Published Dec 01, 2014To no one's surprise, Shad is still in top form. With his contortionist wordplay, academic acumen and infinite likability, it's no wonder he's found his place as Canada's most beloved rap artist since Maestro. Boarding Pass, a quick followup to his Polaris-nominated Flying Colours album, isn't at all a departure from what we've come to expect from the master of the humblebrag. Rather, it is a quick PWYC set of additional songs meant not to reclaim the throne, but to remind folks it's not vacant, either.
"Always Winnin'" and "Hang On" served as appetizers in the weeks leading up to its release; the perseverance theme of the latter plays through fitting eulogies to both Much Music and Michael Brown. "Take Flight" is probably the strongest cut, as chopped harmonies punctuate Shad's travels from "Laurier… to touring six countries and 40 states." "Knock" is Roc-A-Fella in its prime, with operatic overtones, power chords and closing call to arms exclamations.
Longtime collaborator DJ T.Lo's promotion from liner note to artist credit is certainly deserved, as he crafts a familiar boom-bap sound without using formula as a crutch. His use of whirling strings and "Long Red"-esque stadium snares on "Fire" opens the EP with an authoritative declaration that never peters.
While rappers of the day tiptoe around their punch lines with pregnant pauses, Shad's similes are delivered at Shinkansen speed. One need not go to great lengths as to why Shad is so great at what he does. After all, he's going to tell you, and when he does, you'll have little choice but to concur. Boarding Pass is a gentle reminder that Shad's greatness is unwavering. (Independent)