The concept of “The Old Prince” is one that we can all relate to and understand. To sum it up, princes aren’t supposed to be old because they are supposed to become kings before they become old. Applied universally, the idea is that we all want to do great things and as times passes we become impatient and begin to wonder whether our time has passed. Shad’s album captures his own conflict with the idea of being an old prince. Every rapper goes through a period of time where they wonder whether they will ever make it big time and even consider giving up on the dream. This insecurity has been touched upon by other rappers, but never with the passion and appeal shown by Shad. Shad’s ability to relate his own triumphs and insecurities to the rest of us allows him to create one of the best albums released in the past year.

The album kicks off with a short interlude where the story of “The Old Prince” is told and then Shad kicks his first verse:

“Brother please, no more Pamela Lees, let’s set it straight
I’m the biggest thing out of Canada til Quebec separate
And I never medicate so y’all feel me if I’m ill like a lump
Some dudes used to burn down trees and now they stumped
By the simplest questions and everything they think is deception
As they sink in depression, no telling where our life’s heading
I’m light headed from stress where I write hooks like a fight method
Like credit I’m indebted from my misuse
My life like a magazine, got so many issues
God edits the stories, still trying to find the father like Maury
He ain’t with the stars like Tory
Spellings, spell it out like NORE
On a quest for glory”

Instantly you can tell Shad is something special on the mic as he mixes humor, punch lines, and emotion in a way few emcees are able to. On top of that the man has a great voice and precise flow that ensure you understand every word he spits. The intro is only the beginning as Shad hits us with track after track of great, meaningful music. “I Don’t Like To” finds Shad indulging by giving in to the temptation of showing off his mic skills dropping dope lines like “y’all stay second rate Chingys at the quality inn.” “What We All Want” is a soulful and honest song dedicated to the universal aspirations that fuel our everyday struggle. “Brother (Watching)” is a heartfelt exploration of being Black in our society as Shad hits upon the evils of stereotypes, both as they hold down Black youth and at the same time pressure them to live up to those stereotypes:

“I try to hold some hope in my heart for these African youths
Coming up where I’m from, many traps to allude
Surrounded by mostly white and affluent dudes
And somehow you expected to have mastered the smooth
Swagger, and move with the right walk, the right talk, fashion and crews
So suddenly attacked and abused
And what’s funny is being Black wasn’t cool
Where I’m from, til suddenly you started hearing rapping in school
Hallways, amidst this madness I grew
With a knack for amusing through this little skill for rapping at dudes
And we all like to laugh at the truth
But when you young and the same facts pertain to who you rapping them to
Well I opted not to bring that to the booth
But after a while it sort of starts nagging at you
The crazed infatuation with Blackness is tragic in view
The fact that the tube only shows Blacks acting a fool”

The emotion and energy Shad puts into every song forces you to take his music just as seriously as he does. Just as Shad is able to address deep topics, he also easily is able to make you laugh at the lighter side of life. “The Old Prince Still Lives at Home” is one of the funniest rap tracks ever laid down as Shad talks about being broke. The comedy reaches its climax when the beat drops out and Shad raps A cappella because he couldn’t afford the full instrumental. “Out of Love Pt. 2” is another entertaining track where Shad lets us know he’s had his fair share of struggles with the ladies. The album ends just as strongly as it begins as Shad continues to lay down amazing tracks. “I Heard You Had a Voice Like An Angel/Psalm 137” is a religious themed track addressing the evils and temptations that can lead to the downfall of any prince. “Compromise” instantly shoots you out of the serious lull of the previous track as Shad tells you to never compromise and continue doing you. “Get Up” is the last song on the album and ends on an appropriately triumphant note.

From start to finish, “The Old Prince” is one of the best albums to have come out in 2007 – an amazing achievement for a relatively unknown rapper and a testament to the passion and love Shad infuses into his music. Shad is the most talented newcomer I’ve come across in quite awhile. Shad’s talent transcends the basics of being able to rap well as he is able to create full songs that are as catchy as they are engaging and meaningful. His skills on the mic are so impressive that he could rock over the wackest of beats and still sound dope. Thankfully, he’s assembled a crew of producers that are just as outstanding as he is. Every track on “The Old Prince” has a beat that is as compelling and musically pleasing as Shad is on the mic. Though Shad only set out to tell us his story on this album, he ended up showing us that not only is his time as king here, he is a more than worthy candidate to lead hip-hop into the future.

Shad :: The Old Prince