#tbt An Interview with Shad

Found in the Margins is a defunct web magazine that Chris DePaul founded in 2006. Chris and his co-writers would interview musicians, writers and activists on one question: What books inspire the work you do? The Brothers DePaul will be reposting these archived interviews every Thursday. #tbt

This week's interview: Shad

Shad is one of the hottest new hip-hop acts on the Canadian scene. Hailing from London, Ontario and currently finishing a Masters Degree in Liberal Arts at the University of British Columbia, Shad has released two albums since 2005 – his debut When This Is Over and his latest The Old Prince.

He has opened for artists like Common and Lupe Fiasco, CBC Radio 3 called 2007 "Year of the Shad," and the ?uestlove-founded online community okayplayer says The Old Prince “stacks up rather nicely against the likes of [Common’s] Finding Forever, [Kanye’s] Graduation and The Undisputed Truth with off-the-cuff punchlines, pop-culture references and social commentary delivered over a rich tapestry of melodic samples and neck-snapping drums.”

Shad’s lyrics on The Old Prince have evolved since his last release – a change he was inspired to make after hearing his mother recite a poem at a rally for her home country, Rwanda. “To hear my mother be so candid and talk about her loss made me become a lot more passionate about expressing myself through music. I got a lot more interested in putting out my own ideas” [National Post, 2008].

With a cumbersome schedule of grad-school and performing cross-Canada tours, Shad is finding that the reading he does is primarily for school. “These days I'm reading mostly for class. Last week we read By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart and The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.”

From books, Shad finds an author’s writing style and unique insights are what influences his own writing. “[The books I read] make me understand what makes a story engaging. I like humour as well - to read and to use in my own work - because that makes it feel real and human and easier to digest. I might travel with my bible. The poetry and the stories help me focus on who I want to be and help me think more clearly about the world and my personal priorities.”

The books Shad identifies as his favourites are wide spread and varied. “Certain books of the bible like Ecclesiastes I’ve enjoyed since high school. Pieces of Dostoevsky that we've read this year in class I thought were incredible - part of The Brothers Karamazov and a short piece called Notes from Underground. C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters is up there for me. There's a few others like Madame Bovary, Donald Miller's Searching for God Knows What, and [John Perkins’] Confessions of an Economic Hit Man that I found really impactful as well.

“I think I've always preferred non-fiction. I like reading books on philosophy and books that describe the stories of real people. Through those kinds of books I think I get a sense of people's struggles in the world and people's struggles within themselves. That inspires me to express those things in my work."

Written by Chris DePaul