Shad on Smashing Roadblocks

For hip-hop heads north of the border, Shadrach “Shad” Kabango has been on radars for years. Lauded as one of Canada’s best home-grown rap talents, he has worked with other high-profile musicians like Dallas Green, K-os and Lights.

However, his musical journey wasn’t an instant success; in fact, he juggled being a hip-hop artist with a graduate degree, rapping about his student debt as well as socially-conscious issues. Shad’s sound has matured from 2005’s When This is Over, which was funded by a local radio station. It turns out, lacking the things regular rappers had led to him filling in the blanks himself.

“I’d actually picked up the guitar in high school,” says Shad before visiting family in Rwanda, “but I didn’t immediately think of mixing it with hiphop. That happened much later and only because I didn’t have any beats to rhyme over. I’d grab the guitar and mess around a bit, but that was always at home; it didn’t occur to me to bring it onstage and perform with it.”

“Then there was the Rhythm Of The Future unsigned talent competition put on by 91.5 FM The Beat, with a first prize of $17,500. The first round involved just submitting an artist bio and two songs, so anyone could enter, really. But by the final round all the acts were really good, so I knew I was going to have to do something special.

For my final song, I pulled out the guitar, which the judges hadn’t seen before, and I think that’s what won it for me.”

Shad’s willingness to think outside his own box led him to establish a style that set him apart from the crowd. Instead of worrying about what hip-hop would let him do, he used what he was interested in to help him power through the rough patches.

While other artists might have pirated FL Studio or Ableton and wasted time mastering a software they would rarely use, Shad put time towards something he would find fulfilling. People who see Shad live now see him with a backing band, but he still treats them to guitar every once and a while.

“It’s cool to pull it out, and people seem to respond well to it. When I’m feeling more energetic, I like to put it down and move around onstage, but it has definitely become a big part of my shows, for sure.”

If you’re feeling road-blocked in your journey, try finding a way to conquer it by leveraging your passions before starting somewhere with a clean slate. Not only will you be more inclined to put more time into it, your specializations will also stand out.

Like how Shad’s guitar was borne out of necessity but evolved into a hallmark of his live act, you can adapt your strengths to both help and distinguish yourself.

This editor’s Shad album preferences: The Old Prince > TSOL > Flying Colours > When This is Over; all extremely close together, though. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for insight, wisdom and notices for when our posts go live.