Shad makes his mark in hip hop scene

London rapper amps up summer music festivals

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Shad holding a paper card of his name written upside-down

IS THIS MY NAME UPSIDE DOWN OR "COUNTRY" IN FRENCH? Shad played at North By Northeast and is spreading his distinct hip hop sound across Canada.

Shadrach Kabango is finding a niche for hip hop within the indie scene.

A London native, Shad, as he is known professionally, has been busy working the indie circuit since 2004, when he won an unsigned talent competition held by Kitchener’s 91.5 FM.

This year marked his second run as a North by Northeast (NXNE) Festival performer, but it was only the beginning of a summer filled with festival stages and recording sessions.

Summer festivals appeal to Shad for their eclecticism and the opportunity they provide him to reach different audiences.

“Festivals are cool because a lot of people that aren’t familiar with your music come out,” Shad says. “I like the fact that it attracts people that love music [in general], whereas at other shows people are just there to see a certain band.”

This summer, Shad will be performing in St. Catherines, Toronto, Grand Bend and Peterborough. However, NXNE presented a distinct challenge due to its size. Despite the pressures of playing a larger festival, Shad felt confident about his set.

“The whole industry is out, and there’s a lot of buzz,” Shad says. “But it’s gonna be pretty chilled out. A lot of bands from the label and my family and friends will be there.”

His set’s laid-back vibe provided Shad with a venue to experiment with new material from his upcoming album.

“At NXNE there’s a 40-minute set, so it’s a good time to try different things. There are a lot of new songs I’m working on, and it’s a chance to see what goes over well and what doesn’t.”

Even with an army of new songs, playing a long list of shows in one summer can make an act grow stale. Shad views his new portfolio as a call to amp up his performance.

“I always like to take risks to keep things interesting. And that’s the only way to have a good show, anyway, [even though] trying new songs might be a bit of a risk.”

The risk seems to have paid off: Shad was recently signed to Milton-based label Black Box Recordings; and the transformation from independent to signed artist has been a positive experience.

“I have deadlines [now], which is good. And it’s good to have people championing your cause. When the album’s done I have people that are gonna be getting it out there. They can contribute ideas from a marketing standpoint.”

With stricter deadlines, particularly for his upcoming album, it can be a challenge for Shad to fit everything into his tight schedule.

“I’m supposed to not be playing so many shows! Recording’s coming along pretty well, though. Hopefully by the end of June I’ll be done.”

Choosing which songs to include on the new record should be a breeze for Shad, who has a strong sense of his own voice.

“[My inspiration] is what comes out naturally. You know when you’ve hit on your own kind of voice. I’ll write something and it’s just like, ‘That’s connecting and those words are just right.’”

For more information about Shad, visit www.shadk.com or www.blackboxrecordings.net.

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