Shad is an unconventional rapper. His songs do not permeate wittiness like any track by Young Money artists such as Lil’Wayne, Drake or Nicki Minaj. He does not provide the larger than life feeling that a listener gets after going through a Kanye West or Jay-Z album. However, you can give Shad credit for doing things his own way. TSOL, Shad’s follow up to his 2007 Polaris Music Prize-nominated The Old Prince, is best described as an honest and introspective work that is initially boring, but in the end will blow you away.
Shad is extremely transparent in this album. He gives us an insight into his faith and morality, without being preachy or condescending. As I stated before, this album is very honest and we can admire Shad for not hopping on the bandwagon of filling his verses with references to “money and bitches.” However, I started feeling the album’s sincerity a bit too much. No matter how interesting your thoughts and feelings may be, there is only so much of it I want to hear. Shad has opened himself up so much that the listening experience is similar to sitting down with a person who is just rambling. During the first eight tracks, I could appreciate the flow and the lyrics, but it was getting old.
However, the album takes a sharp turn with “Yaa I Get It.” The song caught my attention renewing my interest in what Shad had in store. Thankfully, Shad didn’t fall into the same monotony of the first eight tracks. The next song, “Listen,”is a reflection of the meaning of music and an examination of his sources of inspiration. This is followed by what I considered the most powerful track on the album. In fact, it is one of the most powerful songs I have heard all year. In “At The Same Time,” Shad speaks of many instances the world has left him with mixed feelings of sadness and happiness, as he reflects on the current state of the world and America. He confesses: “I never laughed and cried at the same time/Til I heard a church pray for the death of Obama.” The tempo is then picked up by “We, Myself and I” and alas, he says “Well there’s no I in team but there’s a I in win.” Finally, some of the good old attitude that has characterized all varieties of hip-hop artists. However, the song does not turn into a generic rap song. Instead, he maintains a deep message, reflecting on music being a medium for him to get away from himself and as an outlet to release all of his bottled up thoughts and feelings.
Overall, Shad seems like a pretty nice dude. He’s just some guy who needs to express a lot of suppressed emotion but finds keeping a diary or journal too boring. If you want to get to the more interesting parts of his thoughts, start the album at track 9. For the first half of the album I kept waiting for something to happen. The music and rapping wasn’t bad. I could appreciate the talent, but I was bored. I wasn’t asking for much, just some sort of climax or change of pace. The last four tracks offered just that. They are unbelievable and definitely worth listening to. I officially endorse them.
Grade for the tracks 9-12: 10.0
–Enrique Lemus, host of Moose Trax, Monday 10pm-12am