FEA­TURES

Exclaim! - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - By Erin Low­ers

Shad | Cult Leader

WHAT HAP­PENS WHEN LIFE HANDS YOU SOME OF THE MOST SOUR LEMONS? You turn them into Pe­abody awards, in­ter­na­tional Em­mys and a new al­bum ti­tled, A Short Story About a War. At least, that’s what revered Cana­dian rap­per Shad has done fol­low­ing his de­par­ture from CBC’s q two years ago.

Though he’s spent the bet­ter part of the past few years work­ing as the host of Net­flix doc­u­men­tary series Hip-Hop Evo­lu­tion, the Fly­ing Colours MC re­turns to rap five years af­ter his last re­lease, with a vi­sion to ex­plore the co-ex­is­tence of fear and hu­man­ity. (Of course, Shad did ex­plore his soft rock side with his 2016 side project Your Boy Tony Brax­ton; he dropped an al­bum called Adult Con­tempt un­der that moniker in 2016.)

“The main thing I’m ex­plor­ing with [ A Short Story About a War] is fear, and how much fear we walk around with and don’t even no­tice,” Shad says. “[There’s] this ques­tion of how much of our fear is based on a real threat and how much is an il­lu­sion — that’s kind of what I’m in­ter­ested in. What I was try­ing to get at was these lay­ers of con­flict; so­cial con­flict, con­flict within our­selves, and also get at the root of vi­o­lence in a lot of ways — and I’m try­ing to de­fine vi­o­lence broadly, not just phys­i­cal or mil­i­tary vi­o­lence, but also eco­nomic vi­o­lence, ver­bal vi­o­lence, the way we so­cially ex­er­cise power.”

Shad ex­plains that the con­cept of the al­bum isn’t a re­flec­tion of cur­rent so­cial is­sues, but rather came to him as a vi­sion five years ago that he couldn’t shake off.

“When I think about this al­bum, it’s not like any other project I’ve ever worked on — I think about it as the story [which] I want to make come alive in dif­fer­ent ways,” he says. “This is the op­po­site of what I wanted to make. I wanted to make an al­bum that feels re­ally good, be­cause of how hor­ri­ble the world was — I wanted to make a Bill Withers al­bum. I made a lot of songs in that vein, very soul­ful and pos­i­tive, but then I was also mak­ing these songs, and this project was just call­ing me.”

While the themes of A Short Story About a and evil, Shad is pre­pared to win any “war” ahead of him.

“It’s been a cool new sea­son for me in my ca­reer since Fly­ing Colours, try­ing new things, be­ing a learner again and re­ally just try­ing to make a con­tri­bu­tion. Your legacy is go­ing to be judged in what­ever way it’ll be judged, and I’m open to that. I just want to help. That’s it.”

“This is the op­po­site of what I wanted to make. I wanted to make a Bill Withers al­bum.”

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