Friday, August 28, 2009

Shad - The Old Prince

As far as white people go, I'm pretty white. I own a messenger bag. I live in Missouri. I play perhaps the whitest instrument in music: the mandolin. But I'd like to think I can appreciate good rap. I've taken it upon myself to become familiar with all types of music, and in doing that I've found out that I actually like most types of music, rap definitely included.

A nice thing about hip hop is that there's really not that much to it, as far as requirements for comprehension. Sure, there's a certain vernacular to become familiar with (women are sho'ty's, hos, etc.), most of which requires a sense of leniency toward grammar, legality, and women's rights, but besides that there are relatively few barriers to appreciation of the genre. Basically, there are two intrinsic elements to rap: rhymes and beats. The more satisfying the beat and the more obscure or unlikely the samples used, the better the song. Lyrics are judged based on vocabulary, difficulty, imagery, or even just the level of insult if the rapper is dissing someone. A particularly good flow should make you think "Oh snap!" or something like that.

Now, I'm not a huge fan of Soulja Boy and his ilk, and if you listen to Shad you'll know why. Shad is a Canadian rapper (yes, he's black), which is rare in itself, but even rarer is his talent. Listen to his flows and you witness true lyrical genius. I was playing his album The Old Prince when I started this post and I had to turn it off after a few minutes because I would stop writing and just listen in awe. The things he can do with words are just sick. Absolutely engrossing. And it can be about anything. Many of his songs have a playful streak to them, like the title track "The Old Prince Still Lives At Home". I was first introduced to Shad by the music video for it, which takes most of its imagery from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Definitely worth a watch.

Shad's also got his serious side, and his songs frequently discuss "the issues". He's gifted with an eloquence, however, that negates the usually blunt nature of political rap songs. His song "Brother Watching" is a fantastic call to action. The entire album is clean. Shad even mentions Jesus. If you're looking for the next Fiddy, Shad will definitely disappoint. But if you want truly skillful hip hop without all the annoying lines about sex, violence, and civil disobedience, this might be as good as it gets.

No comments:

Post a Comment