Hip hop artist Shad delivers hopeful rhymes amid chaotic climate


Photo by Andy Calvert.

Shadrach Kabango embraced the Recital Hall stage Tuesday Feb. 12, night to proclaim an encouraging perspective for living in a world of warring peoples and ideas. He laid down feeling grooves with catchy tunes containing stories addressing the most difficult issues of everyone’s life.

Shad rapped and swayed acompanied by a synth/bass player, an electric kit drummer and a dueling turntable DJ before a backdrop of a smiling bullseye face. Double stacks of six bumping speakers rose the modest audience to their bopping feet with a dance party bouncing on in the hall’s back corner.

Born of Rwandan parents in Kenya, and raised in London, Ontario, Shad has six albums under his belt, a position hosting the “Hip-Hop Evolution,” a master’s degree in liberal studies and a vibrant musical career. Shad’s work, unlike the mainstream, highlights existential questions and interprets societal pains through the lens of an analytic Christian faith.

First evidence of this appeared in “Rose Garden,” a cheerful, relaxed jam with a lovely lady’s backing vocals descanting the refrain bearing the song’s name.

“I didn’t promise you a Rose Garden……There’s gotta be rain sometimes.”

This pleasant melody holds above it the text that life constitutes suffering, but there exists a guiding hope. A Voice, perhaps from God, rings out:

“And I promised I’d be with you no matter what the issue”

The song suggests to not invest in selfish things, but serve others instead.

“… don’t trust in cash prize…help the sightless seek the light switch.”

Shad captured the free-stylin’ vibe of hip-hop in “Rose Garden” by improvising his own sung lines and mixing the vocals tape. Shad’s faith displays itself directly in “Magic” where he breaks down the deceptive illusions of the Devil’s schemes:

“All of it’s magic, The Devil and his magic…They divide humans up causing confusion, They use competition, religion.”

Satan can drive a person to lose their very meaning.

“ Gone is your work, your purpose your worth”

These factions and toils that drive people down are demonstrated in Shad’s latest concept album “A Short Story About a war.” The opening song “Sniper”  follows the story of a person who climbed the ladder to prop himself high above the danger ground like a sniper positioned in a tower.

And in fact the whole world was at war, Everyone frightened to their core, And so he trained and became a sniper, Eventually climbing to the top”

Menacing bass progressions, jet flare-resembling keyboard swells, gun fire drum fills, and streaming bullet synthesizer streaks paint the scenery for a world where the strong fight to climb the corporate ladder to escape the violence and attrition readily present underneath.

Shad does not leave the audience wondering if this armageddon world is the only one left. In “Keep Shining” Shad provides a hopeful tone where:

“Now I’m trying to live a life of love….It’s something that Christ brings.”

He continues: “The world turns and it’s cloudy sometimes, ….But it always keeps shining”

Shad’s spirit of hopefulness grounded in faith appears in the various themes he highlights: women in Hip-Hop, embracing diverse heritage and fighting fear.

After the show, Shad answered questions about spiritual practices, culture and music.  He expressed his excitement about the quality of Hip-Hop today. “If John Lennon sat down and listened [to Hip-Hop]  now, he would say “How would you even do that, how?”

Shad performed a show filled with impressive rapping, explosive energy, audience interaction, convicting and fulfilling lyrics, and extraordinary musicality.

To learn about Shad, his message and his creative expression, visit https://www.shadk.com.