Among the most anticipated hip-hop releases of the summer is Kardinal Offishall’s Not 4 Sale album, his debut for Akon’s Konvict Muzik label, which Kardi previews as the special guest performer on the massive Akon, Wyclef Jean and Sean Paul triple bill at Molson Amphitheatre tonight (Thursday, July 10). Here Kardi fills in the blanks about the Akon connection and how it’s altered his career path.
Now that you’ve known Akon for a while, what’s his secret?
Akon is a really gregarious guy, always full of excitement and big smiles. The first time I met him, he gave me a huge bear hug like we were old friends. He’s very much a social butterfly who can converse with everyone and fit into any situation. That’s part of what makes him so successful at collaborating with all kinds of artists from different backgrounds. He’s also a very hard worker who’s had to grind for those platinum-selling records.
Many hip-hop artists have their own boutique labels, which work for them but not so much for the rappers they sign. How is Konvict Muzik different?
Working with a label run by an artist – someone who really understands what you’re going through – always seems good in theory, but the problem is that once you sign, you can never get hold of the main guy. Akon won’t sign anyone to his label unless he’s willing to work hands-on with them in the studio, producing tracks, writing songs, working collaboratively and doing whatever it takes to make it successful.
What was your working relationship like? Any fistfights in the studio over the Pussycat Dolls?
I’m not gonna lie – I don’t get along with many people when it comes to my musical vision, but Akon and I worked very well creatively. He would tell me which songs he liked and make suggestions for trying a different approach, but what we discussed were usually things going on in my brain already.
Akon is rapping for the first time ever on your track Graveyard Shift. Did you suggest that he test out his skills on one of his own albums first?
That happened literally on the tour bus while we were on the road with Gwen Stefani. I remember coming into Manhattan and hearing what sounded like Akon rhyming in the recording booth. So I went over and was like, “Yo, are you rapping?” He said, “Yeah, don’t worry about it.” And he spit a hot 16 on the spot. Graveyard Shift is a hard-edged joint, and Akon just killed it. I’m pleased to say I’m the only person on earth with Akon rapping on my record.
Have there already been signs that things are changing for Kardinal Offishall?
Yes, definitely, there have been a lot of firsts for me just with the release of the Dangerous single. I mean, getting into the top 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts is pretty amazing, because I’ve never even broken the top 200 before. Some people might look at making the top 10 on BET’s 106th & Park as not such a big deal, but I see it as a real achievement. It feels like things are really clicking now. Everything’s coming together.
Do you think your yellow plaid pants could catch on as the hot new fashion trend?
You know what’s funny? When I came out wearing them, everyone was buggin’, but now I can’t go into any stores – all over North America – without seeing those same plaid pants. When you do things that are a little ahead of the curve, there are always some people who will laugh and point.