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Shad with Saukrates. Photos by Julia LeConte.
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SHAD with BROTHER ALI at the Danforth Music Hall, Friday, January 31. Rating: NNNN
It was awesome to see the "Shad - sold-out" signage on the Danforth Music Hall on Friday. One in a slew of hip-hop shows that night, the London, Ontario native's drew the biggest crowd, even though it was his second time playing Toronto in roughly three months.
But if you did happen to go to that exuberant Opera House showing in October, January's outing had its share of new flair. For example, after bounding out to Intro: Lost, the first (and maybe best) track on his latest, greatest album, Flying Colours, Shad didn't waste any time trotting out impressive collaborators from that record, showing off Scarborough emcee Saukrates for their confident zinger-fuelled duet Stylin' and later, one of Canada's original female emcees Eternia for their Love Means collab.
The show included most of Flying Colours's best - inlcuding Fam Jam, Progress and Remember To Remember, but also culled nicely from the back catalogue: unsurprisingly showgoers responded loudly to Rose Garden and Rock To It.
Near the end, the two-man backing band shut it down to let Shad shine. Maybe we've heard his genius a cappella bars before, but that's not a problem. Shad's like a David Lynch movie or The Wire. You want to watch him more than once, because you can't possibly catch all the nuance in one go.
Earlier, the muslim, albino rapper Brother Ali from Minneapolis, Minnesota inspired with positive rhymes spanning diverse subject matter including love, politics, race and personal insecurities. Maybe with a less talented emcee you could get caught up in his uniqueness (you don't often see muslim, albino rappers from the Midwest). But Ali was engaging and charming and very smart and very funny. (He doesn't want singles, he wants albums, he told us; he doesn't want a one night stand, he wants to make love to us our entire lives.)
The thing about rappers who are playing to a new audience is that they really want you to hear their message. Ali's came through loud, clear and forcefully. Unlce Sam Goddamn, a song condemning the US government for wrongdoings that span from slavery to the drug trade and beyond, made a huge impression.