Kardinal Offishall is a true contender. When releasing his freshman album, Firestarter Volume One: Quest for Fire, he was forced to deal with a record deal gone sour no thanks to MCA, or as Talib Kweli is calling it, Music Cemetery of America. Instead of complaining, Kardinal took his platinum-selling status and came back with a lethal combination of guest appearances on various albums and the release of his mixtape, Kill Bloodclot Bill. The mixtape featured an assortment of artists, pushing Torontos MC to raise up like Petey Pablo.
Now after lying low for three years, Kardinal Offishall is making his comeback with more fire than ever. Here, he chops it up with AllHipHop.com on lasting-power, Toronto life, and the rise of Reggaetone.
AllHipHop.com: What have you been up to since your last album?
Kardinal: Its been crazy. We went through the label drama even before I got started. Mainly, weve been doing a lot of collaborations in London, with Def Jam U.K. Ive also done some work with Pete Rock, Method Man, Nas, Jake-One, Akon and of course the Convict Music family. I went on tour with G-Unit. Me and Nottz have done a lot in the past [year].
AllHipHop.com: What did you learn from your problems with MCA?
Kardinal: I learned not to ever get wrapped up in a deal like that again. Im not gonna get locked down with one particular label unless I feel that s**t is right. I started off with business, first. My MCA deal required them to build me a studio. Thats where I recorded the Kill Bloodclot Bill mixtape. I also did some stuff with Clinton Sparks. A lot of companies have been checking us. Akon and the Convict crew is family, so were looking for a deal for all. When deals go sour, your really cant blame to artist, but rather the label. They want two or three singles. They could give a f**k what the rest of the album sounds like, as long as they have those couple of tracks to release to the market. If theyre good, then they want you. If not, they could care less. Ive seen it go down in meetings. I want my album to be crazy, no fillers and no album cuts. Maybe Ill get a deal with a semi-indie label like Fastlane or Asylum. Look at Dipset. Theyre semi-indie, and you can six or seven dollars [each CD sold]. You cant do that with the majors.
AllHipHop.com: Whats the highlight been since youve opened the studio?
Kardinal: Jay-Z came down to the studio. That was the highlight of my career. For me and a lot of others, hes the illest MC ever. He was performing during Carbana Saturday. He brought me out onstage and let me rock the mic. For me, to be introduced by him was amazing. It was crazy live. He knows the hustle. For him to give me a shot like that in my home town, its all love. I love Hip-Hop because its what we make it.
AllHipHop.com: For you, what makes volume 2 different from volume 1?
Kardinal: Hip-Hop has gotten too comfy. I will murder cats. Rappers think that s**t is set in stone. They think that once they get on, they dont have to work anymore and can put out what ever. Then you get cats like me that are different. Im always hungry. Im trying to make music that heads feel and understand. When s**t is on the next level, its not supposed to be immediately understood. It may take a minute to feel, but its all there. You just cant bring your music to the block I want to take it to the world.
AllHipHop.com: Tell me about Japans scene.
Kardinal: The Japanese love Hip-Hop and Reggae. Whatever they get, they take to a whole new level. They really live it. No bulls**t.
AllHipHop.com: On the your most memorable song, Bakardi Slang, you talk about living in the T-Dot. Tell me about the slang and life there.
Kardinal: Our slang is based on where our people come from. We have a lot of people of West Indian and Nova Scotian descent. So its pretty much a mix of both places. Certain street lingos from various areas become popular and get used.
AllHipHop.com: Youve done a lot of collaborations. Do you feel that part of your creativity is lost to compromise?
Kardinal: I love working with other people. It gives you inspiration to feed and vibe from. Working on your own has its benefits because you can do what you want and make things how you want. Sometimes you get locked in a repetitive pattern. Having some else around, gets you out of that.
AllHipHop.com: Youre also a producer, what makes you decide that you want to work with a particular artist?
Kardinal: Respect drives me to work with someone. I like doing records with people that I like as people. Its based on a mutual love for people and music. Youll meet a lot of cats that are mad cool and some that will just blow smoke up your ass. I take my music really personally. Its an extension of myself. It has to be more than just about now, but also later. When I say that; I mean working together later on as well. When I look back on my career, I dont want look back and have regrets. I want to be timeless in 2005 and in 2050. I want to be on that kind of a level like Pubic Enemy, Kool G. Rap and others that I grew up listening too. I fell in love with Hip-Hop and those records. Ten years from now, I want my mixtape to be able to bang in a radio as hard as it can now, if not even harder.
AllHipHop.com: Whats the T-Dot like right now?
Kardinal: The T-Dot is real dope right now. If you have your ear to the street, you will hear some nasty stuff. K-Os is out of Canada. Hes a big thing. Theres also Saukrates, Brass Monkey and a bunch more. Like I said, you have to have your ear to the ground and be in the mix to really know whats going on. Right now, the streets have been crazy. Kids have been getting caught in the middle of crossfire, its sad. There was a popular club that was known for its Sunday night parties, but they had to stop because of the violence. They had done that shit for14 years straight. S**t sucks.
AllHipHop.com: On Quest for Fire, you avoided using profanity or mentioning guns.
Kardinal: I like for everyone to enjoy my music. I mean Ill say, f**k and n***a, all day, but its not always needed. There are times when the use of those words or others, are needed to get a point across. Some people use profanity to just get attention. Im no goody two-shoes, but its not always needed. Some cats bust guns and some just hold. For me, its never been necessary. Ive been blessed to have people around me that care for me. Thats a lot more to talk about. I live in the hood, so I see that stuff all day. Id like to talk about other s**t.
AllHipHop.com: Given your background, how do you feel about the Reggaeton/Dance Hall Explosion?
Kardinal: Tego, Daddy Yankee and Nore have been all doing it for a while. Theyre ill. Dancehall gets popular and then dies down. Its just coming back again. And now neither is going away. People in the States now have respect for both styles. When I first came out, I messed with some Reggae, but heads didnt know what to do. They were feeling it, but they were confused. With the eruption of Bounty Killer, Sean Paul, Elephant Man and others, now heads love it. Even Shaggy is making a come back. Before, a lot of labels wouldnt mess with either style because they didnt know how to market it. Now theyre running out and trying to sign every Reggaeton and Dancehall artist that they can find. Next I think people will get into U.K. Grime. Its a mix of Dancehall, Hip-Hop, Jungle, and other stuff. I say this because people are now more open to new things. When I was a kid, growing up in T-Dot, if someone yelled, Brooklyn! Forget it, it was over. Weve always been cool with New York, but now people are more open to taking chances.