'Flying Colours' Has No Fear Of Sincerity

Oct 13, 2013
Originally published on October 22, 2013 11:05 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

When you think about the geography of hip-hop, chances are you're thinking East Coast, West Coast, probably not north of the American border. That's why you probably haven't heard of Canadian hip-hop star Shad.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SHADRACH KOBANGO: (Rapping) (unintelligible) Warmest wishes of snow (unintelligible) the show (unintelligible) what I'm spitting. Oh, Michigan snow. Listen, no, I don't put on airs. I'm conditioned to blow...

MARTIN: Shad, more formally known as Shadrach Kabango, is a big deal in the Canadian music scene, for good reason. His catalog stretches from tongue-in-cheek odes to the virtue of thrift, or to earnest meditations on race handled with equal style. We talked with Shad about his new album, "Flying Colours," and about how a Kenyan kid from a Rwandan family eventually found a home in London, Ontario and a career matching the rhyme and rhythm.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: So you were born in Kenya.

KOBANGO: Yeah.

MARTIN: How old were you when you came to Canada?

KOBANGO: I was just a year old. I was a baby. I was a year old. My sister was three. And my parents were around my age but younger maybe.

MARTIN: Why did your family leave Kenya?

KOBANGO: My family is actually originally from Rwanda. My parents grew up there but actually had to leave when they were maybe five or so, because of a conflict around 1959. So they were refugees their whole life. We were refugees in Uganda for a while, everywhere basically in Central and East Africa. Then I was born in Kenya and we were still refugees at that point. So my parents said let's try and find a place where we can stay for a while.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FAM JAM")

MARTIN: In that song that we just heard, you talk about seeing the stories of the Rwandan genocide in the news.

KOBANGO: Yes.

MARTIN: And in a song of yours from your first album, you talked explicitly about the genocide. Let's play a little bit of that older song. It's called "I'll Never Understand."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'LL NEVER UNDERSTAND")

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'LL NEVER UNDERSTAND")

MARTIN: In one of the songs on this album, you describe your relationship with music as a man in love with his therapist...

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: ...which is kind of interesting. Can you talk a little bit more about that analogy? Are you working out some stuff when you're writing a song?

KOBANGO: Yeah. Yeah, I think so. And I don't know, it's just like the easier place to go is to your music, I think. It's a safe place to go to with all these, like, dark feelings and turn it into something that we can share and something that's hopefully beautiful.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: Shadrach Kobango, he performs as Shad. He spoke with us from the studios of Chat Radio, just outside Medicine Hat, Alberta. His new album is called "Flying Colours," spelled C-O-L-O-U-R-S.

Thanks so much for talking with us, Shad.

KOBANGO: Yeah, thanks Rachel. Appreciate it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.