Shad is one of Canada’s most prolific home-grown rappers. He is a timeless wordsmith who embodies hip-hop’s power to educate on real issues while still entertaining fans both young and old. Six albums and countless riffs later, Shad continues to push the boundaries of music and is committed to using his platform to inform his audience of social issues while empowering them to be advocates on their own. Throughout his career, he’s won a Juno Award for 2010’s TSOL, racked up four placements on Canada’s Polaris Music Prize shortlist, and starred in his own Netflix original docu-series called Hip-Hop Evolution.
His most recent album, TAO, was released in 2021 through Secret City Records. The record started from a simple concept: the image of a circle. In classic Shad fashion, he found much more meaning within that concept and the result is a musical masterpiece that intricately weaves rhymes and profound concepts together for an overall epic listening experience.
He’s creative in all sense of the word, wearing many hats such as artist, activist, and radio host to name a few. But no matter what hat he wears—he stays true to his roots and is always fiercely committed to connecting with his fans and being real about not only the easy stuff but the difficult stuff too.
Below, Shad chats about the first moment he felt successful, his most memorable performance, and his dream group chat. Interested in seeing Shad live? You can stream TAO below and get tickets to see him on tour here.
What has been the most memorable live performance and why?
Playing Massey Hall in 2015 probably comes to mind first. That was a special night, being in such a historic venue on what happened to be the 10th anniversary of working in music.
Who would be in your dream group chat? Dead or alive.
Some chill and funny people who won’t blow it up with messages all day—Denzel, Norm Macdonald, and Doris Burke for basketball memes.
What is different about this album than your previous ones?
It’s quite different from the album before this one in terms of tone and themes. My last record was more conceptual [and] metaphorical. This one has an overarching theme but it’s less conceptual and more straightforward in terms of how I’m dealing with themes. At the end of the day, it’s always me though so there’s always gonna be some threads and similarities.
Have you had any mentors throughout your career? If so, how did they impact you?
Not really. But my OG’s in this country have all been great to me. We didn’t cross paths enough in the early days to feel like mentors exactly but I’ll always be grateful for how they embraced me and rooted for me.
What was the first moment you felt successful?
Finishing my first album felt amazing. Telling my story in a way that I felt proud of. That was something I never thought I’d do.
What’s your favorite memory from growing up?
Playing in the creek behind my house with my sister and my neighborhood best friend.
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