Kardinal Offishall Not 4 Sale

Kardinal Offishall Not 4 Sale
When releases by Canadian hip-hop artists are preceded by breakthrough crossover singles like Kardinal Offishall’s Akon-assisted "Dangerous,” it raises debate and analysis over what the moment may mean for the domestic hip-hop scene. While worthwhile, sometimes as a result, the aesthetic value of what is actually offered is overshadowed. And with contributions from American R&B stars on Kardinal’s Not 4 Sale, some may surmise Kardinal, who has been poised to break out internationally for years, is forsaking his roots. Truth be told, none of the measurably more famous artists upstage Kardinal, as Not 4 Sale is brimming with his inimitable T-dot, dancehall-tinged charisma from beginning to end. While there are a definitely a couple of crossover hits in waiting, Kardinal emphatically ensures he doesn’t sound like a diluted impostor on his album. "Go Home With You” enlists T-Pain for a haunting choral arrangement while Kardinal lays down thought-provoking lyrics over his self-produced track. Similarly, the deceptively simple "Digital Motown” featuring leftfield soul duo J*Davey and vaunted underground producer Jake One is downright revelatory on repeated listens. Tellingly, Kardinal also shines on tracks without any A-list appearances and the beats on "Burnt,” "Bad Like We Bad” and "Family Tree” are among the hardest he’s ever rocked. One listen to the passionately delivered lyrics of the latter underlines just how far he’s come and perhaps more importantly, how far he threatens to go.

You have different audiences now, from people who know you from "Naughty Dread” in 1996 to recent hit "Dangerous.”
It’s all me. So at the end of the day, I don’t have a problem. But the funny thing is there are certain people that have to learn how to adjust — certain people who have tunnel vision when it comes to my music. Maybe they’d gravitate to like, two or three songs and that’s their vision and that’s what Kardinal is to them, rather than getting 100 percent familiar with my whole body of work.

You manage to get a lot of messages in the music and in the interludes.
It’s like: how do you get a message out to the new generation that’s not used to having messages in their music? I was able to grow up with MCs that had to have a message song even if you were a hardcore artist. When I was coming up, almost every artist had a message in their music. With the exception of Kanye, there’s not too many messages in the music anymore. So it’s like how do you articulate that to the youth coming up that are not used to it? It’s like they’re used to McDonald’s their whole life and you take them to a five-star restaurant and introduce them to appetizers they’ve never heard of before and it looks funny when it gets to the table. I know it tastes good, you may know it tastes good, but they don’t know it tastes good because they’ve never tried it before, so you gotta present it in a way that is visually appealing to them and you have to kind of trick them in a way so that when they eat it they’re like, "Oh, shit! This is amazing!”

There’s versatility to your style on this album; you’re not rhyming the same on "Burnt” as you are on "Set It Off.” Someone without a trained ear might think you were two different people.
Sometimes it’s a hard sell. But for me, those are my favourite types of artists. I love people who can flip it; I was always inspired by people who were able to exist in different lanes. If anything, I try to challenge myself. It would be easy for me to do an album full of verses like "Set It Off.” Those are not hard to me. What’s hard to me is challenging myself and I don’t ever want to get bored by my music. For me, I had to satisfy all my needs on this album and I guess by default it’s satisfying to music lovers. That’s also why I wanted to have the title of the album be Not 4 Sale ’cause like my music, I represent different things to different people. For some people I represent the struggle of a Toronto artist trying to make it. For quote-unquote underground MCs, I represent an MC that was able to make the transition from being an underground MC to someone who was able to exist in the mainstream while holding onto his integrity. For people that are first-generation Canadians or first-generation Englishmen or first-generation Americans, I represent somebody who was able to hold onto his culture yet still exist in a foreign [one]. I represent different things to different people and that’s what my music is also. Some people like me for different reasons. (Universal)