CANADA WEEK 2008
Nobody is promised tomorrow, and if the upcoming album Not 4 Sale were to be Kardinal Offishalls last living representation, hed be content with what hes delivering the Hip Hop nation. Under Akons now established Konvict Muzik and with the hit singer/songwriter executive producing the project, theres no doubt Jason Harrow has come a long way from his entirely self-produced independent debut Eye & I.
Kardinal knows he could sensationalize his new affiliations or brag about any of his other recent career accomplishments. Instead, the well-spoken Canadian just wants to appeal to those who still believe that good music is the foundation of the culture hes proud to represent. If falling back in love with Hip-Hop is possible, consider Kardinal the charismatic matchmaker youve been waiting for.
AllHipHop.com: What up Kardinal? Whats good with you today?
Kardinal Offishall: Man, everything is great. Its sunny, 74 degrees in T-Dot and were just on our way to go finish the photo shoot for the album right now. Its a very good time in my life and I cant complain.
AllHipHop.com: After being one of the most prominent Canadian Hip-Hop artists all this time, is 2008 the year for you to let the world know about Canadas Hip-Hop Ambassador?
Kardinal: You know, its like everything for a reason, and to me God is never late. This is the perfect time because it seems like musically everything that I ever wanted to express for the most part, we managed to embody on this album Not 4 Sale. Definitely making the good family connection with my man Akon gave me insight on how to do what I do and still remain true to myself, but at the same time take it to the next level and be able to appeal to a bigger mass of fans and a broader spectrum across the world. So for me, I just feel blessed to be in the position that Im in and Im enjoying every minute of it.
AllHipHop.com: Is there a story about the way you guys first linked up? Was it instant chemistry laying down music or was it more mutual respect as artists that brought you together ?
Kardinal: Honestly the first time I even heard about dude was from a mutual friend of ours named Kirk Harding who works for Universal Music. Many moons ago before Akon came out he was trying to get him up here [to Toronto] for Caribana. The only thing is, at the time, with his record they wouldnt let him cross the border. So I remember two years in a row Kirk was trying to get him to Caribana so he could wild out with me and have me take him around and get him involved in stuff, but he couldnt cross the border and always got sent back.
Shortly after that we did the track Kill The Dance which came out on the re-release of his first album, and chemistry wise that was the first time we ever did a combo.
Then after I actually met dude personally at the Mix Show Power Summit years ago we definitely connected.
Anybody that knows Akon knows that hes just a cool-ass dude, and he has that spirit about him and I definitely liked the way he got down.
You know hes Mr. International next to me so hes always traveling, and anywhere in the world he would go he would always hear about me. And in 05 after wed seen each other in different places, he had this vision for doing his Konvict label and so forth, and he really just stepped to me as a man and somebody that had respect for my work ethic and how I got down.
At that time he had just started busting real heavy with the Soul Survivor with Jeezy and was starting to try and get T-Pain popped off at that time, so everything was pretty brand new. Im not gonna lie, I wasnt necessarily sure about it at the time. Not that he hadnt proven himself, because he had gone platinum so I knew he was having some success for himself. It wasnt one of those things where both feet was in the water and everything was proven and tried and secure, but I just prayed about it, left it alone, and it just seemed that was the place God wanted me to be. Its just great the way that it worked out, cause its a great team and theyre great cats over there at Konvict, the whole family.
AllHipHop.com: You had to defend him a while when his criminal past came into question or whatever. Do you feel its played out that people seem more concerned about that than the music?
Kardinal: To me, its a shame when this is the stuff we are looking to sensationalize. Anybody with sense in their brain knows that you cannot have a sick criminal record and travel. Akon had to get his record expunged so he could travel. Like I said, when I first met him he couldnt come to Canada. But you think that just magically since then hes been able to come to Canada? No, he had to go through the proper avenues to clear up how his stuff looked on record so that he could travel and bring his music to the masses. Hes never been a dude stuck on, Its about 20 kilos that we push in a week. If you check his music, it describes where he comes from, his surroundings, and how he deals with it. A lot of times he deals with some positivity. I just wish that instead of them doing an expose on how his record is cleaned up, and I dont have to defend him because hes a grown man, but why dont they do an expose on all the work that hes doing in Senegal for the African people?
Why dont they do an expose on how African people in Canada, America and around the world are now proud to say that theyre African because of somebody like Akon. We spend a lot of time focusing on bulls**t, and I dont really have time to get into all of that stuff.
And of course Im going to defend Akon, because hes allowing me and my family and people that are near to me eat our food and do better things in life.
So of course Im going to defend the dude, because hes a good dude. But people are always trying to bring other people down and turn things into some tabloid mess.
But Akon is an icon, and I dont feel youre allowed to just say whatever the f**k you want to say. Have some respect.
AllHipHop.com: So youre signed to his label, youve got an Interscope A&R repping you. What kind of difference has it been with having that machine and support behind you for this album compared with MCA?
Kardinal: When I signed with MCA, they didnt really know what they had. And you have to remember this is before the Akons, the Sean Pauls, all that crazy success. When they had me at the time, they knew that they had this dude from Toronto that was into Hip-Hop that had the influence of his culture in his music. But they didnt really know what to do with me. Big up to Shaggy at that point in time, but they put me on the road touring with him, which was dope but that wasnt necessarily my core audience. They had to learn.
The difference now is I know what its like to be an A-list artist and to be treated as such. You can definitely see the difference. Now theyre like Kardinal, youve gotta do A, B and C. And Im like S**t, when I was on the other label I never did that one time. (Laughs) Its interesting. Now you can literally just see what it feels like to be prioritized, whether its the different showcases you have to do, the different interviews you have to do, even the way people like from Jimmy Iovine all the way down deal with you.
"Obviously I owe a great deal of that to my association with Akon, cause they know Akon doesnt deal with just anybody or try to sign anybody"
Obviously I owe a great deal of that to my association with Akon, cause they know Akon doesnt deal with just anybody or try to sign anybody. If you listen to the caliber of music, it has definitely changed the way they deal with me. So right about now, the ride at the label is different. But you have to understand its a different time in music too. The labels function is significantly different from when I was there before, and s**t doesnt operate the same way it used to. Big up to the label, but it has to work a lot harder now than it did to stay relevant.
AllHipHop.com: It was an historic moment for Canadians when you were in that BET Awards (2007) cipher, and then a lot of people were saying afterwards that you came out on top.
Kardinal: Its interesting because yesterday I was a little bit frazzled by the way some people view people from a certain region. But whats dope is that in doing different interviews, sometimes you are not only schooling people to certain stuff but youre also learning. When I was reflecting and really thinking about it, people used to look at St. Louis funny when Nelly came out. Im sure people looked at Tallahassee funny before T-Pain came out. Whenever people are put on to something thats different and something they dont know about, obviously their first reaction is probably Who is this? Ive never heard of that place before, or What kind of people they got over there? But its going to be that much doper at the end of the day when people see how much talent and how ill it is in Toronto, and Im proud to be able to represent that.
I love my city, and everything about me is a direct result of how I was raised in Toronto. Everything about it comes out in me. But at the same time its like I only represent myself and how I see it and how I see the world. Everybody in Toronto is not like Kardinal, but its dope that everybody has some sort of representation. And as time goes on and I bring more light to my city, people will realize what weve always had going on here in T-Dot.
AllHipHop.com: The singles Dangerous and Graveyard Shift despite the mainstream appeal seem as natural as On Wit Da Show or Husslin did in their respective years. What can you say to the longtime fans about what direction youre taking with Not 4 Sale?
Kardinal: First I just want to big up everybody thats been with me along for the ride, from the independent days to signing with the majors, its been a long ride. But the thing about me, Im always trying to break the mold or break down the barriers and raise the bar. So I dont want it to be a thing where you know what to expect from a Kardinal album, except to expect some fire and a different kind of vibe.
"Its like in T-Dot, we have the most dangerous girls in the entire world, in every meaning and sense of the word, so I definitely had to represent"
With me, Ive got to represent with songs like Graveyard Shift and stuff like that, because that was my reality. And if you listen to the whole song, you understand what Im saying when I say that was my reality. I still lived in my old neighborhood up until a few months ago, so I had to write about the things around me, the things that I saw and the things that I go through. Its like in T-Dot, we have the most dangerous girls in the entire world, in every meaning and sense of the word, so I definitely had to represent. Its funny cause every time you do a hard track, people try and limit you and put you in this box.
But you have to think of some of the greats and the things I admire about people like Nas, Jay-Z, Biggie, or anybody successful. They were able to represent some of the harder s**t and at the same time theyre able to take the hood to the club, and thats called versatility and creativity. I know its lacking in Hip-Hop right now, so its kind of taking people off guard cause theyre not used to thinking outside the box. But thats my job, to help change the scope of whats going on in Hip-Hop right now, because its so redundant and Im tired of trying to walk around with my upside-down umbrella and try to catch all the money that people are making rain in the club.