Thursday, July 1, 2010

Shad - The Quintessential "Slept On" Emcee

In the five years since Shadrach Kabango appeared in the hip hop scene, apart from having the coolest name ever, his list of achievements includes three albums, two of which are on a label, and winning The Rhythm of the Future contest, held by a local radio station. He's enjoyed some positive press and marginal success in Canada, however down here in the States he's a complete no-name; even many heads who could name-drop dozens of underground artists would answer with a "Who?" if you asked them of their thoughts on Shad.

As an artist, Shad switches between lighthearted fun and conscious seriousness. The former allows him to show off his charisma and humor, which is very inviting and helps to make his music some of the most accessible underground hip hop out there, as well as his technical skill, as he throws wordplay at you left and right seemingly effortlessly. The latter is a mixed bag: he's had two or three corny moments, but when he gets it right he can really strike a nerve. He also gets absurdly good production considering his obscurity.

Album-wise, the only time he's completely lived up to his skill is with 2007's The Old Prince. Featuring his charisma at full-throttle, his two most emotional songs (Brother (Watching) and I Heard You Had a Voice Like an Angel), zero corniness, and front-to-back great production, this is easily the best and most complete album Shad has made to date. His other two, When This is Over and this year's TSOL, are very good as well but both have their flaws. When This is Over is Shad's debut, made with the money he received from winning the Rhythm of the Future contest; it features him on acoustic guitar throughout much of the album, giving it a very intimate feel which complements Shad's style well. Unfortunately, Shad hadn't quite fully developed as an emcee yet, there's a few corny songs and the production would improve once he got signed. TSOL, on the other hand, features very polished production, with help from Broken Social Scene, and Shad on his A-game. The album does feel a little incomplete, but is still not a disappointment by any means. All three albums are great, but The Old Prince is the only real required listening, and arguably the best hip hop album to come out since its release.

Shad is not only the most under-appreciated rapper at the moment, but I'll vouch for him as the best as well (he would hold the record for smallest ratio of people who have heard his music to people who hold him as his or her favorite rapper if that could be calculated). He's put out three great albums to date and shows no signs of stopping. Do yourself a favor and stop sleeping.

Download The Old Prince

Shad on Amazon


1 comment:

  1. I can vouch for him as well. I've listened to all three of his albums numerous times and love them all. My only gripe, and it's very minor, is the overproduction on TSOL. I feel like the beats drown out his fantastic flow and lyrics more often than not. Often times, I feel as if I'm trying too hard to hear his voice over everything else. Other than that, I have no complaints with TSOL, and I certainly have no gripes with Shad as an emcee.