*For this weeks installment of What Next Impulse Is Listening To, we asked our staff members to provide an album that they are currently listening to. Dive in and your ear buds will thank you later.*

Writer: Michael Blair

Album: Shad K- Flying Colours (2013)

shad k flying

Rwandan born and Toronto based hip-hop artist and MC, Shad K, who earlier this month was highlighted by us here at Next Impulse, just recently (October 15th) released his highly anticipated album, Flying Colours. With this being his fourth album in nine years, following up both The Old Prince (2007) and TSOL (2010), which were both nominated for the prestigious Canadian Polaris Prize and Juno Awards, there was an undeniable bar set for the level of execution that was to be expected on this specific release.

Shad’s approach to hip-hop is incomparable to anyone’s in the business. With an evident sense of confidence, Shad is so very cultured and does a laudable job of portraying his intelligence in his music without coming off pretentious in the slightest. With each passing studio album, the maturation of Shad as a lyricist has evolved into a thing of elegance, every track filled with profound bits of knowledge that is presented to the listener with definitive precision.

On the first track of Flying Colours, Lost, Shad gives an initial heartfelt thank you to his fans for joining him on this album experience by announcing, “Warmest wishes to those who chose to visit”. An experience is exactly what this album ends up being, as he says in regard to his avenue in constructing this album, “I tried to provide train of thought kind of verses.” He touches on so many significant subjects on Flying Colours, from the pride he has in his heritage and his family’s immigration out of Rwanda on the album’s first single, Fam Jam, to doing a hip-hop spin on Don McLean’s classic American Pie, speaking on the current state of music and culture and its negative effect on listeners. The most thought provoking track though, being Dreams, where he evaluates how disconnected from one another the majority of society is, regardless of technology allowing us to be as connected as ever. As he states with concern at the beginning of Dreams, “We think until were emotional and drink until were sociable again. This whole century is sensory overload.”

Shad has an uncanny sense of humility that allows him to relate to his fans through assessing the more important ups and downs of everyday life that every one of us can associate with, but also reassuring the listener that they are no different than him in their affection for elementary interests such as sports and pop culture, which is best exemplified on the Epilogue where he states “I’m into 30 for 30 docs and 30 Rock. Why? Cause I’m 30 and cause i’m kind of a nerdy jock. I remember before Jigga made 30 hot, and I still front on Justin a little because of that Dirty Pop.”

While Shad always takes an opportunity to use his music to insightfully gauge imperative affairs, he also uses a few tracks on each album as a platform to effectively display his lyrical skill and simple love for the art of rapping. He expresses that affinity for rhyming on the track “Stylin” where he starts it off by professing “I’m just spittin’ that for the love of spittin’ rap.” Between Stylin’ and the finale of the album, Epilouge-Long Jawn, where without a chorus he effortlessly rhymes for what seems to be a seven minute freestyle session, Shad confirms that while he has progressed as an artist, the bare essentials of hip-hop that led him to fall in love with music in the first place, are still very relevant to him.

I had been anxiously awaiting Flying Colours for a couple years now, really more than any album in recent memory. While his past couple efforts ended up being some of my favorite hip-hop albums of all time, Flying Colours reaches an advanced level of accomplishment than any of its predecessors. From the quality of production on it, paired with Shad’s profound lyrical artistry, Flying Colours has firmly entrenched itself as my favorite album of 2013.

Favorite Track: Ya’ll Know Me — Shad describes this track by saying the vibe is a mix of MF Doom and D’Angelo. He explains that while there isn’t many parallels between those two artists, they both have a certain rawness and soul to them, and he tried to channel that style.