a hand in the production process?
Yeah. Melody communicates a lot to me, so I like to have my hand in there.
On this record or past ones, has there been an element of melodic songwriting to you, as opposed to just lyricism?
Yeah, definitely on this one, maybe more than ever. Just because I’m learning more and more about myself, that melody communicates a lot to me and for me. I really need to have my hand in there. So that was an area of growth that was fun to explore.
I have a random question. Your second record TSOL, is that named for the punk band?
No it’s not. There’s interesting coincidences around that. There’s TSOP, which is The Sound of Philadelphia, and it wasn’t named after that. And I come from a city called London, Ontario. So some people made that connection, but that’s also not where it comes from. But there’s a song on that album called “Rose Garden” that’s from a TSOP recording.
With the forwards/backwards video?
Yeah with the forwards/backwards video. That is sampled from a TSOP recording, but that’s all coincidental.
Where the hook is something with “Roses…”
Yeah, yeah. It’s a soul girl-group. And that was a TSOP recording.
So do punk kids come up to you and ever say anything?
No, but what happens more is, so Bow Wow’s name is Shad Moss. So I do get the occasional angry concertgoer. It has happened two times I think. This was on the warped tour. They show up at the stage, and it’s kind of conspicuous because it’s like a 16 year-old girl, and I don’t have too many of those in my fan base. And they’re like “aw man you’re not Bow Wow.” And I’m like, “sorry, I’m not.” That’s the mistake I get the most.
Wait, is your real name Shad?
Is it short for anything?
Oh, like from To Kill A Mockingbird?
Were you named after the Beastie Boys song?
I wasn’t. My parents aren’t that cool.
Ok, To Kill A Mockingbird, still pretty cool. And there’s a fish called a shad.
Yeah, there is a fish called a shad. Which is why my website is shadk.com. The fish precedes me.