In 2010, Canadian rapper Shad quietly dropped one of the better albums of the year in TSOL, a concise showcase of Shad’s wit, technical expertise, and overall relatability. This year, the London, Ontario-bred MC has kept up his grind by jumping on a slew of collaborations — ranging from tracks with Canadian indie synth-pop darling Lights (“Flux and Flow”) to team-ups with Seattle underground favorites Blue Scholars (“Dawn Song Remix”). Thankfully, for those of us who find it a chore to keep up to date with loose MP3s, Shad and his right-hand producer DJ TLO have put together a collection of Shad’s guest-starring appearances from the past couple of years.
While not as conceptually complete as any of his albums, Besides works equally well as a 25-minute primer for those poor souls who have been sleeping on the man self-described as “half Mike Tyson/half Michael Eric Dyson.” If you need a hint as to what Shad’s all about, he does a great job describing his personal approach to music on “Stereotypes”: “If you don’t fit the role, you’ve got to flip the script/I had to give it soul, I had to spit with skill since I didn’t fit the bill/I never been the hardest, had to be the smartest, had to be retarded/hard to spit it ill, had to spit it real on the TV screen/conscious and nonsense, this is just me being me.”
For Shad, that means being a clever pop-culture junkie, thoughtful and spiritual social observer, and just flat-out great rapper. Some of the highlights on Besides include the soul-dipped opener “Give You All I Can” and TSOL bonus track “It’s About Time”. For those looking to dig a little deeper, Shad’s even included a set of liner notes that directs listeners to the source material for his verses on Besides.
Download — Shad – Besides Mixtape