Shad is back in the game, and he’s returning to the nation’s capital on November 22nd alongside local hip hop troupe TAPAS.
Shad’s sixth studio album—A Short Story About War—was just released on October 26th and has already garnered some critical praise. His 2011 breakout album TSOL won the Juno for Rap Recording of the Year, and he himself has been garnering some notoriety in the US for hosting the Emmy and Peabody Award winning Netflix documentary series called Hip Hop Evolution.
A Short Story About War has all the telling pieces of a Shad album—insightful, thought-provoking lyrics, soulful arrangements, and rhymes that will trip just about anyone’s ears up. But the new record is more political that any of his previous works. It is essentially a concept album, one that takes a hard look at the state of our society, the divisions within it, and “holds a mirror to our world” by examining issues like migration, environment, politics, and the human spirit.
While the subject matter is heavy, Shad maintains a sense of hope throughout (e.g. his video for “The Fool pt 1” below).
We’re giving away two pairs of tickets to Shad’s upcoming show on November 22nd at The 27 Club, which is likely to sell out. Simply fill out the form below to enter the draw!
The draw will take place the day of the show, Thursday, November 22nd, at noon—so be sure to check your inbox.
Shad, dope rapper & new host of CBC Radio 1’s q, is performing with Zoo Legacy, Story Tellers & Jesse Dangerously on May 2 at the Bronson Centre as part of Ontario Scene. Two (2, 두, II) tickets are up for grabs by entering Ottawa Showbox’s contest!
Shad’s 2013 album Flying Colours is not his latest, he released a collaborative EP with DJ T.Lo last December and two cryptic tracks known as “The Legend of Cy Borg Pts 1 & 2” as part of a Polaris Prize project released in September. The collab between the Polaris short-listed Shad & Holy Fuck known as Holy Shad are still keeping us in suspense about a limited 500 seven-inch run of the collusion. Hopefully we’ll find out more soon…
In the meantime, we are treated to daily exploration of culture as Shad takes on the host duties of q, all the while still creating and playing music. We’ll listen to Shad’s progressive, tongue-in-cheek, intelligent lyrics in person next Saturday and hope you can too. Shad cares about a lot of things, food, music & culture among them, but first and foremost it has to be language. Anyone who says otherwise might never have appreciated good hip hop in the first place, but we’re willing to let that slide.
Your education starts here.
How to Enter
Email email@example.com or tweet at us (@ottawashowbox) the name of Shad’s first album to be shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize.
(Clue: he’s been shortlisted thrice. Not a clue. Just a tidbit.)
These days there is so much music out there in the universe, it feels overwhelming sometimes. A lot of bloggers spend hours per day sifting through countless Bandcamps and Soundcloud accounts trying to find the next big thing. We are not those bloggers. We love new music and will usually give an album a listen if there’s a buzz about it, just to see what the big deal is all about. We don’t, however, claim to be the authority on breaking new bands across Canada or the world. Our purpose and drive is centred locally, and our passion really is seeing music live. For lack of a better cliche, music is the soundtrack to the lives of Matias, Eric, and Joe. We’re the kind of people that feel weird when there’s silence, and usually have music playing in some way or another at all times. None of us would claim to have listened to all albums that were released this year, nor would we claim that this list is exhaustive or exclusive in any way.
2013 was quite an amazing year for shows in Ottawa and for Ottawa Showbox. Check out some of our favourite live experiences from the past 12 months. They are in no particular order, but they were all awesome. With this many amazing shows over the year, 2014 has its work cut out for it, and we will be there to cover it.
Fucked Up @ Ritual Nightclub (Jan. 12)
This was by far the most mental night of the year for me, and it is still burned in my brain from last January. Damian Abraham and co. played some of their greatest songs from Polaris-winning Chemistry of Common Life and widely-loved David Comes to Life, as well as a few oldies too. I also got to meet Damian Abraham and get one of his famously great sweaty man hugs. – Matias
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Shadrach Kabango, better known as the Juno-winning Canadian hip-hop artist Shad, as he came through Ottawa while touring his new album Flying Colours. Here is the interview I conducted with him before his stellar show, which you can read about here.
I have been listening to the new album since it dropped and I really like it. Where does the album title, Flying Colours, come from?
The title comes from the phrase passing with flying colours. I knew I wanted to talk about success and failure, and knew that it would be a thread throughout everything. I just like the idea that we are all doing well, in some kind of grand scheme and ultimate sense. Particularly because it comes as a surprise to everyone, we are so self-critical and to our surprise we are all doing quite well.
What is your favourite colour?
I like grey because grey clothes are easy to wash, hahaha. I also like blue and maroon. I can’t just pick one.
Throughout your new album, and your previous albums, you make a lot of sport reference. What is your favourite sport?
What is your favourite sports team?
I don’t have a favourite sports team that I cheer for year in and year out. Some teams that have been close to my heart over the years are, the Fab Five Michigan, the Penguins of the Lemieux years, Vince Carter’s Raptors, the Golden State Warriors with Hardaway, the Knicks in the Ewing and Starks days and the Stockton and Malone Jazz. My loyalty shifts from team to team, but stays with core players.
Those are some great teams, when it comes down to it you clearly love good sport. What is your greatest sporting achievement?
My greatest… I’m going to have to take it down to two. Grade 9 high school city champs in basketball. I won a three-point contest at a charity tournament I defeated a lot of very good players.
Those are some pretty sweet memories to have. Now to get back to your music. The media and many others say that you are a positive and uplifting hip-hop artist. You do have a lot of positive lyrics, but you also deal with some very serious and troubling subjects. What leads you to be more positive in a style that often focuses on the negative?
At this point, one challenge that I like with lyrics is to try to find hope and name it. Really put a finger on it and put words to it. It is a creative challenge that I like, to try and do it without short cuts or over-simplifying. Confronting the reality of who we are and the reality of the world, but also finding some hope in it.
Sticking with that theme, mainstream hip-hop is seeing a little shift into popular and comedic lyrics like yours, with the likes of Macklemore tearing up the charts for example. How do you feel about that and why do you think it is happening?
It is great, it speaks to what resonates with people. People like to feel good, it just makes sense. People also don’t always feel good, so they don’t always want to hear happy music, and I can understand that. A little aside, in fact the whole musical tradition in America is essentially sad, comes from the blues and it is all sad music. Music elsewhere does not have a tradition like that, it is mostly happy. There is a place for positive. That is what people use music for to a great extent. It can be a release in terms of negative emotions, but also it is a place people go to for joy, to dance, have a good time and remember the world is a good place.
I really like the song ”Keep Shining” off of your 2010 album T.S.O.L. It focuses on the need to get more women involved in hip-hop. I was hoping you could talk a little about why you believe hip-hop needs more women?
It is a curious thing that hip-hop has grown since its inception in so many ways, sonically, creatively, globally but not in terms of female participation. I like to think of it in term of, every guy knows what it is like to be talking with 5 to 10 dudes. You share a brain and there are ways of talking you just wouldn’t do if females were part of that conversation. I see hip-hop to be the same way, if there were more females being a part of that conversation, things would change for the better. From the general tone of the conversation of the music would improve, people’s understanding and the kind of perspective that they share would grow. I like to think I went into it a little with the song. And I hope songs like that are an invitation and create space for women.
What is the biggest difference in Shad from last album to Flying Colours?
That’s a good question. I feel like I have learned a lot. I have grown a lot, learned a lot about myself. With this album my process was a lot more disciplined, I found that I was working harder, I felt more mature with the whole process and approach to it.
Well speaking of that new album, I absolutely love the track ”Stylin.” I think it is one of your most complete tracks so far, and was hoping I could ask you rapid fire questions inspired by the lyrics of the song?
Thank you. And of course.
What is white music?
Off the top of my head, Vampire Weekend, hahaha.
What is your favourite white music?
Simon and Garfunkel are at the top of the list.
You speak of haikus and highbrows, what is your favourite Shakespeare?
One of the silly comedies for sure, like Taming of the Shrew.
You’re out of my league you’re the MVP, you’re 23. So Lebron or Jordan?
Oooooooooooooooooooooooh! I wish I could say Jordan, but I am more of a Lebron personality.
Fair enough, but who is better?
You’re the best draft, MGD. What is your favourite beer on tap?
Mill Street Organic.
You are an MPP, what is your slogan?
It would be a play on the word party… let’s say I have a party affiliation, let’s say I’m part of the NDP like I reference in the song. My slogan would be ”turning the NDP into a real party.” Hahaha, something like that.
Ok last one for rapid fire, not from ”Stylin” but you have mentioned Star Trek and Star Wars on other tracks. So Star Trek vs Star Wars?
Star Trek, no Star Wars. I think I was most the into the first one, Episode IV: A New Hope.
You recently mentioned Bonnie Klein’s Order of Canada acceptance speech on your blog. Can you talk about why you liked it and what you thought about her view of Canada and the United States?
I thought it was cool it came out the same day as my ”Fam Jam (Fe Sum Immigrins)” video, so I highlighted and shared it. It speaks to the feelings that a lot of people have had and have, and the conversations I’ve had. I think it is true of our country and our own selves, we can have values, we can have principals, and be proud of the things that we have done, but if you don’t make an effort to progress those values and principals… you lose them. Things don’t just stay in a steady state, you are either getting better or getting worse. I think that is something a lot of us feel about our country. A lot of things we take pride in, many of us feel they are disappearing.
Here in Ottawa we are making national headlines politically, and Toronto is making them internationally. As a politically-minded artist, how do you feel about the state of politics in Canada?
There is an old way of doing politics and a lot of people of my generation have grown so detached, if you know what I mean. I am sure Rob Ford is a talented person for doing work in the city, there is a reason he got elected, and I am sure he is a decent man. But the way that he does politics, there are a lot of us who really resent it. There is obviously a lot of lying, a lot of deceit, a lot of bullying and we are sick of it. Then there are the other political games that we see going on in Ottawa. It’s like I think our generation is hoping there is a better way. We are so disengaged, it just creates this gulf between the people and what goes on in these rooms through all the layers of deceit. Then it just becomes common practice and how is anyone suppose to get engaged.
So you were raised in London, Ontario. It is not exactly known for being the mecca of Canadian hip-hop. How was carving out your career there?
I didn’t really start my career there exactly. Growing up there and going to high school there, music was fun but nothing I took seriously. I think a big part of that was that it was London, and there was not a whole lot going on. You could freestyle with your friends, maybe hop up on some stage at a talent show. That being said, once I started, London has been super supportive and awesome. A lot of my first shows were there and that is great. London was super supportive, places like the Embassy, Call The Office and the whole music community there. I love London.
How was it to present at the Giller Prize ceremony a few weeks ago?
It was a cool opportunity to meet different people. How many people get the chance to talk to very talented thoughtful writers. It was a very cool night. The guy I was presenting, Dan Vyleta, wrote a very amazing novel and it was cool to get to talk to the guy. You don’t normally get to read the book and then talk to the guy who wrote it. I thought it was very cool of the CBC to include me, because there were probably some more likely people to put up on that stage.
Sticking with literature, what are some books you would recommend?
I would recommend ”Becoming Human” by Jean Vanier and ”All Rise” by Robert F. Fuller. Both are very cool and non-fiction.
Keeping with recommendations, who is the one of the best underground hip-hop acts in Canada no one is talking about and that you would recommend?
I would tell people to check out the group called Freedom Writers from Toronto. They are basically a super group of Toronto underground kings. Some of the most talented guys in the city from the last 10-15 years. Very intense, very political music.
Final questions. You have won a Juno, put out killer albums and proven yourself time after time. Why aren’t more people talking about Shad?
I don’t know man. I am happy I get to do what I do, and I get to work hard at this. I get to have awesome experiences, and get to contribute my little piece. It feels really nice to feel like you have something to offer and to get to contribute it. Everyone has that one little thing to give man, I am just glad I get to give mine.
He is one of the smoothest and smartest hip-hop acts going, and he did not disappoint. The sultan of Canadian hip-hop performed a great high intensity set that seemed to never end, in the good way. Shad and his band (gotta love live instruments in hip-hop) played plenty of tracks off his new album Flying Colours, but did not neglect his other albums either, digging deep into his repertoire. Some of my favourite tracks of the night were ”Stylin,” ”Progress (Part 1: American Pie , Part 2: The Future is Here)” and ”Rose Garden.” But nothing was cooler than when he stripped it down and did an a cappella rendition of ”Epilogue: Long Jawn.” You could truly see how he is head and shoulders above the competition.
We Are the City played before Shad providing a little dose of rock between the two hip-hop acts. This three-piece from Kelowna, now based in Vancouver, BC had a lot of depth in their sound. And I loved that they didn’t shy away from the fact that they weren’t hip-hop, they owned their sound. If I had to compare them I found like they sounded a little like a proggy Cage the Elephant. The band was very well received and they were feeling it, none more than their lead singer who dove off the stage and crowd surfed.
Ottawa’s Zoo Legacy getting crazy and wild at Ritual.
Getting the show on the road was some great hometown talent Zoo Legacy. As previously mentioned, I love it when it is a hip-hop band, aka live musicians rocking out supporting the MC. Zoo Legacy do it very well. I liked their song ”Light it on fire” which was dedicated to the women in the audience, as well as their closing track “L.K.U.T.”
The set-up of the free stage was certainly nicely done. The spectators had plenty of space to perch alongside the hill with a great view of the performance, and the sound carried beautifully across the crowd. The choice of food options on this side of the fence was also plentiful. Dancing like crazy was the choice of some concert-goers on this side to help keep warm when the sun went down.
The Tartan stage hosted Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell. Even at 66, the energy coming from this woman on stage is incredible, let alone her powerful voice. Their performance included many favourites, including Guy Clark’s “She Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.” There was some distraction from the spectators near the back of the crowd during the performance, as first aid responders, police, and paramedics spent some time aiding a man who was attending the concert with his family and had certainly seen better days. It is a good thing that after some time helping him, they were able to help him hobble out through the crowd, as getting a gurney in there, let alone an ambulance, would have been near impossible on the slope of the hill with the crowds.
It is safe to say that the late Friday night crowd was not your typical laid-back Folkfest type of crowd – it was quite the opposite in fact. They were there to see one artist in particular, and that was Kendrick Lamar. DJ Noah of Live 88.5 was on stage to introduce Kendrick in a bright orange prison style jumpsuit, and the crowd loved it. From the first song to the last, the crowd needed little encouragement from Kendrick to whip them into a raucous and boisterous state. Kendrick delivered an energetic and powerful performance, albeit a tad short on time. The crowd was more than happy to go along with any of his requests to sing, clap, curse, finger snap or raise their arms. The crowd’s continual participation throughout the set was definitely a great visual. Kendrick’s set included songs from both of his studio albums, Section.80 and Good Kid, M.A.A.D City. The band behind Kendrick was equally as entertaining, and better than I was expecting for an artist of this genre. It’s clear that Kendrick Lamar has a strong fan base in the city of Ottawa. You could make the case that Kendrick Lamar’s performance was the highlight of the night, and I would generally agree with you. But for me, the highlight of the night was watching the wannabe Ottawa “gangstas” pile into mom and dad’s minivan to take them back to the suburbs. That sight alone was worth the price of admission.
Sunday was certainly a show not to miss. Carolina Chocolate Drops performed on the CUPE Stage, and combined dance with their lively string performance. The voice on the lead singer, Rhiannon Giddens, was powerful and warm. She belted out a beautiful and energetic Celtic song, which picked up in speed as it went on. Her bare, dancing feet moved on stage as if it was so natural to her, and as though she as feeling the music through her shoeless soles. They certainly had big shoes to fill, playing right before Gordon Lightfoot on the adjacent stage.
Gordon Lightfoot on stage at the Ottawa Folkfest 2013. Photo: Sun Media
Then there was Gordon. He came out on the Ravenlaw stage with his band in a bright red, cropped velvet blazer. It was certainly clearly visible from anywhere in the crowd. Gordon made every effort to engage the crowd in between songs. He even had time to confirm that the rumours of his death have been greatly exaggerated. This was a very different crowd from the Kendrick Lamar show Friday night. The audience was laid-back, yet very excited to see him. The majority of the spectators were seated in rather tightly-packed rows of camping chairs. The crowd was overall an older group, who likely listened to Gordon during their glory days. They swayed to the music, and let out the odd hoot or call when he began singing one of their favourite tunes, but other than that it was rather mellow. Gordon did not disappoint, playing all of his best material including “Sundown,” “If You Could Read My Mind,” and “The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald.” At 74 years old, Gordon Lightfoot continues to wow with his great lyrics and his charismatic delivery. Despite being a last-minute replacement filling in for Neil Young who had to cancel his appearance Gordon played second fiddle to no one.
The 2013 edition of Folkfest showed that the festival is only just beginning to hit its stride. The right combination of artists and a great venue made for a great event. I can’t wait to see what new adventures in folk the organizers have in store for us in 2014.
Check out what is happening at the 20th annual edition of the Folkfest which will be taking over Hog’s Back Park starting today.
The festival runs from September 4th to the 8th at Hog’s Back Park. And even though Neil Young is no longer playing, there is plenty to see and do. Here are some of Ottawa Showbox’s daily recommendations.
Day 1: Wednesday September 4th
The first day is your chance to see one of the most influential female performers of all time, the ”Godmother of Punk,” Patti Smith. She is also a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and holds the title of “Commandeur des Arts et Lettres” from the French Ministry of Culture. Her amazing fusion of rock and poetry is not to be missed. Patti and her band take to the stage at 7 pm. Here is a taste of what you can expect Wednesday night, aka tonight.
Thursday is the tale of local vs big name. There are four great local acts rocking the park that day; Little Stella (6-7 pm), Three Little Birds (6:30-7:30 pm), Shannon Rose & the Thorns (7-7:45 pm) and Amos the Transparent (8-9 pm). I have seen all of these bands several times and let me tell you, you are in for a treat with each one. Also you can feel good about supporting local, as it is always a great decision. Therefore I would recommend stage-hopping from local to local and then cap off the night with Vampire Weekend, who take to the main stage at 9:30pm.
Day 3: Friday September 6th
Friday is a battleground which will see folk and hip hop thrown down. First the challenger, hip hop, will be represented by the ridiculously talented Canadian rapper Shad and Compton, California’s amazing Kendrick Lamar. Folk is firing back with Ottawa’s Amanda Rheaume (6-6:45 pm), Canterbury High alumni Tall Trees (6:15-7:15 pm) and Canadian singer-songwriter-guitarist Matt Andersen (8-9:15 pm). Also worth noting, the referee for all of this is indie-rock, championed by Toronto’s Born Ruffians (6-7 pm).
There is a lot going on over the weekend portion, with over 18 bands a day and a bunch of workshops. I picked out three or four artists a day and a few workshops I would recommend.
Day 4: Saturday September 7th
Music-wise I would strongly recommend finding the time to check out 21-year-old Mac DeMarco from Montreal. His smooth-flowing rock sound will be just what the doctor ordered for your late afternoon. He goes on at 4 pm. The next must-see is Vancouver’s Hey Ocean! They are touted as one of Canada best up-and-coming bands and they play with a ton of dancy energy on stage. Lastly, The Avett Brothers are closing out the night, and will be the perfect period to the sentence. Two of the members, Scott and Seth Avett, are actually brothers, and there is something very special about watching two brothers harmonizing on stage. The boys are a blend of folk, country, bluegrass, rock and pop, check them out at 9 pm.
Two of the workshops that I would recommend on the Saturday are Femme Fatale, with Ottawa’s own Shannon Rose and Catriona Sturton. A group of fabulous female artists share stories and songs in an intimate workshop setting. Second, although it is not really a workshop, but rather a freaking cool opportunity, check out an interview with Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. Listen in on a conversation between Danny Michel and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield as they discuss space and music. The conversation will be accompanied by music performed by Danny, Chris and his brother Dave.
Day 5: Sunday September 8th
On the last day of the festival there are some delicious treats lined up for you. I don’t really need to convince anyone to go see Gordon Lightfoot or The Wailers, because it’s freaking Gordon Lightfoot and The Wailers! So here are some other bands you should definitely check out. Ottawa’s Dave Norris & Local Ivan kick off the day at 1 pm and have been described as ”sublimely jangles its folk-pop cacophony of organ, wind instruments, percussion, and perfectly-layered vocals” by Amanda Putz of CBC Radio 3. Not much else to say there. Also from Ottawa, Claude Munson and the Storm Outside will be serenading you with ambient folk-rock at 2 pm. Another Ottawa great, singer-songwriter Lynn Miles plays at 7 pm. My final musical recommendation is Carolina Chocolate Drops, winner of the 2010 Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album. If you don’t believe me, take a look at what the New York Times said about them: “They dip into styles of Southern black music from the 1920s and ‘30s—string-band music, jug-band music, fife and drum, early jazz—and beam their curiosity outward. They make short work of their instructive mission and spend their energy on things that require it, like flatfoot dancing, jug playing, and shouting.” You will thank me after you see them.
Workshop-wise, I would suggest Guitar Masterclass at 4 pm with Ottawa’s John Carroll. The workshop is a combination interview / workshop highlighting the masterful guitar skills and songwriting of Chris Smither. And lastly, The History & Evolution of Reggae Music at 5 pm, hosted by Danny Michel and members of The Wailers.
I hope this helps you all figure out what to do this week, for the complete schedule click here, and if you are looking for tickets please follow this link.