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Shad refocuses on music career after ouster from CBC’s ‘Q’

Shad refocuses on music career after ouster from CBC’s ‘Q’ - image

Shad isn’t dwelling on what could have been at CBC Radio. After his sudden ouster from hosting duties at Q just over two weeks ago, the rapper-turned-interviewer is charting a return to his musical roots — not that he ever really left them behind.

Suddenly, he says, there’s a lot more time to invest in making music, now that he’s off the air at the CBC’s most prominent arts and culture program.

“The way I think of it — and come to terms with it — is it’s not my decision,” Shad says in a phone interview from Vancouver where he’s working on some music projects.

“I’m kind of happy with the effort I put in [at ‘Q’] and that’s all I can really control.”
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READ MORE: CBC names rapper Shad to replace Jian Ghomeshi as new host of Q

It was a turbulent 16 months at the helm of the show for the artist, born Shadrach Kabango. He was hired to replace Jian Ghomeshi after the longtime Q host was fired in October 2014 over concerns about inappropriate conduct in the workplace.

Unlike most hosts, Shad was thrust into the national spotlight with hardly any radio experience.

“It sounds strange to say, but I didn’t feel so much pressure,” he says.

“I took the job because it seemed … fun and I thought I could help. It was a lot of work. It was hard work.”

Listeners quickly noted that his friendlier approach to interview subjects didn’t always connect. Some said they missed Ghomeshi’s knack for unearthing anecdotal gems from his guests.

READ MORE: CBC executive fired in wake of Ghomeshi scandal sues for ‘political’ firing

Eventually that dissatisfaction emerged in CBC’s audience research, where some called for a more “engaging” and “stimulating” show.

The broadcaster decided to replace Shad with Tom Power, a St. John’s-raised musician and broadcaster who has five years experience at CBC’s Radio 2 Morning. He begins his hosting duties in October.

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Shad says he’s uncertain whether he got a fair shake at the job or was pushed out too quickly.

“It’s not an industry I know super well,” he says. “So it’s hard for me to say what was the right amount of time.”

Instead of dwelling on what can’t be undone, Shad says he’s thinking about what’s next.

Sunday marks the first episode of Hip-Hop Evolution, a four-part docu-series on HBO Canada hosted by the rapper and written by music historian Rodrigo Bascunan.

Shad plays navigator through a journey of New York’s rich history of hip-hop music, starting with its formation in the heyday of 1970s funk and disco and ending in 1992 with Dr. Dre’s solo album debut, The Chronic.

READ MORE: Dr. Dre beats gun rap from citizen’s arrest

Shooting the documentary gave the musician an opportunity to delve into the foundational years of the era by talking to legends like Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, LL Cool J and Ice Cube.

“To look back and see what they’ve given to the world was kind of amazing,” Shad says.

“It’s almost the same question every single time to these guys: What’s it like looking out at the world now (and) seeing this thing you created as teenagers take over?”

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Some of the memorable bits of Hip-Hop Evolution happen when Shad gets a crash course in old school styles, like when Grandmaster Flash offers him a turntable tutorial.

“He was a very technically savvy teenager making these little innovations,” Shad says. “It’s that ground-floor perspective.”

Shad is also working on music videos for Adult Contempt, an album released in July under the pseudonym Your Boy Tony Braxton which ditches his rhymes for softer beats harkening back to ’80s pop and R&B.

READ MORE: N.W.A. to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

CBC executives are encouraging him to pitch another radio show that would tap into his interests. So far he’s knocked around a few ideas with producers, but that’s about the extent of his plans.

“There’s definitely nothing firm at this point,” he said. “(A new show) would have to feel like a space that needs to be filled on the CBC. Or else I think I’d be quite happy just getting back to making music.”

One idea he’s considered is a deeper dive into the history of Canadian hip-hop music — kind of an extension to the Hip-Hop Evolution series that would examine the genre’s northern touch.

“People always talk about what’s going on in Toronto hip-hop, but there’s still no definitive space for it on radio,” he says.

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The concept would give local rappers a platform on Canadian airwaves he likens to Hot 97, the influential New York station that breaks new artists and conducts extensive interviews with the biggest names in rap and hip-hop.

“There’s a really interesting history here that could be documented a lot better than it has,” he says. “I don’t know if I’m the person — maybe — but there’s definitely the room.”

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