Shad: From Fun Fur to the Future
By Spencer Brown
The last time I saw Shad (born Shadrach Kabango) was this past summer when he was opening for Macklemore in front of a Fun Fur and possibly thrift store-clad crowd at the Stampede Corral. Shad is set to return to Calgary on January 28th but this time, he’ll be gracing the stage for the Walrus Talks at the Jack Singer as part of the High Performance Rodeo. It’s clear these are two radically different venues for him as he makes the shift from musical to something a little more cerebral. But I can nearly guarantee one constant shall remain in his audience: he’s still going to see plenty of Fun Fur.
“Right now I’m in New York” says the London, Ontario raised rapper “I’m working on a hip-hop documentary about the pioneers of the genre. I’m doing some interviews and it’s really cool, because I’m learning so much.” Education has always been part of the game with Shad as he holds not one, but two degrees: a Bachelor’s in Business, and a Masters in Liberal Studies. “Neither factors in too heavily into making my music. But there’s a level of comfort in Business in how I approach it. If it makes sense to me in a business sense, it makes sense and the same if it doesn’t. With my Liberal Studies, I just kind of expanded my writing and thinking skills. Degrees are like any life experience you can pick up. They will be helpful in life and helpful in work.”
Intelligent lyrics are one of Shad’s biggest trademarks, referencing everything from pop culture icons to colonialism, topped with a healthy serving of “self-deprecation because that was naturally my style…” He goes on to explain, “My rap persona isn’t terribly far from my regular persona so it’s always been a part of it. It felt like me and that’s what made my words quite natural.” One need only give “Stylin” a listen for a sample of the snappy cerebral song craft Shad is amply capable of.
Hours logged touring the second largest country in the world is also ample in this Juno Award winner’s life. “We try to keep things musically interesting in the car in order to pass time. Like on the last tour we had a game where we could only play music from 1993 or 2003 or 2013” he says with a laugh. Dietary recommendations include, “Anything healthy. Anything. There’s just so much Tim Hortons and McDonalds that when you get anything healthy take it. Or even better a home-cooked meal.” As for packing, Shad has a five point checklist: “My passport, phone, phone charger, laptop, and latop charger are a must. Anything else I can get, like a toothbrush or underwear for less than $10. I have the Internet and I’m good. It helps so much to not stress out if I forgot this or that and just pick it up as I go.”
When Shad speaks in Calgary, he will have 7 minutes, about the length of 2 of his songs, to convey his concept to the Walrus crowd. He is keeping his topic a secret for now but you can bet he’s hugely inspired to get a conversation going in the audience. “Dan Mangan did it last year and he really enjoyed it” he remarks when asked about his decision to get involved. “I’m basically always up for trying new things and talking isn’t a big stretch outside of what I usually do. It’s fun to do something different. I am going to speak from experience, as I find the best approach to dig into experience as much as possible. Only then will I be able to talk about our uncertain future.”