Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Shad :: The Old Prince

For three years now, Canada has been the home to the Polaris Music Prize. The award is based on actual artistic merit (as judged by music broadcasters, bloggers and journalists) and not music sales (see: Grammys and Junos). And so the nominees represent the best music that has come out of Canada over the past year.

This year, the award shortlist contained some up-and-comers (Holy Fuck, Two Hours Traffic, Plants and Animals) mixed with heavy hitters (Stars, The Weakerthans, Kathleen Edwards). But after giving everyone a brief listen, what caught my ears were not the indie rock/pop outfits, but rather the lone hip hop album on the list.

Shad's style of emceeing falls under my personal classification as "hip hop" and not "rap," which means that he lays down rhymes about personal and political issues rather than bling-bling and bitches. The best example is in "Brother" where he talks through his frustration of how black youth are tied up in a form of "mental slavery" where the only images of black identity they see involve "makin' tracks or...hoops...or movin' packs for the loot." He calls on black activists to not try to "match any image of blackness" but rather just "do what you're passionate to." In layering his lyrics over a piano/vocal riff not unlike those used by Common, Shad makes this track is one of the sweetest on the album.

But my favourite track is definitely "The Old Prince Still Lives at Home," in which the beat sample cuts out two-thirds the way through the song. "I couldn't afford the whole beat," he says on the track. Then he spits another verse on top of hand claps and a chorus of "hollas!" Even if he didn't win the Polaris Prize this year, he definitely deserves the acclaim afforded by the nomination.

CONSUMED: Red Cat Records; 4307 Main Street, Vancouver

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