Shad passes with “Flying Colours”

(File Photo -- Ryan Stewart)
(File Photo — Ryan Stewart)

From hoisting a Juno award to sharing stages with “Thrift Shop” super stars Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Kenyan born and London, ON raised emcee Shadrach “Shad” Kabango’s career has come a long way.

Shad saw his career take off as a BBA student at Wilfrid Laurier University. His first album, When This is Over, was funded through prize money from a contest by Kitchener-Waterloo-based radio station 91.5 The Beat.

Since then Shad has released two more albums, toured internationally, opened a show for Grammy award winning rapper Common and picked up some acclaim of his own this year when the CBC dubbed him one of Canada’s best rappers.

Shad gave The Cord the low down on his latest release, Flying Colours, that drops October 15.

“I knew I wanted to talk about success and failure,” he said, explaining the concept behind the album’s title.

He went on to say he’s observed that while we can all be self-critical at times, ultimately many of us are passing the challenges in our lives, as the expression goes, “with flying colours.”

One such success he celebrates in the album is that of the numerous Canadians who, much like him and his family, moved to the country as immigrants with modest means but lofty ambitions.

“From donated clothes to caps and gowns. Had the funny accent [but] look who’s laughing now,” he raps in the song “Fam Jam (Fe Sum Immigrims).”

The track uses samples from Kanye West and Jay-Z’s “Otis” and an upbeat riff from a West African guitar to acknowledge the triumphs of Canada’s newcomers.

“I think that most people … start making music start by exploring things like sadness” he added, explaining the motivation behind ‘Fam Jam.’ “It’s a natural place, music, to go to that kind of stuff”.

“We wanted to do something that was meaningful, [but] at the same time celebratory and joyful,” he remarked about the song, which also features Toronto-based DJ Skratch Bastid.

Throughout the album, Shad doesn’t stray too far from his signature use of retro-esque samples and thoughtful wordplay, but even long-time fans will appreciate the versatility of the album’s collaborations and production.

“It’s always nice when I’m sitting down and working on an album to be able to bring in some of the people I’ve been lucky to cross paths and be connected with,” he continued, refering to the collaborations featured on the album.

“It … feels nice when you can work with talented friends.”

Laurier’s 2013 O-Week performer Lights also makes an appearance on the album with a dark but tasteful vocal cameo on “Remember to Remember.”

The song kicks the drum machines into high gear to discuss a cocktail of topics ranging from leaving a legacy and non-violence to staying true to one’s self. Shad also took the time to reminiscence on his time as an under-graduate here at WLU.

“Laurier was when I got into music and … it became a passion of mine.”

“Those were really just the beginnings, but a really important formative time for me with music,” he said, recalling the days of practicing playing the guitar in his room at University Place residence and working with local musicians.

A lot of Shad’s current team, from DJ T-Lo, who he tours with to his manager, are contacts from his days at Laurier.

As of 2005, Shad had not only graduated from WLU but also released When This is Over. His second effort,  The Old Prince, went on to receive a nomination for the Polaris Music Award.

“I felt like I had a sense of accomplishment after fourth-year,” he added. “I had a sense of confidence [and] I carry that forward”.

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