Shad — ‘TAO,’ 5/5
’Toban Turntable

Image provided by take aim media.

After an election season as tumultuous as it was apathetic, the question of where Canada goes from here remains unanswered, particularly in how the country faces ever-growing economic, housing and climate crises.

Serendipitously, award-winning Canadian rapper and arts-scene darling Shad’s sixth studio album TAO offers a sounding board that speaks back to the disenfranchised younger generations, particularly of the millennial variety.

From tracks like “GOD,” which addresses the capitalistic hellscape we “didn’t want to play” but were forced into by birth, to “Work,” centring around the precarious “looking for a job” current way of life in the “maybe I’ll sleep when I’m deceased” gig economy, to “Slot Machines” and its perceptive take on how our world is run by screens and advertising “selling us addictions,” TAO quickly becomes a millennial anthem of all that was promised but never came.

There’s something about upbeat music with dark lyrics, and Shad plugs humour into the mature themes to take the edge off — crowing “only chalet we going to is Swiss” in the song “Black Averageness.”

Eclectically melodical, the record is held together by the intertwining ideas of 21st-century challenges and how they are interconnected to promised lands of the past.

Regardless of bouncing between music and television in his career, Shad’s rapping remains impeccable — his rhymes, rhythm and timing showcase his veteran talent and mastery of the artform.

Most powerfully, the opening track sets the tone for the rest of the album by questioning what happened in the past that has brought us to this point of uncertainty in history, and how this history is being addressed now. In the first few lines of “Out of Touch,” Shad asks, “Who’s speaking Canada’s truth?” which is the very quandary Canada as a country has been grappling with for years.

A short album by today’s standards, clocking in at 38 minutes, TAO may leave the listener wanting more dissection of our current political landscape. However, with such precise brevity and idea-packed songs, each of the 12 tracks have weight, which is an impressive feat in the current landscape of lengthy albums with repetitive choruses.

Nicknamed after Taoism, which teaches that humans should live in balance with the universe, Shad’s TAO is the perfect record for the current self-reflexive era we as humans are entering, or rather, have already entered as humanity is already living through the climate disaster.

The takeaway from the album seems to be of hope, to explore the vitriol of the past and to see what good can be made out of the dark world we live in moving forward.

 

Shad’s sixth studio album, TAO, will be available Oct. 1. Want us to review your album? Email us at arts@themanitoban.com!