Last fall, Toronto rapper Shad, released his critically acclaimed album TAO, which received a positive response from both media and fans alike. The record has made its way onto the short list of the prestigious Polaris Music Prize this year, making Shad the sole artist to have been shortlisted 5 times throughout the course of his career. It was announced today that Shad is one of ten finalists nominated for the prize, which is set to be awarded on September 19 at the Polaris Gala in Toronto. Shad will also kick off CBC Music’s THE TEN – a series of radio specials showcasing one nominee per week, starting July 17 at 6 pm.
Over the course of seven records to date, the JUNO Award-winning rapper has used an array of old-school tools to tackle modern problems, addressing the indignities and absurdities of our world through a shapeshifting mélange of boom-bap breaks, dusty soul samples, jazzy improvisation, and 10-dollar words rolled into thousand-dollar rhymes. But after weaving his myriad musical and philosophical interests into a socio-political song cycle on 2018’s Polaris shortlisted A Short Story About A War, Shad began building his sixth record, TAO, from a much simpler concept: an image of a circle. Though, in true Shad fashion, he saw something much more profound within its basic round boundaries.
TAO is about deep connection, wholeness, and the various threats to it. TAO refers to the Chinese philosophy of naturalism and is an acronym drawn from CS Lewis’ highly prescient 1943 book, The Abolition Of Man, which discusses The Tao. The TAO acronym is also found in The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff, another very influential book for Shad during his writing process. “The books were written something like 70 years apart but totally connect on the topic of preserving our humanness against certain threatening ideologies and technologies,” he explains. “Each song on the album focuses on a different part (or parts) of our humanity that we’ve been losing touch with.”