Imma let ya’ll finish, but Shad had the best Canadian indie record of this year. The whole year!
Now, I’m not going to continue hyping London-raised rapper Shad with Kanye-like zealousness because it’s not necessary. Anyone who has followed Shad’s career, seen him perform, and listened to TSOL, the album for which he is nominated, should be able to vouch for his merit whether they’re feeling him or not.
What makes Shad such a standout on the Canadian indie scene is his ability to consistently deliver fresh, accessible hip-hop without dumbing down the content, which varies greatly in subject and tone. One second he’s proudly exploring his own history, ancestry and character, and the next he’s speaking out about relationships gone sour and talking on the phone. On other songs he’s politicking or rapping a fun swagger tune. You have to give him credit: the man knows how to keep things interesting.
The album’s lyrics might only be trumped by its amazing technical feats. The production (which included input from fellow Canadian Classified) is cleaner than most indie albums circulating right now. It’s also further evidence of Shad’s continued growth and maturation as an artist. His choice of samples, from rock melodies to soulful Motown vocals, is also on point, keeping songs fresh and never corny.
What I’m most impressed with is how Shad pulled out all of his old tricks, and quite a few new ones to create an album that sounds both retro and contemporary. This album seems like a throwback to a time when hip-hop was about fun and speaking out. You’d be hard pressed to find an album like this in today’s mainstream, and that’s including albums of all genres.
But if Shad were to win the prize this year, it would be more than just a victory for him to enjoy. Awarding the Polaris Music Prize to a rap album would bring much needed attention to one of the Canadian music industry’s most neglected genres. I mean, can you imagine the sort of respect that this sort of recognition and, dare I say it, validity that would lend to Canada’s hip-hop scene? If Shad were to win, we would have definite proof that the Canadian indie scene supports all Canadian musicians, not just its rock/folk/electronic rock/pop rock darlings.
Shad’ been nominated for the Polaris Music Prize before. Let’s hope that the second time’s the charm. I know my fingers will be crossed on Monday.