Why Shad is an ideal choice for CBC’s Q

Newsmaker, March 11: The award-winning rapper is a great choice to host the marquee culture show. Will a great idea in theory work in execution?
Rapper Shad is shown in an interview with The Canadian Press in Toronto on Thursday October 17, 2013. Arcade Fire, Drake, Shad and DeMarco have made the short list for the Polaris Music Prize. Frank Gunn/CP

And so the chair has been filled. CBC Radio’s arts and culture radio show Q, rocked by controversy ever since its host, Jian Ghomeshi, was accused and subsequently charged with sexual assault, has found its new host among more than 200 applicants—and it’s Shadrach Kabango, also known as the 32-year-old Vancouver emcee Shad, who impressed during his weeklong stint of guest-hosting to keep the high-profile job for good.

Despite a brief and horrible controversy over his guest stint—some on Twitter railed against his “use of slang” and, inexplicably, didn’t feel as though a hip-hop artist belonged on a CBC show—this remains a perfect choice. In Shad, CBC has found an outsider, badly needed, given the multiple reports of a toxic work environment within the Mother Corp. (That said, he does have an extremely tangential relationship with the former host; one of his standout singles from his last album was Remember to Remember, a track featuring Lights, represented by Ghomeshi and his music label.) Shad’s also a musician, which Ghomeshi was and, therefore, comes with insights into the industry about which he speaks. He’s also an artist who is essentially Canadian, a Kenyan-born immigrant who has rapped nimbly and sagely about Aboriginal issues, love and feminism, among other things. (The news, of course, is great for Shad, but not so good for fans of his music; one assumes his musical output will slow.)

So there’s no doubt this is a great idea. But a great idea in theory doesn’t always work in execution. And while he’s stormed many a stage with extreme charisma and confidence, this is as big a stage as it gets in the country; even people who had never listened to Q before, with Ghomeshi at the helm, will be interested to hear how this goes. Will Shad rise to the occasion?

And there is also the matter of his trial run, which was good, but not great. Take, for instance, this interview with Norm Macdonald, the stand-up comedian. Macdonald’s a rambler—par for the course, for comedians—and Shad largely allows him to do it, only occasionally popping in with questions that seemed to be less conversational and more stick-to-the-script. He very quickly loses control of his own interview, a reflection of the surprising fact that his hosting stint wasn’t nearly as assured as many (including me) imagined he would be behind a mic. Of course, there is the reality that the mics he’s rocked in the past are entirely different from the ones in the CBC Radio studio. But the fact is: While it’s wise to keep an artist at the helm, Ghomeshi worked at the CBC for years before hosting Q. So it raises the question: Can Shad pick up journalism skills while learning, on the fly, at one of Canada’s top jobs?

In the meantime, though, it sure looks as though Shad’s predictions for the year are coming true: We asked him, along with more than 100 other noteworthy Canadians, to supply 15 words that expressed his hopes for 2015. Here’s what Shad wrote:


Not bad, Shad, for some immigrants.