Shad comes back home to Laurier

“It feels very nice to be at a point where I’ve made four albums, people respect me and I get to participate in the culture of this country.” -Shad

Photo by Moyo Arewa
Photo by Moyo Arewa

From Phil’s nights on Wednesday to sittig through lectures in Arts 1E1, some things are just as much part of the Wilfrid Laurier University student experience today as they were when Juno Award-winning rapper and Laurier alumnus Shad graduated in 2005.

Homecoming weekend marked the return of one of Laurier most accomplished graduates. Shad was back for the first time in nearly four years for a show in the Turret hosted by the A-Team on Sept. 26.

The Cord was given the chance to take one of Canada’s most respected rappers on a tour of the campus, stirring up some nostalgia from his days as a student. Even though a lot has changed since Shad left, he still looks at Laurier with a sense of familiarity.

“I remember coming here on a really hot night and throwing the football around with my roommates,” he said as we walked by Alumni Field.

“That was an interesting time in my life. I can’t just call up my buddies to go throw around the football at 2 a.m. anymore.”

He also reminisced about the house he lived in on King Street with his roommates. The property has since been demolished and in its place is a high-rise apartment building.

Waterloo’s nightlife is another part of the student experience that has changed since he was around.

“Culturally, as far as goings-on and things to do, there wasn’t a whole lot,” he said. “Except of course for making the regular rounds at Phil’s,” he laughed.

Turns out Wednesday’s hip-hop night at the closest bar to Laurier’s campus had just as much appeal to the class of 2005 as it does today.

When it came to his academics, Shad was in a place many students can relate to.

“I had no idea what I wanted to do,” he said. “I figured I’d study business because people were telling me it was a good idea.”

Even without a clear sense of purpose, his time at Laurier was an important part of his life.

“I’ve never felt like that again,” he said, recalling when he started freshman year. “I had a feeling of embarking on something and not knowing how it was going to turn out. It was a really special time even though I didn’t know what to expect. I was just trying to figure out what to do with my life.”

The course work for the business degree he was working towards didn’t resonate with him. “I wasn’t super keen on it,” he admitted. “But I was just really happy to be able to follow through.”

His program aside, Waterloo was good to him.

“There was a radio station called 91.5 that ran an unsigned talent competition,” he said. “I was lucky enough to win that and record my first album while I was in my fourth year.”

Shad said he is grateful for the sense of home he’s found in the Canadian hip-hop scene.

“It’s been great,” he said. “I’m happy every day and I’m lucky to get to do something I love. If that’s the case you’re not allowed to complain. It feels very nice to be at a point where I’ve made four albums, people respect me and I get to participate in the culture of this country. That’s a real joy.”

As we headed to the Turret for the show, he recalled the classmates that supported him as his career took off.

“It’s a small community. People have been super supportive, especially in the early days right after I graduated. Those were the first champions of my music.”

The packed crowd at the Turret proved to be no less supportive than the Laurier community nine years ago. The crowd hung on every punch line, rapped along and even chimed in with the cheer “it’s great to be a Laurier Golden Hawk” during the show.

Shad’s hour-long set list featured singles on his latest album Flying Colours, throwbacks to his older material and even a freestyle about being back at Laurier. In one of the most memorable moments of the show, the crowd went ballistic as Shad grabbed an electric guitar to perform “Rock to It,” a song off his debut album.

The show ended well past midnight, but only after he gave in to the audience’s chants for an encore. At one point, Shad paused to share a moment with the crowd, acknowledging that he was once in their place as a Laurier student and a guest at the Turret. He’s had quite the journey getting back to the campus he knew so well almost ten years ago.

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