Nolan Matthews and Jay Scherer
Kardinal Offishall rocked TwelvEighty on Nov. 4, bringing hits like “Body Bounce” and “The Anthem” to McMaster. Though the bar wasn’t totally packed, both Kardinal’s and the crowd’s energy was high. Even through the smoke machines and strobe lights, it was pretty easy to see why Kardinal Offishall dominates the Canadian hip-hop scene.
“I’m from the T-dot-O, rep it everywhere I go,” sung Kardinal on recent single “The Anthem.” His Canadian roots have always been an important part of his music. “We all came up during this whole independent surge … and for the most part it was a strong scene, and that’s really what, for my generation, sealed the love for Toronto,” said Kardinal in an interview with ANDY after the show.
The “independent surge” Kardinal describes happened in the late 1990s, and was responsible for bringing Canadian hip-hop international recognition. “That was a crazy time for us and we were super blessed … our crew had super talented people. It wasn’t just like it was one of us that was doing big things at the time, there was a gang of us that was doing shit.”
With the help of the track “Dangerous”, Kardinal went from being a Canadian success to being known just about everywhere. “Dangerous” became the first song by a Canadian hip-hop artist to chart on the American Billboard Hot 100 singles list, and much of the song’s appeal comes from the catchy R&B chorus sung by Akon.
But the partnership between Kardinal and Akon has led to more than just an international hit song. “He really just mentored me and opened doors to a lot of different things … Akon is a really cool dude and just taught me a lot over the years about breaking into the mainstream in a big way.”
Kardinal has definitely broken into the mainstream with his album Not 4 Sale, but it took years for him to reach this level of commercial success.
“When you saw someone else who was doing their thing … they had to put thousands and thousands of dollars into getting their music out there. You emailed somebody and a DJ emailed you back and was like ‘that shit is crazy,’ you had to buy that plane ticket, literally carry your fuckin’ 12 inches to LA, and give each DJ two copies.”
Though it’s been about three years since Not 4 Sale, the wait for a new Kardinal Offishall album isn’t due to a lack of inspiration. “I just keep making so much music and it’s from so many different influences. I worked with people from Paris, England, Amsterdam, the States, Canada, literally everywhere … Fans don’t understand it, they’re like ‘where the eff is the album?’ but I’m just having too much fun and its hard to decide what you want to come out with.”
Despite travelling the world and making hit records, Kardinal keeps it modest. “Some people want to make ‘x’ amount of money, some people want to achieve a certain amount of fame, but for me this is the best blessing, to be able to pay all my bills, be comfortable, and just rock out like tonight and have fun.”
But rocking out isn’t all Kardinal does. “We actually went to Africa, to Kenya, and visited the drought-affected regions and … this past year I worked with so many different people from Free the Children, to One by One, to World Vision, the list goes on … it’s really nothing to be able to spread my blessings and to help other people.”
After the show, Kardinal remarked, “McMaster was dope.” Thanks, Kardinal. We thought you were pretty dope too.