Album Review: Shad - Flying Colours

Album Review: Shad - Flying Colours
Artist Name:
Album Name:
Flying Colours
Release Type:
Release Date:
Record Label: Label Location:
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Review Author: Review Date:
EM Review Rating:

 When I first heard the news, I couldn't believe it. During the 2011 Juno Awards, the unanimous question of the night was "Who is Shad and how did he beat Drake for Best Rap Recording of the Year?"  Sure, Drizzy might have pools of cash and a worldwide influence, but on that night, David defeated Goliath and the people rejoiced. And at that moment, I let out a sigh of relief.

To this day, some of the best music I've ever come across was purely based on serendipity. Years ago, one sick afternoon had be lounging on the couch flipping through channels, only to find my way to MuchMusic (think MTV but with more music and less teen pregnancies.) Just as I was about to turn off the TV, something caught my eye.  In an obvious tribute to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, this music video had an emcee who was decked out in a yellow and green striped shirt while rapping about living a frugal life--something both hilarious and genius, as many rappers have always used their money to back up their talent. That track was "The Old Prince Still Lives At Home" and that rapper was Shad. Little did I know, the London, Ontario native would soon become one of my favourite hip hop artists of all time.  

 Sometimes it amazes me how someone as talented as Shad can be so humble with his music, as being braggadocios has been commonplace in hip hop since the days of Busy Bee and Kool Moe Dee. Whereas artists would jump on the "hood mentality" bandwagon in order to gain recognition, Shad K was coming from an area of atypical higher thought, speaking on the corruption of the music industry and the Rwandan Genocide. Every song on The Old Prince, be it the boom bap influenced "I Don't Really Like To" or the somber and poignant "Brother (Watching)," comes together in such a cohesive manner that I often found myself yearning for more of his music. But with the future classic TSOL and a number of dope projects between now that somehow managed to slip through the cracks, is Shad still be considered the super slept on rapper he once was?  

There's something fitting about Flying Colours, Shad's latest album, originating from The Great White North. While the rest of the world sees us as a bunch of hockey loving, Tim Hortons totting, tolerable individuals, the almost microscopic hip hop scene has allowed Canadians from province to province to band together in times of success. This lack of notable artists actually works in favour for said musicians; whenever a Drake makes a #1 hit or a Classified gets rave reviews from critics, all Canadian artists win. Even though the advent of technology has eliminated every sense of a musician's work and the area in which they live in, Canucks are still trying to find their voice amongst the masses.

Beginning with "Intro:Lost", Shad wastes no time dropping some witty bars ("I'm not saying they're their Nazis, I'm just saying how could they not see that/ It's still a white world, they don't even want that coffee black, no primetime, they don't even want that Cosby back") over a audacious and tempo shifting beat without being too preachy. With Lisa Lobsinger smooth and buoyant vocals juxtaposed with spoken word poet Kamau and Canadian favourite k-os providing the closing verse, the track does a great job of setting the stage for the songs to come.

[soundcloud url=""]

"Yall Know Me" is the Shad throwback for the old school fan, but is inviting enough that new listeners can discover his multi faceted musical directions. It's toned down, guitar leading sounds carry weight as the emcee drops bars  galore and Ebrahim provides the highly addictive hook. Taking a break with a shift in sounds with a twangy guitar in the forefront, "Fam Jam (Fe Sum Immigrins)" has the rapper give us his commentary on immigration and how individuals who come from nothing  embrace their trials and hardships in order to provide for the rest of their families over this Skratch Bastid, "Otis" & "Bonita Applebum" sampled beat.

[soundcloud url=""]

Going from a relatively joyous jam to a melancholic track,  "He Say She Say" is Shad at his finest. His ability to create lines that go beyond the page and are easy to miss upon first listen, ("Get the gwap, prosper and live long/ When you're Kirk, girls wanna cling on/ wanna get beamed up, wanna get some bling on") are what make him stand out from your everyday rapper. Like the proverbial horse getting led to the watering hole, he doesn't do the work for you, instead opting for the listener to actively engage in the material as the last minute and a half is devoid of any lyrics. "Dream", the fifth track from the album, continues on a similar sounding mental plane, crescendoing into the raw and powerful, spoken word styles of the Canadian rapper as clever rhymes mesh beautifully with the empty sounding instrumental.

"Stylin", which features Saukrates on the hook, is another return of The Old Prince-era sounding Shad. It's almost bare and simple beat allows a lot of flexibility for him to return to his roots, but also gives him the opportunity to experiment with a few different flows (for a much more in depth breakdown of the track, check out this post). Where the album takes a nice, straight lyrical journey is with the next track, "Progress Part 1: American Pie Part 2: The Future Is Here". In this song, Shad flexes his poetic muscles by diving head first into the track. When the instrumental kicks in at the minute and a half mark, the reflective and inspiring sounds come together  to lead into a chilling guitar finale with the echoing line, "the future is here" resonating within the mind of the listener.

[soundcloud url=""]

 Unfortunately, there are a couple of sour notes on the album. Though "Remember To Remember" has all the right parts of a cool Shad track, Toronto electropop songstress Lights doesn't really add much to the track. This is all changes with the spectacular "Love Means," which has Eternia and Shad trading verses on love and it's everything-but-simple journey. Like his two previous albums, the Canadian emcee has always make each project sound like it could be his very last; "Thank You" is the straight up humble tribute to everyone associated with his success, including family and fans old and new.  The final track, "Epilogue: Long Jawn" is that final scene from every Marvel movie in which they hint at the upcoming movie. At a staggering 7 minutes, Shad somehow manages to transport the listener to a new realm of thought that complement the lush, piano meets-boom-bap beat. 

Hip hop fans are some hardest people to please. Give them a Drake record and they'll say that his music is vapid. Give them a Jay Z record and they'll say that he steals lines from everybody in the game. But Flying Colours gives something for everyone: it's all the best parts from The Old Prince merged with the best parts from TSOL. While it isn't a project that you can put on in the background-- Shad's commanding, lyrically dense themes cannot be ignored--it's the same reason we love him so much. If this isn't a contender for best rap album of the year, I don't know what is.

Album Review · Hip-Hop


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.