It’s been a busy year for Canadian rapper Shad, between dropping a new album and co-hosting the Polaris awards alongside Kathleen Edwards, but he’s still making time to swing through Saskatoon for Amigos Cantina’s 25th Anniversary Weekend.
“Saskatoon is a fun place to play,” Shad said. “Our shows at Amigo’s are always just about insane, so it’s always one that I look forward to.”
Raised in London, Ont., Shad started writing music with friends in his late teens before coming into his own as solo artist. He got his big break when his sister entered him in a talent competition put on by a radio station in Kitchener, Ont. His demo proved a hit and winning the contest earned him enough prize money to fund his debut release, When This Is Over.
“That really was my start,” he said. “Making my full-length, that was my first time in a studio working on a big project”
After he got a few LP’s under his belt, it wasn’t long before the artist started to feel like he’d begun cementing his place as a part of Canada’s music scene.
“I think probably the first time just plopping down in some random city where I don’t really know anyone and, you know, there’s not a lot of people there but there’s a couple hundred people there who’ve come to see me. That to me felt like, okay, my music’s trickling out there and people are enjoying it,” Shad said.
“I think with every album that I make … it establishes me further as a guy that does this — a guy that people can look to for a certain kind of music. And that feels good, too, to get more and more established with each album of my work.”
Today, Shad is an accomplished artist whose latest release, Flying Colours, is garnering great acclaim — but he’s not too concerned by the response from critics, good or bad.
“I think the critical response becomes less and less important,” he said. “Where that’s really helpful is initially, in the first couple of albums, to have somebody vouch for you and say, ‘hey, this is a guy worth checking out.’ It still is important, but I think less and less so.”
Shad is proud of what he’s accomplished with Flying Colours and thinks that the album builds upon the tone he set with previous releases.
“I think this album is probably a bit more layered. I think the breadth of ideas, musically, is probably a bit bigger. There are a bigger range of ideas and emotions that I can represent,” he said.
“I’ve always made albums that, content-wise, go in a lot of different directions. I think emotionally I’m able to represent a bit of a bigger picture now.”
There’s a distinct style to Shad’s music — a satirical edge mixed with a thought provoking depth and self-awareness — that sets him apart from what’s typically heard in today’s rap, and that’s something that the artist believes comes from his finding inspiration in his own life.
“The only thing that’s ever really interested me in music is exploring my ideas and experiences and trying to make sense of them and trying to translate them in a way that’s creative,” he said.
His upcoming show won’t be Shad’s first time through Saskatoon. Including several gigs in prior years, he passed through just this past summer as part of a tour that saw him opening for Macklemore. Shad described the experience with the rising star enthusiastically.
“It was tremendous. [Macklemore]’s a great guy who does very positive things with his music in connecting with kids and it was really a pleasure and a privilege to be a part of that experience that he brings to his fans,” he said
“We toured with him in the states a couple of years ago so there was a bit of a relationship. It was nice of them to reach out and connect again on another tour. It felt good.”
With all his success as a musician, Shad says he’s not currently looking to expand beyond the stage and into other ventures — though it’s not something he’s ruling out entirely.
“I’ve just finished [Flying Colours] and put it out, so touring this album is definitely my priority right now. I’m always thinking about what other things I can try, though,” he said. “It’s good to put yourself in a position where you’re a rookie again and you’re trying something new.
“It gets harder and harder to put yourself in those positions. You do one thing and you get quite good at it and our society is kinda based on specialization … it becomes harder and harder to put yourself in a position where you’re bad at something because you forget what that’s like. But I think it’s good. That’s how we grow, how we experience things.”
Shad hits the stage with We Are The City at Amigos Cantina on Nov. 23. Tickets are available online or at the venue.