MC Shadow (aka Kory Neely) is a veteran Canadian rap and hip-hop artist who began in the 80’s and achieved fame for being the first white rap artist in Canadian musical history (second in the world to the Beastie Boys) and his group ‘Get Loose Crew’ was the first Canadian Hip Hop record to be sold internationally.
MC Shadow - first white rap artist in Canadian musical history - shares his experience for Indie Connectors!
The rear mirror
It’s been 27 ½ years since my first professional recording and attaining notoriety for creating Canada’s first internationally sold Hip Hop Record. Since then, I've witnessed the development of exciting technology and tools enabling many artists to achieve, what back then seemed an impossible dream. Major record labels were impenetrable organizations impossible to breach, inaccessible and beyond reach of the artist in a genre deemed to be just a fad – a trend.
Rapper ‘Jay Z’ (Shawn Carter) brilliantly lyricized “I ain’t a businessman… I’m a business… man”. To that point, the creative component of making relevant rap music is as important as understanding why it’s called the ‘Music Business’. Reflecting upon the first time I held a mic, to present day, I believe one thing has remained constant.
To have any measure of success as a (rap) music artist you must be able to look beyond your perception of your art and see in 360 degrees. Awareness on all fronts; the music, audience & performance and the game or ‘the biz’ and be able to adapt & overcome.
It meant looking beyond the love of making music & performing, calling upon a perseverance researching information, establishing a record label, self-publishing, licencing & promotion. Despite bad advice or inexperience it was having confidence in our music and not being afraid of hard work or rejection that saw us through.
While social media has definitely created distinct promotional opportunities, you still gotta get your music to people directly AND they gotta dig it – that hasn’t changed. More than ever a good ‘live show’ is essential to sustaining a loyal fan base to keep the promo flow moving. It’s the organic connection that leaves a greater impression and as a rap artist you have endless opportunities to develop a live show to connect with broader audiences. Never be afraid to take a risk during a performance and try something different that sets you apart from everyone else’s style.
Standing on stage and breathing into the mic is simply Karaoke and tells the audience they could have sat at home and just listened to your track.
Any self-respecting audience won’t put up with that for long.
Once heavily reliant on lyrical ability, production took a back seat. Now, it is as much the sound as it is what you’re saying. A track should be able to drop out and your rhymes carry through the silence – that’s the mark of a lyrically gifted MC.
Experience, experience, experience!
Rap has also exemplified its ability to unite people of conflicting tastes through numerous, varied collaborations. It’s tough to know when to say no and not venture down a path of creative opportunity and coaction. Not exploring the vast openness and seeing where your music and brand can grow is narrow minded and short sighted. Desire & creativity must be open to all emotional experiences to develop and sharpen one’s skillz.
I approach writing with the mindset that any song I made should be able to get some love, from ‘contra genres’. If I can get positive vibes from non-objective listeners, die hard rockers or classical musicians then I am definitely onto something. Friends and supporters will pretty much support your work even if they don’t feel it. You gotta’ be brave enough, if you're creative enough to take that risk and be open to the criticism that flows from a bad mix.
Never stop reflecting on what lies ahead!
I was an 18 year old kid when I first released my record. I feel a tremendous sense of pride and humility that I contributed significantly to music in a manner that can never be repeated. Now, I am a ‘Pioneer’... ‘Old school’. Why at this point in life would I put out new music?
You got a hundred years to live, what are you gonna do with it? It’s so chill to look back, but never stop reflecting on what lies ahead…