Tuesday, May 25th, 2010
Yaa I Get It
Shad at Sonic Boom in Toronto
Frank YangI think I’m done qualifying any opinions I might voice on the subject of hip-hop. Which doesn’t happen often, no, but when it does, I’ve always felt the need to point out that I don’t have the experience with the genre to form what I’d consider a properly contextualized viewpoint and so end up with a quarter-assed collection of observations rather than my usual half-assed.
This insecurity manifested itself most acutely a couple years ago when I was on the grand jury for the 2008 Polaris Prize and was unsure about throwing my support behind Shad’s shortlisted sophomore album The Old Prince because, even though I knew I liked it, I wasn’t sure I could actually say it was a great – objectively-speaking – rap album because, well, I didn’t know what that meant, exactly. And I’d like to think that I wasn’t the swing vote in The Old Prince not winning that year.
I’m much more confident this time around about things Shad and Polaris, specifically his new record TSOL – out today – and where it stands relative to my ballot when it goes in in a couple weeks – because it’ll be on there. From the first listen, TSOL succeeded in capturing my attention thanks to Shadrach Kabango’s imaginative wordplay and ability to convey heart and humour without getting schmaltzy. It doesn’t hurt that it’s more direct and pop-rock influenced than The Old Prince, which had more jazzy inclinations, but that doesn’t make it less sophisticated than its predecessor – just louder and heavier at a few key points. And strong enough that I can get up and say that this is one of the best, or at least one of my favourite, Canadian records of the past twelve months. Of any genre.
Shad was marking the release of the new record last night with an in-store at Sonic Boom, and despite it being perfect long weekend weather for basking in the sun, a goodly number of folks headed for the Annex record store’s basement to see the London-bred, Vancouver-based rapper showcase some of his material. Though a non-functioning guitar kept him from demonstrating his instrumental skills, his mic was working just fine and backed by a DJ and bassist-keyboardist – and getting guest vocals on “We Are The Ones” from Relic – he powered through a selection of TSOL tracks, highlights including his soulful tribute to women in “Keep Shining” and the big rock declaration of “We, Myself & I” (can someone please tell me where that guitar riff is lifted from). Those, combined with a couple of must-haves from The Old Prince demonstrated why despite sometimes seeming easy-going and self-effacing to a fault, he’s a charismatic and energetic MC, more than capable of working a room and putting on a show equal to the material. As Polaris jurors, we’e not supposed to let the artist’s live show influence our decision-making process – it’s all about the records – but it never hurts to have decisions that have already been made be reinforced.
Photos: Shad @ Sonic Boom – May 24, 2010
MP3: Shad – “Yaa I Get It”
MP3: Shad – “I Don’t Really Like To”
Video: Shad – “Yaa I Get It”
Video: Shad – “The Old Prince Still Lives At Home”
Video: Shad – “I Don’t Really Like To”
Video: Shad – “Brother (Watching)”
Inside Toronto talks to Kat Burns of Forest City Lovers about their love of forests in cities. Their new record Carriage is out June 29 and they play the LEAF celebrations at Wychwood Barns on June 11.
Deer Tick were just here in April but will be putting out a new record in The Black Dirt Sessions on June 8 and as such, will be returning for a date at the Horseshoe on August 10. New York Magazine talks to frontman John McCauley.