Hip-hop artist Shad likes the different energies that collaboration brings.  The two-time Polaris nominee and JUNO Award winner’s fourth full-length album, Flying Colours, includes guest spots from Lights, k-os,  Saukrates, Eternia and numerous co-writes with producer-songwriters, mainly Max Zipursky, Ian Koiter, Michael Tompkins, Ric Notes and (DJ) Skratch Bastid.

The Kenyan native, who came to Canada as a child with his Rwandan-born parents, handles all the lyrics himself, fusing the topical with the personal in such songs as “Fam Jam (Fe Sum Immigrins)” about his own immigrant experience, to “He Say She Say,” about a relationship, to “Long Jawn,” more of a freestyle. But when it comes to the tracks, he collaborates.

“On this album, I wanted to push myself, just be more inventive, more imaginative,” says Shad, 31, whose full name is Shadrach Kabango.  “That’s the hard stuff to try to communicate because I don’t ever know what I’m trying to do, but with these guys and this album in particular I was at least able to communicate ‘This is what’s inspiring me right now; this is the general mood,’ and we would just try and figure ourselves out.”

“It’s a fun and cool experience just to be in the studio with some of these people.”

Shad describes longtime co-writer Koiter, a trained musician who comes up with parts quickly, as taking a “mathematical approach,” while Skratch Bastid is “full of infectious energy” in terms of positivity and vibe. Shad calls him a “music historian” with “this library of drum breaks and references.”

Zipursky is a “wizard on the piano,” who can turn a simple chord progression “into something colourful and great,” while Shad’s childhood friend Tompkins has “a neat process” because he beat-boxes all his melodies and parts and loops them. And Notes “messes with sounds” and will e-mail him tracks that have “this big bright energy.”

“There’s a few things I like about collaborating,” explains Shad, who plays guitar and rudimentary piano. “For one, there’s just so much that I’m bad at, where people can help me, whether it’s playing, performing on an instrument, or coming up with parts.

“It’s a fun and cool experience just to be in the studio with some of these people that are really good at what they do, and get to observe that,” he adds. “The energy, too, is sometimes as important to me as the contributions to the writing and the playing. That energy, to me, is very musical.”

Discography: When This Is Over (2005), La Cassette Mixée (mixtape, 2007), The Old Prince (2007), Besides (mixtape, 2011), Songs (EP with Dallas Green, 2011), TSOL (2011), Melancholy and the Infinite Shadness (mixtape, 2012), The Spring Up (EP with Skratch Bastid, 2012), Flying Colours (2013)
Visit www.shadk.com
SOCAN member since 2006

Track Record

  • Got his Masters degree in Liberal Studies from Simon Fraser University
  • Plays a lot of basketball (“It’s the only exercise I like.”)
  • Is hosting a history of hip-hop documentary