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  • Interview: Kardinal Offishall

    Fri, 11 Jul 2008 12:11:18

    Interview: Kardinal Offishall - Canada's rising hip hop export talks politics, revolution and owning your own image

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    Canada might be a hop, skip and jump away from America in terms of physical distance, but the divide separating the two country's music scenes presents a much larger chasm to cross for many artists. Nobody has ever accused the industry of being too farsighted in its approach, and myopic label execs can find it difficult to see past the end of their nose when it comes to spotting talent from distant shores. This helps explain the relatively low profile of Toronto MC Kardinal Offishall here in the U.S. He's been spitting his lyrically potent, dancehall-influenced brand of rap up North for well over 10 years now, with shamefully little recognition by the mainstream American media. Not that he hasn't gotten his fair share of props from those in the know. He's collaborated with heavy hitters like Busta Rhymes, Method Man, and The Neptunes just to name a few.

    Impressed with Kardinal's swagger and convinced that his was a voice the world needed to hear, R&B hit maker Akon signed the rapper to his Konvict Muzik imprint and gave him the green light to make his fourth studio album, Not 4 Sale. Illuminated by Akon's multi-platinum shine, Not 4 Sale is Kardinal's chance to fully step into the light and finally get the recognition he deserves stateside. Using the summer to prime the public for the album's August release with hot songs like "Dangerous," featuring label chief Akon, he's taking the time to introduce himself to a whole new crop of fans. Recently, he took some time to sit down with ARTISTdirect and continue spreading the word of his arrival. Along the way he talked about owning what you say, political double-speak and why seeing really is believing.

    Everybody always talks to you about the politics of being a Canadian rapper trying to make it in America. I just want to hear some of your thoughts about American politics from the perspective of a Canadian. What are your thoughts on Obama getting the Democratic nomination?

    It's a very tangled web. There are a lot of different things that are involved when you look at it. As a young black man, your first instinct is that you want to support him, but at the same time, you really have to look and see what his stance is. When you get past the race thing, you see that there are a lot of interesting comments that he's made about some issues. At first, he wasn't on the fence about certain things, but you could tell that he didn't want to go over the top because he had to get voters. It seemed like he didn't want to piss anybody off. People are all talking about how we need change, but at the same time, it's like, "how are you going to change things?" What are you really going to do, because on a lot of subjects you're not really taking any firm stances? But at this point, the fact that he's even gotten this far is just really important for my people, and for people of color in general. It's showing that people are really down for change. As someone who gets to visit America a lot, and sees a lot of different communities, I think that it's time that America gets shaken up a little. I just hope that, God willing, he gets into office, and he really does do something to change the way that America works. I hope that he is able to lead the country towards being an even better place than it already is.

    You hit on a great point. Once you get past the lip service and the rubber hits the road, you need to know what a politician is about.

    It's unfortunate because a lot of times people don't get involved in politics until it's time to vote. Sometimes, one of the worst votes you can have is an uneducated vote. What may seem like the right thing to do is not always the right thing to do. I'm not too much into politics, but I do like to be aware of what's going on, and politics really is what they say—it's poli-tricks. People can say whatever they want.

    This would obviously be a big shake up in America. Do you think Canada would be ready to make a move like this and elect a Prime Minister of color?

    Not at all! [Laughing] Not whatsoever. We're still fighting to get black music recognized in Canada, let alone have a black Prime Minister. If you know your history, our government is still loosely weaved into the British monarchy, and the Governor General [Michaelle Jean] is black. That's actually a really huge deal in Canada, but that's as far as it goes right now. At the end of the day, her job is more for aesthetics, rather than a position where she can fight for day-to-day change. All the same, she goes out and represents Canada as a black woman, so that's a big deal. But we're not ready for a black Prime Minister anytime soon.

    You've gotten the chance to travel the world and experience a lot of different perspectives. It's easy to come down on America, but we obviously have some things going for us since we can take this step. Do you think any of the negative feelings about this country are ever misplaced, or are all the detractors dead on?

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