By Keith Sharp
Not a bad time to be a Canadian rapper with Weeknd and Drake dominating the U.S Billboard charts, k-os making a strong comeback, Halifax’s Classified waiting in the wings and now Kardinal Offishall weighting in with his own contribution, an ambitious 16-track effort which delves into all his trademark sounds including rap, reggae, calypso and hip-hop and featuring an all-star cast of contributors including Stephen Marley, Junior Reid, Glenn Lewis, Jron, Merna and Haley Smalls to name just a few of the many star supporters. The over-riding theme here is that while Drake and Weeknd seem to be focusing their lyrics on the wealth they have accumulated from their success, Offishall keeps the focus real with an opening scathing rap “Hope Live” in which he goes into a scathing rant about current social injustice, helped by some balanced vocals from Merna. Other tracks like “No Reason” bemoan recent incidents of police violence themes of injustice also reflected in tracks like “OG” and “C.O.D”. But it isn’t all doom and gloom here. Kardinal lightens things up with the R&B flavoured “Sunshine” , a radio-friendly contribution with Stephen Marley titled “One Dream Away” and the hip hop dance flavoured “Do Dat Dance” and there is a sense of the tracks inciting a positive change, In all, a mixed bag of styles and influences from an artist who also currently toils as a creative director with Universal Music’s A&R department.