Monday, July 19, 2010

On Repeat: Shad - Rose Garden

Who'd've thought Canada was the next hip-hop stronghold? With Drake beyond huge, it's only fitting that people take a closer look at what Canada has to offer. If Shad is what's hiding up in the Great White North, Jive records should be swarming Ontario. Shad (real name Shadrach Kabango) hails from London, Ontario by way of Kenya. He's one of those hyper-literate rappers who pummels you with obscure references and wordplay that dares you to hit pause every 15 seconds to try and keep up. More than simply being a know-it-all, Shad isn't one to shy away from controversy or touchy subjects, having addressed Rwandan genocide and the Bible on recent albums. His newest single "Rose Garden" is none of the above.

Re-cutting a vague country sample and repositioning it as his chorus, Shad fuses Motown and big band production, skittering a brass section and a hodgepodge of other instrumentation behind his textbook verses. If the initial sample wasn't seductive enough, the true chorus slows matters down a bit and allows Shad (and us) to catch our breath. It's the next verse that Shad displays what makes him such a singular talent.

"I'm not in the zone, there's too much in the way
I weigh two bucks and if I had two slugs to spray like: RAH RAH,
Glenn Beck better duck like Foie Gras
Make shots poke his face like Gaga,
But mama says forgive,
So I'll give him that bar like a Mars and let him live.

The missing saga continues, ranting
While my DJ's lamping like Green Lantern, sampling
Mansions? Nah, I ain't rich as Richard Branson
I'm King Kong meets Vince Vaughn and I play like a champion
In my Monday ball league? Nah B, all week
Seven days of black power naps every forty eight half hours
That's twenty four star Jack Bauer
Can't cower when the rain falls
And it falls whether you're Gandhi or you're Adolf"

More than just simple name-dropping and pop-culture references, there's mature anger here playing amongst the chest pounding and soap-boxing. Too many rappers use a nifty reference to round out a verse or to elicit a chuckle and cast them aside. Shad is more intuitive than that; wrapping his larger message in a blanket of pop culture and puns. More rap needs a message behind it. That it happens to be great and unfathomably catchy is just gravy. The music video is awesome too, check it out below.