by Nash Bussieres
Release Date: October 15th, 2013
Label: Black Box
Flying Colours is a masterpiece, spoilers be damned.
I had a really hard time deciding what to say about Shad’s newest album because my thoughts on it are nearly unanimously positive. Writing a gushing review (though I’ve done my share of that in the past) usually makes for an uninteresting read. I definitely like my hip hop to be lyrical and Shad hits that checkbox. Flying Colours is no exception and he’s fully aware of it. I would never call him brash or conceited, but Shad is very much in tune with the fact that he’s good at what he does.
Flying Colours runs the gamut on issues: from his immigrant family to the complications of relationships. They’re all very personal topics but there’s nothing particularly unique about them considering the genre. Shad’s masterful wordplay and his surprisingly unique perspective on the otherwise universal subjects stop Flying Colours from ever feeling like it has “already been done.”
The production is both my favourite and least favourite part of the album, depending on the song. When it’s good is really, REALLY fucking good, but when it’s lacking it sounds like it was mixed on earbuds. I think the weaker production is actually done on purpose but I’m not really a fan of lo fi hip hop, so chalk that one up to personal taste more than it being objectively bad (or, more accurately, objectively not-as-good-as-the-rest-but-still-pretty-damn-good). The best tracks are completely enveloping and will demand that you give your full attention to them, whether or not you were doing something else at the time of listening.
The myriad guest spots on Flying Colours are great as well. Eternia stands out as the frontrunner of the pack on “Love Means,” even so much so that she steals the show from Shad himself (who is no slouch on the track, either). Shout out to K-OS on the opener for trying to stay relevant or something.
Flying Colours is equal parts dark, serious, societal critique and lighthearted nostalgia. I think it falls into that hip hop sweet spot where it can be equally respected by the pop kids and the old school dudes. Those who prefer the hyper-aggro gangster stuff could probably find something they enjoy in this too, but Shad is anything but aggressive. Album of the Year. Polaris 2014. Calling it now.