By: Nino Gheciu
Lucky for us, Shad was able to talk to us a few days after Virgin Fest, busy guy!
You’re enjoying lots of success and a ton of buzz, but I hear you only got serious about your music career a few years ago, and before that you were on a completely different career path. Tell me about that.
I was in school studying business when I got the chance to record my first album around 2004/2005. So, once I finished school, the album was done and I figured it was a good time to focus on playing and trying to get my music out there a bit instead of hopping into a career in business. I was pretty glad to be able to try that out for a bit and fortunately things have worked out so far.
On the song “Angel”, you rap:
“Fools wanna’ make stars instead of music that’s smart or special/Because art at a level that’s real can be harder to peddle/Business prefers a market that settles for second rate/Kill the true artists martyr the rebels/That’s the system and it’s straight from the heart of the devil”
Explain meaning of this line. In your opinion, what is the state of the music industry?
That’s just a breakdown of the classic art/commerce tension. From a business standpoint, if audiences are cool with something that’s easy to produce and easy to market, that’s the ideal situation, because it’s low cost high return. Even if the product is “bad” from a creative or moral standpoint, so long as people will take it in and it’s easy to deliver, business-wise that’s cool. Look at reality TV, for example, everyone knows it’s bad, but people still watch it and I’d imagine it’s cheaper to make than good scripted shows, so they keep being made, low cost and high return. So, if that’s the principle guiding decisions being made in the industries that produce and distribute art and culture, that’s obviously problematic.
Would you say your business background has given you some insights into the perils of the music business? Do you feel like you can more clearly see the business aspect than other artists can?
I think it hasn’t given me insight, as much as, it’s given me just a level of comfort in knowing that if something isn’t making sense to me business wise, then it probably doesn’t make sense and vice-versa. I think a lot of artists, myself included, aren’t too interested in the business side of things and its not intuitive to them, so they’re reluctant to enter into any kind of agreement when sometimes it could be really helpful.
The song “Brother” deals with the issue of “blaxploitation” and the way young blacks are brought up by the media to believe they are limited to certain roles which don’t involve academics. Were you exposed to this mentality as a kid? How did you overcome it?
I think we’re all exposed to the same media images and as a result, we all have ideas of race and identity that have more to do with what we see on TV than who we really are out here in reality. Those images are somewhere in our minds, just like the knowledge that each person is different is somewhere in our minds too. I was lucky I had very supportive parents, which taught me, that I have no responsibility to either uphold or breakdown stereotypes. My responsibility in life is to be true to my beliefs and to be honest and caring and that’s about it.
Why do you refer to yourself as the Old Prince?
The idea of the old prince kind of refers to most people I think. I see it in myself, but I see it in a lot of people. It’s just the idea that we’re meant to be more. Not in a superstar sense, just in the sense that I think we’re meant to be stronger, more honest, and more faithful. I think we’re meant to take care of each other and use what we have for the good of everyone but a lot of us never quite reach that potential. We get distracted or we get scared or whatever and we don’t become the person we feel we could be. That’s a scary idea to me in some ways, its kind of a sad/funny picture in other ways, and it’s a motivating idea in other ways. And overall it’s just something that’s been on my mind the last couple years and especially while I was making the album.
Your first album was entitled When This is Over. What does his phrase refer to?
I don’t really know what When This is Over means. It’s the name of a Hayden song. For some reason it just felt right as an album title. I was finishing school, my sister was finishing school, and my parents were celebrating their 25th anniversary. I was finishing an album that I never thought I’d get the chance to make. So, I was feeling good and it was kind of the end of a crazy time in my life where I learned a lot.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
No clue. In 5 months I’ll be back in Vancouver… probably.