Shad, ‘Flying Colours’

“Flying Colours” gets five out of five stars.

Parker Munson, Writer

“Conscious rap” is a phrase not too often uttered in the music world these days, and if you’re like most people, you may not have even heard of it. It’s nothing new but, for a long time, it has been considered more sentimental than fresh. Therefore, artists who belong to this sub-genre have flown mostly under the radar. In this category you’ll find one of Canada’s finest: Shadrach Kabango, otherwise known as Shad. The socially-conscious rapper’s latest release, “Flying Colours” covers poverty, immigration and peacemaking in such a way that crosses borders and takes hip-hop back to its roots.


“Where the real MCs at?” Shad ponders on the album’s intro, “Lost.” Perhaps the question is aimed at the genre’s proponents who continue to perpetuate the stereotype against rap music as being self-aggrandizing and demeaning — or maybe it’s a challenge. Shad certainly has the grit to go head-to-head with any of today’s top contenders, and he has a message that runs far deeper than anybody’s pockets. Take for instance, “The Old Prince Still Lives At Home” from Shad’s 2007 release. In the “The Old Prince” he devotes three-and-a-half minutes to detailing how little money he actually has. This kind of self-deprecating humor has slowly found its way off Shad’s tracks as he’s matured both personally and as an artist, though he hasn’t sacrificed his earnest playfulness when it comes to lyricism and delivery.

All throughout his discography, Shad uses his own heritage and story to encourage others to stick to their roots, and “Flying Colours” is no exception. With arguably his most socially-conscious song, “Fam Jam (Fe Sum Immigrims)” Shad opens up about his own experience as an immigrant, born in Kenya but living in Canada. He raps, “Now when you’re third world born but first world formed / Sometimes you feel pride / Sometimes you feel torn.” Prefacing this personal narrative are verses packed with poignant commentary on immigration which, when backed up by his own story, come alive in a way that is undeniably authentic. For instance when he shares a conversation between him and his dad, “He said, ‘Shad, this world wasn’t home to begin with / Just keep defending the oppressed / Take steps and keep rapping / You might just be the best,’” you can’t blame Shad for confirming the compliment with, “Well — yes.”


“Progress Progress,” one of the most interesting and moving tracks on the album, is also its lengthiest. The way it fluctuates between acapella verses and a cacophony of electric guitars is unsettling in a way that urges you to pay attention. The first half of the song floats around the melody from “American Pie” as Shad alters the lyrics to blast the stereotypes placed on black culture. He raps, “Bye, Bye Miss American Pie / Miseducated by these terrible lies / Age 27 with a wink in her eye / Singing this will be the day that I die.” In the background, the sound of a cheering crowd floods the piano heavy tune until the whole thing crescendos into a chorus of “The future is here.”

Don’t get me wrong, Shad wants to make you dance. He’s just not so shallow as to do so without saying anything meaningful. “Flying Colours” stands apart from what Shad has done in the past by not completely separating upbeat jams from his passionate lyrics; every song has some degree of silly packed tight with sincerity. It’s an art form that Shad has mastered and delivers so casually it appears as a mere pastime; it’s precisely what places him in an entirely different category than today’s most popular rappers.

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