A decade is a mighty long time if you were born in the ‘90s or don’t have a life. But to someone like Shawn Carter who went from Marcy to Maybachs, the streets to the slopes- ten years is no time to become a household name. Kardinal Offishall is a continuation of that same notion.

Nearly ten years ago, Eye & I was an album few heard of and as of August 5, 2008; Kon Live/Geffen Records will release Not 4 Sale an album that will place Kardinal officially, on the “Momma, I made it” radar.

What’s the success secret between Kardinal, Carter and any other human being on Earth? The 8th wonder of the world: Time. Format took the time to talk to T. Dot’s “Mr. Bakardi Slang” to discuss his relationship with music and why his time to shine, is now.

“Part of me represents the voice of the unheard and another part of me rhymes to create a new way of thinking for the kids coming up.”

Format: What do you think makes an extraordinary musician?
Kardinal: I think it’s something that they’re not necessarily aware of, most of the time. When I talk about music in general, I always try to explain that music isn’t something that you can physically hold. It’s not a tangible item- it’s just vibes and some type of magical energy that goes through the air. To me, a great musician is somebody who can captivate the audience and sometimes it might be the way that they play one note. Being a great musician isn’t always about having a great songwriter or having a great track- there are a lot of other things that take captivating the world. An extraordinary musician is somebody that not only has great music, but also has that crazy energy that surrounds it.

Format: What is your favorite hip-hop album of all time?
Kardinal: Aww man, its very difficult to just come up with a number one. If there were one album I would just have to play 24/7? I don’t know [sighs]. Well, let me try to give you three, as a three-way tie and I’ll give you three reasons why. Nas’ Illmatic because lyrically, [I think] he was waiting his whole life to create that album. It was just the craziest energy caught from a young kid, who was at his prime and he worked with the best hip-hop had to offer in terms of producers. If you’re looking for something that exemplifies crazy beats and crazy rhymes and it wasn’t too long- Nas’ Illmatic. If you’re looking for creativity and just bringing something brand new to the game and not just something a hip-hop audience gravitated to, but something that the whole world accepted, was The Score. That album meant a lot to me because I remember before The Score The Fugees were trying to come up for a minute, but The Score was such an accomplishment for West Indians first of all (with Clef being from Haiti) but they brought something so unique to the game and forced the world to get down with it.

The third would just be a concept that I think is so dope and I try to use it in my music is Edutainment by KRS-One. With KRS-One he always innovated new styles by he always made the crowd joke and go crazy but at the same time, it wasn’t just the music that he enjoyed but he brought the education aspect in it as well. I know the concept of Edutainment is absolutely phenomenal and something every hip-hop artist should embody.

Format: What do you think your latest project Not 4 Sale shares, in relationship to these albums?
Kardinal: You know what? If you just smash all of them together and then just add the flavor that I bring (that no one else can bring) and that’s exactly what the album is. I’m a fan of the music first. I consider myself to be a fan before an artist. It was definitely being a fan of the music that inspired me to create a certain type of energy, myself. I think this album embodies every aspect of the hip-hop culture. Nowadays, because everything is so extreme, we get caught up in existing in these boxes. If you look at the diversity of how The Score was put together, you can hear in the music hat people consider to be “crossover joints” or Top 40. But back then, they were just doing dope music. Nowadays, they try to put you in boxes, like ‘Reggae Rap.’ Even back in the day with “The Bridge is Over” by KRS-One. I wanted to create new sounds and new styles, that haven’t been heard in hip-hop in a long, long time or create stuff that ain’t never been heard before. I wanted to put an album together for fans and not just inside music people. I made my album to please people who still consider themselves fans of music, buying albums and having music effect the way that they live.


Format: Toronto has ghetto patches, with people who struggle just like any other major city in North America. How important is it for you, to capture the unheard voice of Toronto and destroy the ignorant misconceptions of these blue lakes and grasslands?
Kardinal: Listen [laughs]. What’s the one rap line that I have? “Kardinal cover the lyrical trail blazer/and the poor people’s president, positions indicator…” Sometimes I answer certain questions where people want to say, “Man, Toronto’s crazy, there’s crazy shit everywhere and blah, blah, blah.” I think right about now, my people’s scope is limited. As a community, where the mind of the youth is (right now) we’re focused on the wrong things. Our idea of success is kind of trapped in materialism right now. We feel like success is when you get that big house, that crazy car and that fancy chain. Part of me represents the voice of the unheard and another part of me rhymes to create a new way of thinking for the kids coming up. I want kid the kids out there to look at life in a different manner. It’s very important for me to represent for the ghetto people of Toronto and struggling people everywhere. There are a few joints on the album where I definitely shed all visions of being a celebrity and speak from first person experience.

People might not believe it, but with all the things I’ve been going through with my career, I just moved out of my neighborhood like five months ago. Through all the success I’ve had, I decided to still come back to the middle of the neighborhood. For a lot of this album, I’m writing form the perspective of somebody who comes back home to it everyday.

Format: You had a project out around 1997 and some would say 1998 was one of the best years of hip-hop. That was the time of Jay-Z ‘s Hard Knock Life Vol. 2, DMX’s Dark and Hell is Hot, Outkasts’ Aquemeni and post The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Were you ever discouraged by the success of those releases or inspired to push harder?
Kardinal: Nah. You have to understand that those times were mad young and everything that we were dong back then, you gotta understand. This is a real important one for artists coming up: I was a young kid and people were approaching me and I signed a publishing deal with Warner Chapel. When we got that money, instead of making this a bedroom hobby, we put it toward studio and pushing independent albums and all that good stuff. Whatever got us out of our little area, we were excited about and gravitated towards. One thing I believe in is that everything happens for a reason and that God is never late. Everything that has happen in my career has mad me stronger. If I dint blow back in those times, its just because I wasn’t ready- either musically, maybe mentally, emotionally or for all the stresses that come with real success.

Format: At the end of the day, what did you want Toronto and Canada’s “hip-hop ambassador” to represent?
Kardinal: I’m not gonna lie to you. A lot of these titles get thrown around and put on me.

Format: Hey, at least they’re not calling you a Hipster. You know?
Kardinal: [Laughing] that’s hilarious, I don’t think anybody can ever mistake me as a Hipster. When I do my music, I create it initially to represent myself. I was raised by my family and surrounded by my friends and all the values, morals and things that I deal with are things that I grew up with. I feel like it’s hard to represent an entire nation. It’s a default being from Canada and I’m representing it but there are so many different ways of life from the east to west coast. For me, being from Toronto, it’s very different from being from Vancouver or whatever cracks in the east coast. Everybody has a unique culture and a unique history.

Definitely what I’m trying to do is represent myself and do that, the best as I can do Kardinal Offishall. I know once I stay true to myself, I can stay true to my music.

For more information go to Kardinal’s official website or MySpace page.


Dominque Howse

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