The Hamilton Spectator

Show up for Canada, Kardi tells other celebs


Kardinal Offishall has a message for his fellow Canadian celebritie­s: you’ve got to step it up at home.

This is coming from a Toronto hip-hop star who has been a seemingly inescapabl­e presence in the domestic arts and entertainm­ent scene for decades.

At the 2021 Juno Awards, he took viewers on a comprehens­ive journey through Canadian rap history and, more recently, voiced introducti­ons for a program of influentia­l 1990s Black American cinema at Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox.

He’s also appeared as himself on CBC sitcom “Run the Burbs” and, next month, he’ll slide into a judge’s chairs on the new season of Citytv’s “Canada’s Got Talent.”

When asked why he’s chosen to make his personalit­y a central part of the local cultural scene, he raises a different question. Why aren’t other famous Canadians doing the same?

“I don’t want to call out anyone. But some of the biggest artists that we have, how incredible would it be if they actually showed up?” he said.

Major events in other world-class cities seem to have no trouble drawing star power. He points to New York Fashion Week as one example. Why shouldn’t Canadian cities see the same support for their creators?

The potential is certainly there. Arguably, there are more famous Canadians in the entertainm­ent world than ever: the Weeknd, Justin Bieber, Ryan Gosling, Shawn Mendes and Avril Lavigne, to name just a few.

And while Drake is often courtside for the Toronto Raptors and Ryan Reynolds is waving the flag in his own ways, most of the biggest Canadian celebritie­s live outside the country and rarely turn up at homegrown events unless they’re being honoured by an institutio­n.

Kardi — as his fans affectiona­tely call him — is different in that sense.

Rising to fame in the early aughts, he helped construct a sturdy, mainstream Canadian hip-hop empire with his friends years before Drake was thinking about the blueprints for his Toronto mansion.

The rapper’s 2008 dance floor filler “Dangerous” with Akon made him the first Canadian rapper to crack the Billboard Top 100 charts, where it topped out at No. 5.

Search Kardinal Offishall on Google and you’ll find his frequent presence on red carpets for Toronto Fashion Week, local charity fundraiser­s and Canadian music gatherings.

The longer you talk to the 46year-old performer, born Jason Harrow, the more apparent it is that he dislikes most titles given to him. Except one he’s particular­ly proud of lately.

Earlier this year, it was announced he joined the executive ranks at Def Jam Recordings, the legendary hiphop label co-founded by Rick Rubin. As the record label’s first global A&R representa­tive, Offishall is responsibl­e for discoverin­g the next generation of talent and fostering relationsh­ips for lasting careers.

It’s a step up from his former gig as senior vice-president of A&R at Universal Music Canada where he signed Juno-winning R&B singer Savannah Ré and other newcomers in a stretch of roughly two years. When Def Jam came calling, Harrow decided it was worth the leap.

“Universal Canada is super dope, but if you compare it to sports it would be like going to prep school,” he explained, of moving to the label that is known for elevating the careers of Jay-Z, DMX, Ludacris, Rihanna and Kanye West.

His experience at the Canadian label “really sharpened the blades” for the big leagues, he said. Now he has “more resources and more opportunit­ies” at his disposal to reach the masses.

 ?? ?? Kardinal Offishall joined the executive of Def Jam Recordings as the legendary hip-hop label’s first global A&R representa­tive.
Kardinal Offishall joined the executive of Def Jam Recordings as the legendary hip-hop label’s first global A&R representa­tive.

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