The ‘rapper next door’ comes home

(Ryan Hueglin -- Photography Manager)
(Ryan Hueglin — Photography Manager)

When Shadrach Kabango, better known as Canadian rapper Shad, was a fourth-year business student at Wilfrid Laurier University, he entered and won a contest held by 91.5 The Beat to have an album financed. This album, which later became When This is Over, jump started Shad’s career.What would have happened if he didn’t win?

“I don’t know. I like to think that my passion for music would have been there anyways and so I would have sought out other opportunities or I would have found a way on my own,” remarked Shad.

Fortunately, with the motivation of the deadline behind him, he was able to find inspiration in the encouragement of the judges.

“There’s something about that competition, not just the funds to make the album, but the validation from the judges that weren’t my friends or family that was important, and also just the deadline … ‘Okay you won, good now you need to make an album that has to be done by this time.’”

From there, Shad’s career was able to quickly take off—his second album The Old Prince was nominated for the Polaris Prize and for a Juno in 2008—and hasn’t stopped as he was recently nominated for a 2014 Juno for Best Rap Recording for Flying Colours, his fourth and latest album.

Playing the Starlight Social Club on Thursday Jan. 30 to a sold out crowd brought Shad back to his rap career beginnings.

“[I got into rapping], actually, while I was at Laurier. In high school, music wasn’t something I took seriously at all. I could play guitar a little bit and stuff like that, but it wasn’t anything I was that serious about pursuing. I think at Laurier, studying business, doing other things, you start to discover what it is that is pulling you. That was music for me,” said Shad.

Shad definitely found himself being pulled in the right direction as his performance on Thursday evening was killer. He played a wide range of songs from all four of his albums, which was a great throwback to his fans that have been with him from the beginning. Shad also played some songs that he had written in fourth-year at WLU. Despite some minor technical difficulties, the audience didn’t notice. There were some minor microphone problems and, at times, the static was louder than Shad’s microphone but  the audience was more into the performance.

While his rhythm and lyrics were on point, Shad’s greatest asset is his passion and energy on stage. Shad frequently climbed up onto the speakers, jumped around and banged on a broken ceiling tile as the audience rapped along with him. The most impressive aspect of his performance was his encore where he began to freestyle for ten minutes straight. For those who may be just getting into Shad, this was all that was needed to confirm that his talent to the audience. As usual, his lyrics were noticeably self-deprecating with many Waterloo and Toronto references throughout.

Shad’s performance personality is a far cry from the quiet and, at times, reserved persona he takes on in everyday life. He comes off as down to earth which has earned him the nickname of ‘the rapper next door.’

“I think it’s because I’m pretty normal. A lot about me is pretty ordinary, I grew up in an ordinary town, I went to WLU … And that’s something a lot of kids do—they grow up in whatever town, then they [usually] go to school. … My musical persona is something more lively than this, but it’s pretty closely tied,” said Shad. “[That label] is fine with me. I’ve never been mad at labels at all. That’s what people do … some people are really resistant to labels but to me, I understand it … I don’t apply labels to other artists.”

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