ARTICLE: Kardinal Offishall w/

rez | Interviews | Friday, November 27th, 2015


Short little CBC blurb on Kardi + some T.O. history. With a title like that though, I thought the article would be much longer. Ah well…

Also, it’s a bit misleading when it says, “The first notable rapper to be signed to a major deal in Toronto…”, as they’re forgetting to mention the likes of Michie Mee, Maestro, Dream Warriors, etc…Maybe it’s worded that way because Michie and Maestro technically had U.S. deals? Or I guess they’re just focusing on that time period of mid-90’s. Also, if you’re bringing up The Weeknd then you’re opening up the door to talk about R&B (although they seem to clearly have thrown him into the “hip-hop” box) so have to mention Deborah Cox who signed to Arista in like 1995. Tamia also had a deal back in 1995 I believe. Glenn Lewis 2002. They all had big Billboard hits (specifically Deborah Cox with “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here” which peaked at #2 on the Hot 100).

Bah! It’s a short article and I’m digressing…Shouts to Kardi man!

Seeing names like Drake or the Weeknd appear on the Billboard Hot 100 is commonplace today. But 10 years ago, there was zero Canadian hip hop on those charts.

That was until Kardinal Offishall became the first Canadian rapper to break into the Hot 100 in 2008 with his song Dangerous. His fifth album, Kardi Gras, Vol. 1: The Clash, has just come out.

More than a trend-setter, Offishall, whose real name is Jason Harrow, is now considered a trailblazer. He began putting out music in the 1990s, first on mixtapes and rap compilations and then as a major label artist, with his debut album, Eye & I, dropping in 1997. 

He summarized the landscape of the city’s hip hop successes in those early days with one word: “Bleak.”

“When we were first starting out, we were just kids from the city who believed in ourselves. We were just crazy enough to think we could do this on a worldwide level,” he said on Metro Morning Tuesday. 

The first notable rapper to be signed to a major deal in Toronto was Offishall’s colleague, Saukrates, who signed to Warner Bros. in 1996. Then came Choclair, a rapper out of Scarborough who had his own record label and then signed to Priority Records in 1998.

“I think as the crew started to do it, we started to see that these things were possible as long as our drive was that intense, the dream started to become a reality,” said Offishall.



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